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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Get Help

Celebrity deaths always hurt just a little. Maybe it’s someone you like, maybe they made you feel great with their songs, maybe it’s like a distant friend of a friend, and it makes you face your own mortality, but they always make us feel…. something. I didn’t know much about Kate Spade, I knew she was married to David Spade’s brother, I knew she had a line of bags that many people loved, and now I know she struggled with depression and anxiety. My heart breaks for her family, and I’m more heartbroken to think of what someone’s life must be like, what the despair and loneliness that they must feel to think that taking their life is the best solution. Instead of letting others in to seek help, the stigma of mental illness is such that those who suffer the most with depression would rather die than seek help and admit they need it. They would rather die at their own hands than risk people finding out they need help.

If I could have any job, it would have been Anthony Bourdain’s. I doubt I would have been as good at it, or as compelling to watch, but his was a life I coveted. Or so I thought. Like him I am a chef, and I love to travel. Hell, this blog IS the traveling zipper head after all. I have a lot of the same beliefs about food and travel. I want to experience it all. I’ve always said my biggest regret in life is not learning all the languages I could so I could talk to more people. If you talk to others outside of your bubble, you share a meal, you share a history and you learn. The more you learn from others, the better person you become. Isn’t that why we’re all here? For the ride and to learn? Be good and do good?

I get why he loved to travel so much. There’s calm in the chaos. When you surrender to an adventure, your anxiety hushes, you get lost in the exploration and everything else falls away. Even if just for a bit. This one hurts just a little bit more for me because I feel like we would have “gotten” each other.

When adored celebrities die, we lose a piece of ourselves, we are forced to admit that maybe our childhood heroes got older, or that maybe their world wasn’t as perfect as it appeared. Maybe they struggled with prescription drugs, maybe they drank too much and destroyed their mind and body to the point of no return, or maybe they wrestled with demons every day that we couldn’t see. These all force us to look within ourselves and see the flaws we try to hide. Maybe we struggle with the same demons ourselves and the time has come to get help. Maybe, instead of hiding our anxiety and depression for fear of being discovered and ridiculed, we see the path, we see that we are not alone and we don’t have to suffer alone. We don’t have to try to “just cheer up” or “calm down” or fix it on our own. Maybe we can start getting help so we’re not next.

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I’m so disappointed right now. After all these years, I FINALLY have my head in the game. I’m finally in the right place mentally to get my crap together physically.

I’ve been sick, for weeks, I just can’t get better. I’ve been to the dr a few times, had three rounds of steroids, one round of antibiotics, and so much Advil for my sore throat that my liver probably wanted to coup, but I just couldn’t get there. I thought that after the holidays and my oldest went back to school, I would get back in the routine and things would be ok. I started back at the gym, but I still felt crappy, and I was so worn out after the gym, that I was useless the rest of the day. This was how I was feeling before Christmas too. I figured that I was just still fighting something and powered through, but by Wed, I just felt awful. So I went back to the Dr.

I had been checked for strep and for the flu, both were neg, but today she checked me for something else.


Mono, as in, “no heavy lifting” mono, or “protect your abdomen and sleep” mono. To say that I am heartbroken is an understatement. Along with the fatigue, which I can handle, there’s the sore throat that just won’t go away. The pain is intense and there’s only so much ibuprofen I can take a day for weeks on end. My husband has to pick up the slack which includes me texting him constantly (I can’t talk) to tell him what needs to be done and when.

Then we get to the gym. I’ve worked so hard, and I’ve come so far, now I will have to start all over. The soreness, the routine, the everything. It’s all on hold.

So here I lay, in bed, wondering how long omg going to be sidelined and how hard it will be to get back to my routine. Wondering how much pain medicine my body can take. I’ve started elderberry and olive leaf, hoping that will help my immune system fight this crap. If anyone has any other ideas, I’m open.

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Why do You Drink?

There’s a lot of buzz on the Internet right now about Dry January, and I thought about sharing my story from the other side of “drying out”.

First, a couple background facts: I grew up with an Irish grandpa who rarely drank anything other than coffee or beer. Now, he wasn’t an alcoholic, but this set the stage for our family to be friendly with the booze. Again, not always in a bad way, though, admittedly, there are some struggles with addiction in the family, but this more about how alcohol was just always around but never a problem for me. We were social drinkers mostly, or my mom or dad would have a drink at the end of a long day. That’s how my mom would unwind from the stress of the day, and believe me, she had stress.

I knew of family members who had a problem with alcohol, but for the most part, I was taught responsibility. Watch your intake, don’t drink and drive, don’t let it control you.

