When I was a kid, my dad had cancer. Leukemia. There were times when his white blood cell counts were so low that we had to wear a mask to go in his room, to protect him. He was so susceptible to anything, that we had to protect him, and doing so was as simple as putting on a mask. And we did it, because we loved him and wanted to protect him.

Later on, he had a bone marrow transplant, which wiped out his immune system completely to start new. This meant he was in a special room that circulated the air a specific way, to keep the air he was breathing cleaner. In order to go into this room, everyone had to cover their whole body. Mask, paper gown, booties, all of it. It never occurred to me to complain about how uncomfortable it was, or what a pain it was. I just did what would protect my dad. If I had gone into any other room on the bone marrow unit, I would have dressed the same. Whether I knew the person or not, because it would protect them.

My dad was lucky though, on the day he died, even though there was a fire in the the hospital, and we all had to be evacuated, he still got to die with all of his loved ones around him. A room packed full of his family. He heard us tell him we love him, he felt us holding his hand. People who die from covid don’t get that. They die while on FaceTime with their families. With only a nurse there. A kind stranger who is heartbroken but still a stranger.

Some people have never had to face how fragile health is, never tracked white blood counts, never learned the science behind them. The never watched doctors in action, explaining the how’s and why’s a certain treatment will work. As a kid, I ingested all of that. I would seek out more science to understand more. There was comfort in knowledge, in the scientific method. See I tried to pray before, when he got sick, but that failed me so I turned to what was solid. Science. This became useful later as I learned I would spend my life fighting my own health struggles.

Most people get sick, they go to the doctor, and then they get better. Then there are the rest of us. We don’t get better. We search for years for answers, for treatments, anything to not feel as bad as we do. We have fought to breathe, fought to walk, fought to get out of bed when our body tells us we can’t. If we are lucky, we have family who fights with us and sometimes for us, we have friends who are compassionate, helpful, and understanding.

I’m not writing all this to draw attention to my personal plight, but to show that many, MANY, people have similar stories. And I get that people need to go back to work, people need to feed their families and keep a roof over their head. But we need to be smart, go to work, order dinner and drinks, if you need to, but don’t throw a party, and don’t condemn others for not going out. And for God’s sake, wear a mask. When I do go out, I wear one, I’ve been conditioned from a young age to protect others who may be sick, as well as protect my own lungs because they need all the help they can get. Mostly though, I will stay home, not to “cower in fear” as some so eloquently put it, but to protect my self, my family, my friends, and anyone else who needs protecting.

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Grandma Sue

Losing someone you love is always hard. Losing someone you love, who wasn’t always liked by everyone is just a little bit harder.

I’ve had my fair share of grandmothers growing up, five to be exact, and all different. Every single one holds a place in my heart though two have always been just a little more special, my dad’s mom, and my mom’s stepmom, grandma Sue.

Grandma Sue was quite a bit younger than my grandpa, but they were married before I was born, so she was never anything but my grandma. We always spent summers in WY with them, and I remember one summer I called her Sue, I’m not sure what I called her before, as this is a very early memory, but it didn’t feel right. She was my grandma, and I felt better calling her that. She had her flaws, and some were greater than others, but when it came down to it, she was a damn good grandma to my brother and I. Grandma could hold a grudge, and she wasn’t warm and fuzzy or maternal, but I loved her.

She grew up in east TX with two brothers and her dad, her mom had died when she was fairly young. I think she had a soft spot for me because she knew what it was like to lose a parent so young. Losing her mom was hard on her, growing up the only girl in her family was rough. On top of all the other hardships that come with losing a mom when you’re a child, she became an outcast among many of her friends. She told me the story of her best friend abandoning her. When she ran into the girl’s mom in town, she was told that her friend wasn’t allowed to play with a little girl with no mother around. I remember the way she told me, matter of fact like but with pain in her eyes. So no, she wasn’t maternal, or nurturing, but I always feel like I kinda got why, and she took a liking to me.

She was direct, to the point, and unapologetic. She taught me grandma type things, like how to crochet, and that reading could be an enjoyable pastime. She taught me how not to cook, and that if you go against the grain and someone doesn’t like you for it, so be it. She also taught me a lesson one time, that I will never forget.

We were taking the mini home out to the lake. She was driving, and it was just her and I and she had a tape (maybe an 8-track, it was a long time ago) but it was awful. Some kind of bells chiming or something.

