“Becoming a mother is life altering.” I hear that. I read that. I laugh at that.
Obviously, we are not talking breaking news here. Yes, becoming a mother alters you life. Forever.
“Alter” is nice, polite. A pleasant word for change; a slight, sweet modification, perhaps. The perfect dress that just needs to be slightly altered, a hem. Pin, tuck, sew. There…perfect. Altered.
In regards to pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood, “alter” is more of a tsunami in the Bermuda Triangle of physical body change, emotional mental upheaval and a soulful evolution that grounds your life’s existence on this planet.
Alter? That is precious, but it doesn’t even come close.
25 years ago today, my life was not altered. My life was shattered. Shattered into a million, brilliant beautiful pieces of light, that have since rained down over me, reflecting all that is good and true and funny and beautiful in this world.
A million, brilliant laughs with a million, brilliant happy tears.
A constant brilliant shower of an authenticity, a shining light that I had never known, yet recognized immediately.
Strong, intelligent, beautiful, courageous, assured, nurturing, wise, creative and the funniest goddamned person I know.
Whatever she does, wherever she goes, she and I will always carry that moment inside us. When the million brilliant pieces of light shattered, rained down from the heavens, blew gracefully through the early morning warm summer Texas breeze and whispered, “mom”.
So, I spent an “awesome” week in “Marina Del Rey” with my daughter, Jordan. (Say it like the SNL skit, “The Californians” for full effect.)
We, of course, had our lists of songs, videos, movies, trailers, tweets and memes to share with one another. Pour us a couple of cocktails and the two of us are off babbling like third graders on some sort of wild, extreme show and tell.
That is what I love best about our mother daughter relationship. We get each other. We are movies and music and NFL and superheroes and pirates and comic con wanna-goes. We do not shop, but if forced to, it has to be fast. In a mall or department store, we will lose the ability to verbally communicate in about 30 minutes. We don’t pour over fashion mags or celeb rags. But, we can go into full-blown geek mode with showing each other the latest mind-blowing “Star Wars” or “Avengers” meme. We swoon over food and cocktail recipe porn on Pinterest.
Mostly, we are simply entertained by making each other laugh. That is our relationship. We don’t bicker. We laugh. We do not argue. We laugh. We do not judge each other. We simply laugh. We are in a constant celebration of the 23 years of sheer entertainment we have continued to provide each other. We are pretty damn proud of ourselves. Even when we are the only ones laughing.
There is always the perfect movie or TV line for every situation, that serves as a salve to every hardship we have ever had to encounter. Laughter is our comfort food and our favorite cocktail. Well, more like the perfect garnish to our favorite cocktail.
There are those that know us and understand. There are those that know us and think we are freaks. Jordan and I have never fought, yelled or bickered. Ever. And it is all her. She was born with the temperament of a wise, seasoned traveler. The patience she showed me, Helen Keller-ing my way into new mother hood at 23 was mind-boggling. (It would prove to serve me well with my son.)
Jordan brought out my bravery, honed my confidence and taught me that competitiveness was overrated and would bring nothing but stress and possibly Yellow Jack Fever! (I dramatize. We’re from the south and big fans of Bette Davis’ Jezebel. And Mint Juleps.)
Thank you, Jordan. We really dodged a bullet. If I hadn’t let you lead me, let you show me who YOU were, we could still be posing for pics in matching Laura Ashley dresses. (Oh, c’mon. I only it did it once. Okay, twice! But, that was it!)
This I know for sure, my girl: You KNOW who you are. And, what you are not.
Jordan has not developed an affinity for home and hearth, just yet. She’s a busy young woman making her way in the film biz in Hollywood. So I flew to “SoCal” to bring my special decorating mama magic to her newly rented apartment. Admittedly, she felt that “crack den” was not the look she was going for. She had a mattress on the floor and a large flat screen TV. Priorities.
Here are a few before and after pics. It’s not Architectural Digest, but damn. My girl feels cozy again. She said it feels like home…almost. It’s cozy for “The Ca-li-for-nians”.