I started drinking here and there in high school, I was always a social drinker. I never drank alone until I was an adult who myself, needed to unwind after a stressful day. Mostly though, I’d go out with my friends after work for a glass of wine or two, or happy hour after work with my coworkers, in my 20s my best friend and I would sit by the pool with a bucket of margaritas on a Friday night. Someone once asked what we were doing for dinner and another friend joked that that WAS our dinner. He wasn’t wrong.

My 30s brought about some changes. Got married, had brain surgery, and had kids. These are all things that bring about a look at ones self and what you’re doing with your life, and I took a look at my drinking. As harmless as it was on the surface, I looked deeper into my own motivations for drinking. No one else’s btw, just my own. I had brain surgery to alleviate headaches (among other reasons) but I was still drinking knowing that alcohol would most likely give me a headache. I didn’t go out as much as I used to but I was still drinking at home, or in limited social gatherings with friends and neighbors. But why?

I drank after a long day at work, after a particular co-worker drove me crazy. A boss stressed me out. A friend made me mad. All of these were legitimate reasons to drink, but were they GOOD reasons? Then what about the social aspect? Hanging out with my friends? Surely that was a good reason, right? Commiserating, celebrating, bonding….

But did I really NEED it? Could I do those things without it? And how much was I really drinking anyway? I knew that addiction was a slippery slope, and that genetics made the top of that slope a tight wire, so I looked hard at my habits. In social situations, I struggled with when to say enough. Once I got going, and my wilder alter ego came out, it was tough to get her to stop. (The fact that I had an alter ego was as much of a red flag as the limits I rejected) when I just stayed home and had a glass after work, it was usually two glasses, and not the standard 4-5 oz serving, who does that? So basically I was drinking about four glasses of wine. I didn’t do a bunch of research on alcohol effects on your body, or how much is too much, but when I looked at it, I knew there was a problem there -for me. My friends and family, even my doctors knew how much I drank. It wasn’t a secret, and it wasn’t an issue, it was normal. I didn’t drink any more than my peers, but everyone is different. I looked at my life now. I had a little person who relied on me. What if he needed to go to the hospital and I’d had a glass of wine? What about the headaches that took me away from being all he needed me to be? They weren’t hangovers, but I could get a migraine that could last more than a day. Was it worth it? Worth the hell of taking care of a baby with a migraine? Worth not being all the mother my son needed me to be, all caused by something I did on purpose? The answer was no. So I quit. Just like that. No fanfare, no big announcement, no one last blast, just stopped.

The quitting itself wasn’t the hard part, the hard part was what happens now? How do I socialize?

Let me say that I had my children later in life, I didn’t get married until 31 and had my first child at 33. Before that, I did my partying. I had a blast in my younger days and will have stories to tell in the nursing home that will make the nurses laugh and my grandchildren cringe. I’m not missing out on anything. I never feel like I’m missing any fun, but sometimes, I get guilted by friends from my past, or new Mom friends trying to bond with me. Why won’t I drink with them? Do I think I’m better than them? How can I sit there all judgey while my lush friend has to drink without me? The thing is, I don’t judge. I don’t care if you drink, and I am sad that you care so much that I don’t. Every person is different, every situation, every metabolism, every genetic factor, all different situations.

For me, it’s been a little over six years, and here is what I’ve noticed: not much. I didn’t lose a bunch of weight, my skin got a little better, but barely noticeable, I don’t get all the headaches alcohol caused, but I still get other headaches. I’m not spending near the money on alcohol, but I do cook with it. I’ve thought about having a glass of wine here and there when the anxiety grips me tight, even poured myself one or two glasses, but I never drink them. Maybe a sip, but I end up pouring it out or giving it to my husband.

I would love to go out with the girls in the neighborhood when they go for drinks, but I don’t because explaining that I don’t drink is an ordeal. Many people assume I’m an alcoholic or someone who sits on a high horse judging all the heathens who do drink. When I explain that it’s neither, I’m met with confusion. Like there is no other reason for a person not to drink, or there has to be a “reason” at all.

I like the idea of this Dry January gaining traction, solely for the reason that maybe people will see that unlike the advice hanging from a plaque on my grandpa’s wall, you can trust a person who doesn’t drink. There is no blanket answer, every situation is different. To those trying it, good luck! It’s not as bad as you think, but don’t expect the whole world to change, you’re only going to notice things within yourself and you and you alone can make the decision of whether it’s worth it to drink or not to drink. To those not trying it, it will be ok when your friend isn’t drinking. I promise. They aren’t trying to shame you for drinking, they just want to hang out with you even if the dynamics have changed. Order them an iced tea and tell them how awful your boss was that day.

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It’s been a little while….

I’ve had some setbacks in the name of health…. mostly my kids….. mostly strep throat. We have all been sick for about three weeks, and I though we were in the clear when another case of strep reared it’s ugly throat. All together I missed a week at the gym.