Now, I, as a seven year old was not a fan of this, so I told her I was going to the way back to listen to my Walkman. Grandma got very angry and said that was rude. She told me that I need to open up to other people and see what they like. See what makes other people happy and then I can learn more about them because not everyone is alike and I should make an effort to expand my horizons. Who knows, I might even find something I like.

It felt like a gut punch the way she yelled at me, but her message was on point. It’s something we all struggle with, but if you try to understand someone, you’ll get a better understanding of their point of view, and they will respect you for it. I’m very grateful for this lesson as it has served me well.

When I quit working to raise a family, I got out of my routine of weekly phone calls, but I called when I could. I always liked to hear her voice, though the calls had gotten harder lately, as she couldn’t hear me well and dementia was starting to settle in.

I had one last conversation with her after she went into the hospital, she was mad that I woke her up. I’m so glad that I did, because it was a good call, and my last one.

She died on my birthday, I can almost hear her say, “sorry dearie, you’ll have to share the date now”.

When my grandpa died, I think she thought we were going to abandon her, move on and forget her, but she was family. My grandma. And I miss her.

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When I was s kid, about the age of my kids now, I thought my parents were in total control. That they knew everything and they knew what they were doing. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized, they may have been steering the ship, but they had only just learned to drive and had no map of where we were going.

I know this because I’m in the driver’s seat now. School starts in a little over five hours and I’m awake writing because my brain won’t shut up and let me sleep.

My youngest starts school today. She is nervous and came to our bed in the middle of the night. I am nervous too. She doesn’t know, but I’m scared. I worry how she’ll do. I worry about her riding a bus, and I worry that she’s growing up too fast. She won’t know because I will tell her it’s ok and she will accept that just like all kids do.

My oldest is growing up so fast. Each year I watch him, holding my breath, as he excels at everything. Today starts a new year. A harder grade. I always wonder, will this be the year he meets adversity? Will this be the year he struggles with something? I know it’s coming, it comes for all of us, and honestly, it’s better to happen now than next year, or the year after. Everything comes easy to him and I love that, but one day he will have to falter. Will I be ready? Will I handle it correctly?

When I got older I learned that my mom didn’t have control of the ship. She just did the best she could with what was in front of her ….and that’s all I can do. I don’t know what I’m doing, obviously if I did I would be sleeping right now so I could get up in the morning. I do know that I’m scared and excited for what the future holds for my kids, but I kinda wish the future would slow it’s arrival just a little.

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Awesome Edible Kids Crafts -a book review

My kids love crafting. My office floor is often covered with their scraps because they steal my supplies to make things for themselves. They also love to get into the kitchen with me to make fun things, so when I saw the book, Awesome Edible Kids Crafts, I knew we needed it. So, when I was given the opportunity to review an advanced copy, I was beyond excited!

So the book came, and I asked my kids to go through it and mark with a post-it what crafts they wanted to do. After TWO DAYS of them pouring over this book and reading every page, it looked like this:

They marked every page. Every. Single. One. So right off the bat, this book was a hit.

We went to the store for some supplies, but most were things that I had on hand.

The book was easy for my seven year old to follow, and he read the instructions to let us know what to do.

He also loved the little “fun facts” on each page. Little “did you know” tidbits that gave a random fact somehow relating to the craft.

The first thing we made were the wands because my kids are obsessed with all things Harry Potter at the moment and loved the idea of a wand that they could make… and eat! (I have countless wands all over the house made from pipe cleaners and foam paper, so a wand that they could eat was also appealing to me!)

Can we just take a minute to appreciate a pretzel wrapped in caramel and covered in chocolate? Seriously.

My son remarked after eating a couple bites that his wand now also looked like a deluminator, so there’s that too.

We made the Marshmallow playdoh, and that was a fun mess! It was a mess because as my son read the instructions, I decided that as a chef, and someone who has made fondant before, I had this and therefore, did my thing, not the book’s. Resulting in this:

We got it under control, and many gleeful memories were made as we wiped this on each other’s hands! Read the instructions y’all, coat your hands. Coat them well, coat them often.

After this, I turned it all over the kids, my four year old needed a little guidance and help pouring milk, but the rest of that day, they did all on their own.

They painted on toast…

They made mud….

And the next morning we made pig pancakes, or in my husband’s case, alien pigs:

We made a few other things this weekend, and judging by the post-its still in the book, we will be making many more.