I hit every vintage store and antique shop in the Santa Monica area. And, by the way, if you watched the skit above, I DID “have to take Lincoln ALL the way to Washington!” OHMYGAWD!
Next week, I’ll be off to the East Coast to get Joshua set up in his first apartment in Boston. The Boy should be much easier…in theory. But, the talented, creative soul that he is bleeds into all sorts of decorating and style “opinions.” Joshua has taught me a different kind of patience. The kind you use to not be on the local news, behind the yellow tape. Still, I wouldn’t change our relationship for anything, either. We have been through some rough seas but, came out stronger and better humans because of the struggles he has had to face. Again, HIM teaching ME.
We have all read the articles, seen the TV segments that “special” is overused and has paralyzed an entire generation of kids with entitlement issues. But, I feel comfortable with my children being unique to me; they are mine. I wouldn’t trade my road for anything or change one turn, for fear it wouldn’t lead me right to this moment: Jordan starting her adult life in L.A.and Joshua getting back on the college road at Berklee. Nicole, happy and successful with her booming photography business in Austin. Monica, thriving as a new lawyer, at a major firm here in Houston.
It is a parenting, “I can breathe” moment.
We are right where we are supposed to be. They lead me right here. (Exhale.)
Happy “Back to School” to all, from kindergarten to college. This time of year always brings on the same feelings of starting anew, along with letting go. But, as you pack up your kids school supplies or set up their dorm rooms, let them lead you. Let them show your their strengths, their likes, their interests. Let them lead you down the path that feels natural to them. Yes, you are in charge and you are their ultimate guide. But, you will be amazed at what those precious little ones can teach you.
Just like when I turned 30. 40. Reflection is inevitable.
Larkin and I have had more than the lion’s share of teenager-dom. 17 years. 17 years straight of raising crazy, wonderful, lying, beautiful, self-centered, manipulative teenagers. As Jordan aptly replied, “Puh, teenagers…they’re the worst.” Right?!
I see them. My contemporaries. Celebrities and dignitaries my age. Damn, they look good. But, did they have to raise teenagers for 17 straight years?! I am making frown lines on my brow, as I type.
When you hold those babies in the hospital, gently brushing their faces with the scant wisp of your forefinger, you never imagine the teenage years. The time period in which you will become the un-coolest, dumbest, “you don’t understand” version of your parents. Simpletons, really, just trying to manage on the same planet with the mood-changing creatures you created. A creation you honestly question a few times as they change plans, yet again, miss curfew or simply roll their eyes for the umpteenth time.
Tick, tock. The bells toll.
Joshua is 20. He is filled with a wisdom and a deep soul that I have seen before. He is swimming the pools of his father’s waters. I am in awe. Cautiously optimistic, yet still in awe.
Jordan, graduated from Boston University. Moving to L.A. Headed to Hollywood with determination, wit and wisdom, far beyond her years. Strength and grace. She is simply amazing.
Nicole, an entrepreneurial success, just like her dad. A talented, creative photographer in Austin. Making her own magic happen.
Monica, our oldest. Determined, charging her path, claiming her career as a successful Houston lawyer. Never doubted it for a minute.
Together, the four of them, all in their 20’s. (At least for a few month’s anyway.) Each live in a different city, across 3 states. One goes down, the other three rally. They are lucky. We are lucky. And grateful.
I raise my glass to the four of you. We made it. You grew up. You matured and/or are maturing. Each of you, your own pace. I won’t name names.
Thank God you are not the same kids you were from 1996-2013. May those goofy, clueless, lovable souls live on, deep within your hearts. Personally, I hold every one of those stay up all night and worry years, close to my heart…and brow line…and grayed scalp line.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
But, just so you know, there isn’t anything you tried to pull on me that I couldn’t see right through. You had to lie. You had to push the envelope. You thought you knew it all. I know you had to go through it. You had to get to the other side.
I know. I was once a teenager, too. Just ask Nana & Papa.