I. Was. Terrified. Terrified that I would have a hard time getting back into it. Terrified that now that I’ve missed some, I wouldn’t be so strict with myself about going every day. I took pride in my “no stopping me from going” attitude. I didn’t want my momentum to slow. I was also terrified of starting over with squats. Let’s be real, that pain was intense, I cried when I had to pee bc getting up and down from the toilet was awful.

I didn’t. I was able to get back into my routine and not miss a step, and for that I am grateful. It’s just a part of me now. I go to the gym… it’s what I do. That being said, I don’t sit back and take that for granted. I make that effort and that choice every day. I take my progress little by little, because it adds up. I claw my way through and see a little muscle definition and I take that win. I have never worked so hard for anything in my life. I get it now, I get why people work this hard at the gym.

It’s not a place for thinking, just doing. If I think about my workout, about all of it as a whole, I’ll think I can’t do it. If I just do it, taking each exercise one at a time all I think is “next set, 1,2,3,4…… gosh this is getting heavy, keep going, only a little more, you got this!” When it’s all said and done, and I’ve worked to exhaustion, I walk out the door, tired and feeling accomplished. I worked for something hard, and I did it. I did what I didn’t think I could do. Then I get in my car, drive a mile down the road and think, maybe I should have lifted more. I can’t wait to go back and do it again! That’s that stupid endorphin high lying to me.

So I take the progress I get when I see it. Filling up water one day I noticed a muscle in my arm that I hadn’t had before. The light was coming in just right so I could see it. I checked my other arm and didn’t see it, then quickly looked back to make sure it was still there and not a lighting trick or my imagination. I’m seeing parts of my body move up and defy the gravity that’s been tugging on it for years. Namely my butt. I’m also starting to like myself again. Let me say that again: I’m starting to like myself again. I’m not disgusted by my reflection, but in awe of its changing shape. I’m not angry when my body is too tired or in too much pain halfway through the day, but proud of what I did when I was feeling good enough to do it! My bubbly, outgoing personality is starting to creep back up and fight the cynical smartass that has been my self defense for the last two decades. I’ll take it! I’ll take all of it!

Here is what I look like now, there is still a long way to go, but everyone was right, at three months, I’m starting to see a change!

(Yes, those are cupping marks on my back, and yes it works wonders, I’m the only one who hasn’t been on antibiotics yet, and I’m usually the one who gets the most sick.)

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I took pictures for the fun run at my son’s school today. This is how we celebrate holidays in the suburbs, we run fun runs, 5Ks, half marathons, even pay money to participate in some, …. I don’t get it, but it’s what we do. I watched a first grader trip at the start of his half mile, come out of his shoe and continue to run…. in one shoe, and he came in first. That kid has grit.

I don’t have any. Never have. In fact, if things didn’t come easy to me, I moved on to something that did, and not everything came easy to me, but enough did, that I could easily move on to something else. I’m a quitter if I’m being honest with you – and myself. Tennis, soccer, dance, diets, majors, bed making, the list goes on. If I give myself an out, I take it. If I miss even once, I tend to stop all together; it’s all or nothing with me.

I say this because my foot hurts. A lot. I have that plantar fasciitis, and it won’t go away. I was on my feet all morning and wasn’t able to go to the gym until the afternoon. By the time I left the school, I was in tears because my foot hurt, I had to have my husband drive down the street to get me….. 10 houses away. I iced my foot, took some Advil and waited until I could go to the gym. While waiting, I thought, you know, I ran a bit taking the Pics, I was on my feet all morning and kinda got a workout in with those awkward squatting angles you have to do to get elementary aged kids crossing a finish line. I was completely justified in not going -all while being annoyed that I couldn’t make it earlier. Long story longer, I went. I finally got there about 4 o’clock, limping my way in. I went and roughed it out, not because I have grit, or determination, but because I know myself. If I let myself miss because of this, it’s a slippery slope to quitting all together and I CAN’T quit this time. I was able to run through the school twice to get to the finish line for the smaller kids. Without getting winded, without blaming my asthma or my foot to cover my embarrassment for why I could only run a few steps. That’s huge. I was able to get down low to get them coming off the starting line AND get back up to run to another location. I squatted down to get over 300 kids crossing the finish line. That’s 300 squats! And I was STILL able to do goblet squats at the gym later!

If anyone has any experience with plantar fasciitis, comment on here what helped you please! I’ve done some acupuncture (not much though, needles in my feet hurt!) stretching, bought new shoes -twice, bought arch supports, did the stretches, rolled my foot on a frozen water bottle…. anyone have anything else? Oh, I burned mugwort over it too, which shows that I’ll try anything, no matter how crazy it sounds, I’m open to it.

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