This book is great for so many reasons:

  • It’s fun, there are so many things you can do in this book that will result in memories later.
  • It gives kids a sense of independence and autonomy when they can do these on their own, with minimal supervision, or be in charge of the craft.
  • They learn to read a recipe, something that is invaluable.
  • They learn that it’s ok to deviate from the recipe at times and put their own spin on it, like using Nutella to draw ears on a pig, instead of making them out of pancakes, for example.
    It gets them off their iPads and other screens and into the kitchen, interacting with each other and you.
  • We truly enjoy this book and all the fun it brought into the house!

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    Instant Gratification

    I am a chef. That’s what I went to school for, that’s what I worked my butt off for (and got my butt kicked by). I graduated culinary school (with honors, don’t forget that part!) and I have been trained and taught how to make everything from Duck l’orange to laminated doughs like puff pastry from scratch. I can make quick meals, but I also know that great food can’t be rushed. You need patience, not shortcuts.

    Why then, did I get an instant pot. Any why do I love it?

    I had looked into these for a while but ultimately decided that I didn’t need one, didn’t have room to store one, etc…. I love my Dutch oven, it’s my workhorse of the kitchen and anything I needed to make, I could do with it. …. but I started looking into bone broth, and how a pressure cooker would really cut the cooking time down. A moment of weakness hit, my mom was asking me about ideas for Christmas when amazon sent me a “deal of the day” message. So I forwarded it to her and told her it was a damn good price. It was. And Christmas morning I opened my brand new pressure cooker.

    I still love my Dutch oven. I do. But I took my instant pot out of the box, read up on her, and started playing.

    The first thing I made was just dumping things in. Frozen chicken, diced tomatoes, some seasoning… and started it up. I got messages to my phone letting me know what was going on with it, but it killed me to not be able to see it’s progression. In the end, it came out…. good. The chicken, which was frozen solid 20 mins before was done, it was tender, and had good flavor. My husband and son ate on it for several meals.

    Next, I tried rice and it was pretty good! Then, I tried a recipe for black eyed peas for New Year’s Day that was outstanding. So I got confidant. Too confident. I made orange chicken and rice in it. At the same time. It was mostly ok, but I should have doubled up on the sauce because the rice absorbed a lot. I tried another pork dish that was ok, but not perfect. I should also mention that all these meals were well received by my husband and son, even my daughter liked the pork!

    All this being said, I’m really digging the new pressure cooker. I know what mistakes I need to fix, and how to fix them, it’s easy to clean up, and I don’t have to plan ahead so much for meals. Which, let’s face it, dinner prep around here usually resembles an episode of chopped and I never remember to get meat out of the deep freeze.

    She needs a name though, I’m thinking Erma. Partly because Erma Instant Pot sounds good, and also because I want to be Erma Bombeck when I grow up.

    What do y’all think?

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    30 years

    What have you done in the last 30 years? That’s a long time, right? The world has changed so much in that time. Here’s what I’ve done:

    Gone through middle school, high school, college, and culinary school.

    Got my first job, got fired for the first time, moved for a job.

    I’ve had my first love, had my heart broken, been in an emotionally abusive relationship, got married, got divorced, got married again.

    I’ve had my gallbladder removed, my sympathetic nerve cut, a hole drilled in my head and part of my brain removed, and my vision corrected.

    I’ve outlived my father and given birth to two children.

    In fact, I’ve done all of this without my dad. I’ve mentioned my stepdad on here a few times and told you how lucky I am to have him and why I don’t like the term “step”, but the reality is, the reason I have him in my life is because my dad died when I was 10. 30 years ago. (Which is impressive since I’m only 26)

    I’ve lived a lot since he’s been gone. I outlived him when I turned 36 , and had a baby the year after that. Let that sink in for a second, because it’s crazy to me. I know no one ever said life was fair, but how unfair is that? He was so young when he died, that when I hit that age, I wasn’t finished growing my family.