And, let’s be honest. It was all pretty “Boy Meets World” compared to that of your dad’s teenage years. At least now, we can all marvel at Uncle Josh’s new book, All The Wild Children, and truly appreciate how good we had it.
And, for a moment, bask in the glory that you were NEVER that wild. Blessed be God. Love, Lola
I have not yet read my brother-in-law’s latest book that was just released this week. I have been warned. But, I know my bro’s talent; I expect an excellent read of his “noir memoir”.
Psshaw. You can’t scare me. I’ve raised four of these “wild children”. All with the same last name.
Update: I read the book in one day! I couldn’t put it down. It was like I really knew the characters…oh, wait…that’s right. I married into this cast of characters!
Excellent, poignant, heart wrenching, honest, beautiful….bad words, sex scenes and all. What a triumph for my brother-in-law, Josh Stallings. I am so proud. To my sister-in-law, Erika, your patience continues to astound.
And to All of the Wild Children everywhere, call your parents. They miss you.
When I began this post, I didn’t realize I would be posting it on the 100th Birthday of Julia Child. A recipe post is very apropos. Her legacy lives on in every food blog, every recipe “Pin” and every Instagram picture we share. Creating good food is an art and social media has helped up become part of this Food Appreciation culture.
Julia encouraged us all to simply TRY. She is the Godmother to all of us, the kitchen goddesses and gods everywhere, that play in our kitchens each day cooking, baking, entertaining and sharing our love of food. Happy Birthday, Julia!
Everywhere I go, people are kicked into high gear “Back to School” mode. Especially this past week, as I have been helping my sister and her teacher/friend/colleague decorate their classroom. (Jen, what the ‘h’ do you call Carolyn?) As you can see, I have had to turn on my “teacher speak” since working at a place that molds and shapes young minds. Not easy when a hammer, nails and a power sander are involved. That is how my sister and her teacher friends speak…”What the “H”?!…”Don’t be such a ‘B’!”
That is why I could never be a teacher. I would yell, “What the HELL?” Then, open the TOP drawer of my desk for my flask. Why even bother hiding it in the bottom drawer? I have raised four children. I know exactly where the stash should be hidden: Within reach.
I remember those getting ready days. All the forms to fill out, the summer reading to cram in, the packets to pour over, trying to wind down summer sleep schedules for the brutal early mornings around the corner. I lived it. I loved it.
I do not miss it.
I listened to my sister and her friends going over “first day” itineraries and lesson plans. As I worked quietly on the bulletin boards, all I could feel was relief and gratitude wash over me. Relief, that I do not ever have to receive an email from “EDLINE” again and Gratitude, that the good Lord up above gave me the strength to survive emails from “EDLINE”.
(FunFact: Edline is an online service for students and parents to keep up with grades and assignments under the guise of being helpful, when really all it does is stress you out entirely.)
Being an empty nester, I found myself all caught up in the Back to School hoopla, but, with time on my hands. Since I am not out in the 102 degree heat, schlepping Staples/Target bags filled with school supplies into my car, I decided to come up with a super-power filled muffin that I would feed my kids for the first few days of school, if they were here, of course. I had been wanting to try a variation of a Morning Glory muffin with kale. We already eat carrot cake, why not?
I was so amped, that I even dragged my still-like-new food processor out of the cupboard. I always see this apparatus as cumbersome. I cooked and baked for 23 years without it. Just getting it out and setting it up requires a musical score. But, once it is all set-up, it’s pretty amazing. I shredded the carrots and kale in less than 2 minutes. Although it did take me 20 minutes to wash, dry and put the darn thing away. Yin and yang, I guess.
Before you say to yourself, “There is no way in hell, my kids would even try a veggie/healthy/power whatever muffin,” let me just say two things. 1) It’s “…no way in ‘H'”…remember, the kids…shaping and molding young minds, and, 2) These muffins are sweet and you can even make them sweeter by simply adding a little more sugar.
If your kids start school as early as mine did, then it’s still dark outside when you’re trying to get a balanced, nutritious breakfast crammed down their throats, before you hit the carpool line or bus stop. They won’t even be able to see all the green goodness and protein power these little muffins pack.
If they ask, just tell them it’s what “The HULK” or superheroes have for breakfast. Or something about making them smarter or stronger or faster. You’ll know what to say. We are mothers. We are great at this “s”.
Morning Glorious Bran Muffins
The beauty of this recipe is that you can mix and match to get your 2 1/2 cups of flour. Use what you have on hand. I just happen to keep a variety of flours and bran (hello, fiber) stocked in my pantry. Also, your fruits, veggies and nuts can be substituted and adjusted for your family’s tastes. Let your inner Julia shine and go get creative!
Serve warm with butter, orange marmalade, apple butter or Larkin’s suggestion, cream cheese frosting….Enjoy!
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. quinoa flour
1 c. wheat bran
1 Tbs. milled flax seed
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon or baking spice (I use Penzey’s)
1/2 c. dried cranberries (or raisins)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
8 oz. crushed pineapple, drained
2 c. shredded carrots
1-2 c. shredded kale (of course, I used 2 cups. Hence, the Green.)
1/2 Greek, Non-Fat, Plain Yogurt (little tub)
1/2 c. all-natural applesauce (little tub)
2 Tbs. canola oil
3 eggs 1/2 c. agave nectar (or brown sugar or molasses or honey)
Preheat oven to 350. Grease or line muffin tins with paper liners. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, bran, flax, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cranberries and walnuts. Fold in shredded carrots and kale. In a second bowl, gently whisk eggs, yogurt, applesauce, oil and agave. Pour the egg mixture into the dry mixture; mix well. Spoon batter into muffin tins. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Those silver highlights running through my hair are from endless grocery store runs, dinner on the table every night, science projects, Halloween costumes and birthday parties fit for a king.
Those lines on my forehead are from late night fevers, broken bones (some unnoticed for a day or two), stitches, college decisions, and the constant question: Am I doing this right?
The puffiness under my eyes from the late nights of waiting to hear that car in the driveway, or hear that boyfriend or girlfriend NOT go in your room, roughly 3,240 school mornings (never late!) the shared tears over broken hearts, bad decisions and sappy movies.
The smile lines around my mouth, as I watched Christmas mornings, prom pics in the front yard, graduations, college acceptances, fearlessness, gumption and leaving home to conquer the world.
The laugh lines around my eyes are the evidence of true living. Laughter is my default mode. I am thankful to have them; there to remind me of how much fun it has been. God, how we laugh.
Today I celebrate 46 years and I am thankful for every one.
For my birthday, I am so pleased to have my Pilates mentor and trainer, Joseph Vargas, PhD, guest post this wonderful piece on aging.
If by that we mean, “Just let it happen, don’t fight it” then, hell, no! I ain’t going down without a fight! Aging chronologically is inevitable and should be welcomed. After all, we should all get better with age, right? But, the truth, “getting better with age” does not just happen.
Getting better with age psychologically is the result of examining our lives (previous decisions, choices, actions etc.) and learning from them and honing ourselves into “better”.
Getting better with age physiologically means makes wiser and wiser choices as to how we fuel and exercise this gracious and forgiving vehicle which we inhabit all the years of our lives; being smarter and appropriately more attentive to it than in our wilder days (or should I spell that “daze”?). Ah, good times ,yes. And, even better times can be here now and in our future.
Whenever you see someone who’s “older” and looks fit and whose posture (both attitudinal and physical posture) is striking, you can BET that it didn’t “just happen”. Those individuals were interactively involved in this dance we call the aging process. And, their dance was graceful, not by default, but by their persistent and vigorous, strategic pursuit, awareness and daily action at many levels. “Aging gracefully” is no accident; it occurs purely by intent and commitment and execution.
If you don’t believe me, next time you see someone who has “aged gracefully”, just ask them and you’ll see, hear and, more than likely, be inspired.