    So much has changed in the world in the last 30 years and I always wonder what my dad would think of things. I can still hear him cussing out his dot matrix printer over and over for it being off line, how would he react to a tiny screen in your pocket that connects you to everything? ….including an inkjet printer down the hall. His versions of phones were attached to the wall and a mystery as to who was calling you when they rang. I know he would love it, but I know he would still swear at it just as much as I do, and I like to believe that he too would stay awake all night too many nights researching things that piqued his interest during the day. He loved science, and enjoyed learning new facts. In fact, he is where I got my love for science and math. He always taught my brother and I to question everything and not to just go along with what was spoon fed to us. Thinking independently was important. Gathering your own information and deducting your own conclusions was one of the main lessons I remember from him. He stood up for what he believed (or didn’t believe) and taught Shane and I to do the same. Admittedly, my brother is much better at this than I am, but he was a little older and had those lessons longer. I was ten, and the memories are fading faster as I get older, but the lessons will hopefully always be there. I remember talking about alien life, sanding cars with him, turtle rides in the pool, and gas station breakfasts when we were on trips. I know he refused to let us get baptized because religion should be our choice and not indoctrinated from the start. I know he had a quick and dry sense of humor that could put people at ease and drive a point home, and that it was often hard to tell if he was joking or not.

    My family went through hell 30 years ago, and today is the anniversary of the worst day of my life.

    My dad spent a year in the hospital, fighting a fight that he ultimately lost, but while he was fighting, we went down there every day after school. We would stay late and then walk back to the car in the dark in a sketchy part of town. Then we would get up early and I would go to school the next day and we’d do it all over again. Holidays, birthdays, all of it. We were there.

    I know that my mom not only cared for her sick husband, a man she was together with since high school, they did everything together including worked together. (Gross story, I once walked in on them at work making out and they told me that that’s just how they started every morning.) she took care of my brother and I, and she continued to run the company they had run together. I don’t know how, but she still kept a spotless house, too.

    I have learned a lot in the last 30 years. I’ve learned that I’m not the well adjusted kid I once thought I was, but actually a pretty messed up adult, riddled with anxiety. I’ve learned that your family is the most important thing on earth and to hold on to those you love. I’ve learned to question everything, and speak up or stand up when I don’t agree with something. I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff and to really look at things to decide if it’s worth fighting for and worrying about. I’ve learned that I don’t have all the answers, but that nobody does. If someone tells you they do, they’re lying. There’s no magical age where you’re grown up and you have life figured out. The world is forever changing. The world of today is not the world my parents raised kids in, or the world my grandparents raised theirs in. Nor will it be the same that my kids raise theirs in. You just put one foot in front of the other and go through life, learning as you go.

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    Chiari awareness

    I’ve debated on whether or not to write this post, as I do with all my posts, but mostly this one.

    It’s turning to fall here and the rain hangs heavy in the atmosphere, waiting to fall for the next few days. I love the rain, but I also hate the rain, because it kills my head.

    People depend on me, little people, who can’t fend for themselves. So, while I want to curl up in bed with an ice pack and a trash can, I’ll go and take some ibuprofen and drink a Pepsi to pretend that will take the edge off. I’ll grab my barf bags and take my little ones to school. Whether is walking in the rain, or driving in it through construction. My youngest is excited to go, so we will go to her class, where it’s loud and bright, and we’ll play for an hour or so.

    I’m not saying any of this for the “oh you’re so strong! I don’t know how you do it!” comments. Im not looking for that, and that’s not what this is about. The truth is, I don’t have a choice, I just do what needs to be done, just like every other person would do. The thing is, you don’t know what other people are struggling with. We all put on a face and hide it, and when we can’t hide it, we brush it off or make a joke so people won’t think it’s a big deal. So people don’t feel sorry for us. There are a lot of things I want other people to think about me, but pity is never on that list. And really, does anyone want that?

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    It’s rare that I am sad to leave a hotel, I’m ready for the next adventure, the next town. Sometimes I’m sad to leave a city, like Brussels, I hated to leave that hotel because while it was cool, I could have stayed in that town a lot longer.

    Today we left Murphy’s Resort in Estes Park, and I was genuinely sad to leave them. They were exactly what we needed after a day of exploring and hiking. The singing cowboy for starters was so much fun for the kids. There was a playground right outside the door that the kids could play on while I cooked dinner on the grill. They had board games, yard games, and a giant connect four. Above all that, they had an atmosphere that was very familiar to me. At night, families gather outside around a campfire, the kids all playing together. It just felt nice. I don’t know when I last stayed at a hotel that felt like that.

    I was sad to go, and our three year old told us all day that she wanted to go to the “estes room”. My only regret is I wish we would have gotten a bigger room and stayed longer.