From the moment my daughter Jordan walked into my room in pain, I was “on”. That is what moms do, it’s one of our strengths. I don’t turn into a panicky mom. I use humor and laughter to get through. We dressed in minutes, made it to the car and laughed all the way to the 24 hour ER clinic, in between breathing through sharp stomach pains, of course.
It was odd for me to have the admitting and attending nurses address all questions to my daughter, not me. She is 21, now. An adult. She was amazing to watch as she described her condition over and over to the various health professionals. After an hour and a CAT scan, it was determined she needed to have surgery…quickly. Now, the phone calls.
I am a Latina. From a long line of strong, Tejana women. Once the phone calls start, widespread prayers, candles and vigils spring into action. I am the ONE who has to keep it together. I don’t fall apart. There are others who will, but not me. Because I am a Mom, I am the rock. I am the comic relief. My husband and I opted to drive our girl to the hospital ourselves. My parents and my sister met us there. (Mexicans do not wait alone in waiting rooms.) The Boy, our son Joshua, waited with friends. My oldest stepdaughter joined us, as well. Everyone was concerned, but understood it was a routine surgery but, still…it IS surgery, as my mother reminded me.
Jordan and I had a few good laughs in pre-op, before they wheeled her away. Our “thing” is quoting movie/TV lines. We did lines from “Arthur”, “Friends” and to keep it a little dark, “Steel Magnolias”…”Open your eyes, Shelby…open, open open your eyes”.) I’m sure some people think we can be inappropriate at times, but humor has ALWAYS been our default mode.
In the waiting room, my husband was way more unnerved than I expected. She is Daddy’s girl, alright. I had to keep him up. My parents, who have been through their medical nightmare this past year with Dad’s heart attack and surgery, were worried. My sister, the awesome “cool aunt”, was helpful and attentive to my parents, so I could concentrate on my husband. Separately, in the waiting room, there was a young woman, who upon receiving good news from a doctor in regards to her mother’s liver transplant, wept alone. She was not a Mexican. I quietly went and sat next to her and rubbed her back for support, because I am a Mom.
Thankfully, everything went well and, because I’m a Mom, I spent the night with my 21 year old girl. We had nurses and doctors check on her every two hours, through the night. I was hoping someone would check on the hospital AC…it was freezing. Nothing like a hospital sleepover to A) help you appreciate your health, B) help you appreciate the comforts of your own home, C) help you catch a horrible cold.
My husband and The Boy were at the hospital by 7am the next morning. After 30 minutes of “The Today Show”, Joshua was hungry, so as the Mom, I insisted they go to the amazing cafeteria and have breakfast, where he thoroughly enjoyed biscuits and gravy and a plate of sushi…18 year boys! When they returned, it took about another 30 minutes before they were trying to get comfortable in the small room for a nap. So, as the Mom, I insisted they go back home, as we were hoping to be discharged by noon, anyway. Then, as the Mom, I cleaned and organized the room, got Jordan dressed, washed her hair, packed our belongings, watered her flowers, left notes for the fabulous staff and we were ready and discharged by 11am. I was already on my 3rd giant Starbucks of the morning.
We loaded her in the wheelchair/cart and we were off for home…to REST. We waited in the valet line with the other discharged patients (I know, Methodist Hospital in Houston is amazing). We took pictures, sent texts; and laughed to pass the short wait. Then, the 4 valet attendants appeared.
I went to push her chair, but the first valet politely swatted me away while he wheeled her towards the car and gently helped her in the seat. I turned to open the hatch of my Prius, but another valet beat me to it and wouldn’t let me help. I turned to start unloading the cart of our belongings and another valet insisted he had it covered. In utter confusion, I started towards the driver’s seat. I was face to face with the fourth valet. He took the Starbucks from my hand and the purse from my shoulder, placed them both in the car, turned, put his hand on my arm and said to me, “Mama, all you have to do is take her home and rest. We have this.”
I tipped and thanked them profusely, I got in the car and quietly drove off…it IS a Prius. And, because I’m a Mom, I finally had my cry.