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    I’ve learned some things this trip. Things about my family, things about myself, and just some general things. For instance: taking your dog on vacation is both really cool and a giant pain in the butt. I’ve learned that most hotels that you find last minute that will take an 85 lb Doberman are not the kinds of places you want to stay in. I’ve learned that my dog likes weed. She likes to get stoned and lay on the cool grass in the sun. I don’t blame her personally, that does sound nice. I’ve also learned that she’s an even better dog than I thought, when we took her downtown, with a million people down there, she was calm, friendly, and a total ham for attention. When the fireworks started tonight right over the hotel, she was concerned at first, but became more concerned with licking her rear end. The more I expose her to things, the easier it will be to get her trained as a therapy dog. She proved to me this trip that she can handle just about anything except peeing and pooping away from home. I also learned that she has terrible balance and will fall in a river if she tried to drink from it while perched on a rock. She gets that from me.

    I’ve learned that my kids are city kids who get excited about seeing stars in the night sky. That my daughter is unafraid of any dog she sees, but HATES fireworks. Especially when they are shot off over the hotel. And that traveling is rough on my son. He wants to go, but gets car sick and altitude sickness. But he doesn’t complain while his sister tells us she wants to go home constantly. She is shy and doesn’t make friends with anyone and everyone like her brother does, who will literally talk to anyone who will listen. I know he gets that from me.

    I’ve learned that my husband gets stressed out over small things and can’t multitask to save his life. I’ve also learned how much he is willing to do for his family. When we’re tired, or hangry, or when my anxiety gets the best of me. He handles it and he doesn’t complain. He does NOT get that from me.

    I’ve learned how much fun new experiences are through the eyes of my kids. That my anxiety is getting worse and even though the mountains make it better, it’s not 100% better. I’ve learned that I should cut my husband some slack sometimes, except for his driving. I want to live! I’ve learned that I don’t love him enough to use the same washcloth on my face that he uses for his butt. He needs to use his own. I’ve learned that altitude sickness is for real and can make you sick for a couple days. And that no matter what altitude you were born into, asthma is not your friend at 12,000 feet.

    I want my kids to travel and see all that they can, but I want CO to hold a special place in their hearts. I just hope we’re making good memories!

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    Vacation. Made.

    Traveling is important, right? At least I should think so, I AM the Traveling Zipperhead. Im a Zipperhead, and I love to travel, that’s kinda why I’m here.

    I think we get a lot from travel, we feed our souls and our minds. The more places you see, the more you see this world is beautiful, how similar things can be, and how very different places are from home. I learned to love traveling as a kid, but no matter where I went, and how much I loved new places, nothing beckoned me like the Rockies. Wyoming and Colorado will always feel like home to me. It sounds weird, but but I feel connected there almost spiritual.

    So I want my kids to feel this. They are both Texans, but I want them to experience and love the mountains like I do. Last summer we went through WY, they saw the Tetons, Yellowstone, Casper, and got to dig for fossils because what makes traveling better? Learning science when you travel!!! No? Just me? Whatever.

    We loaded up the wagon queen family truckster and headed north. Now, it’s important to tell you that we took the dog this time too. She’s a girl dog, so she won’t pee or poop away from home.

    It also makes our dining options extremely limited. I’ve been reduced to “do you have gluten free food?” And “Do you have a patio that allows dogs?” I need someone to cross my two apps to make “Bring Fido to find me gluten free”. Now we just grill our food at the hotel.

    The hotel is great. Lots to do for the kids, nice rooms, except for the GIANT fiddleback I killed in the bathroom, so now I’m super paranoid about them. This one was huge too. So big, he could have been out walking his chihuahua, anyway, they have a singing cowboy here too. Like a real cowboy, with a guitar. He taught my sweet kiddo how to rope and handle a lasso. He was so excited to show his dad and teach him. Cowboy Roger took a shine to my little guy. He leaned over and told me, “he’s a special kid isn’t he? Like he’s different than the others, genuine and smart?” I said yeah and left it at that. Look, I know my kiddo is special, he’s really smart, incredibly sensitive, and doesn’t have a shy bone in his body. I see it, but I’m his mother, I would see it even if others didn’t. But it always makes me proud when they do. So this lead to the highlight of our trip so far:

    This cowboy, in his 60’s, complete with gun, knife, Spurs, army stories, and lasso lessons, sits down to play Merle haggard, and my little little 6 yo guy asked him to play Queen. And with that, he played “fat bottom girls”. And my little man was extremely excited.

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