Dear Terry

20 Dec

Sitting on the couch this week with my broken leg propped, I have been thinking of you and remembering our family Christmas traditions.

1999 Our commitment ceremony with Terry and Steven.

Every holiday was defined by the menu and our mutual love of feeding our extended family. Seven layer bean dip was great finger food that we noshed on all Christmas Eve. Tamales with the green sauce that Lisa loves brought the kids to the table and home when they were older. We sat around your table eating, laughing and putting together an Italian feast for Christmas Day. What started out as spinach lasagna morphed into stuffed shells to save time. I can smell your spaghetti sauce bubbling on the stove. Everything was tucked into the refrigerator to be reheated on Christmas Day. It was a simple, elegant meal that we all loved.

2012 Dylan and wife Maria with their son Hunter, Grandpa Frank who turns 93 this month, son Cullen and daughter Felice, cousin Lincoln, Lisa and me, Terry and husband, my former and kid’s dad Steven.

Christmas morning was the best. Showing up at your house early to wrap my hands around a mug of coffee and peruse your beautifully decorated table of Christmas breads and homemade cookies. Nuts and dried fruit and your famous bourbon balls were displayed on festive plates. Thank you for all the hours you spent making them. Unfortunately the only pictures are in my head.

Thanksgiving but close enough.

We spent many years watching our children grow and eventually showing up with their children. I tear up now thinking of how we didn’t know about the twists and turns life would take, preventing us from experiencing that extraordinary time again. Life is like that, but doesn’t keep me from occasionally wishing I could have held on a little longer. I am supremely grateful for those memories and our relationship. You have been a blessing and the sister I never had, only better.

Stela wishes you happiest holidays.

DOS TORTAS

Lisa’s mom Alice joins Luna, Stela, Lisa and me to wish you a peaceful holiday.

Taking Stay At Home To A Whole New Level

6 Dec

The extent some bloggers will go for a story! Last week I got all kinds of sympathy and prayers for the discovery of three bulging disks in my neck and the resulting pain and crankiness. Then Monday afternoon while walking the dogs, I fractured my left fibula! I seriously could have found something else to write about, but nooooo.

My beautiful jungle walk.

While on my afternoon dog walk, I casually stepped and heard a distinctive crunching sound. Oh, that’s never a good thing. As a result, down I went, almost in slow motion. While laying on the ground with dogs freaking out around me, I watched a knot swell up on my ankle. Dear Lord, what have I done?

Inflammation, the body’s natural response.

My mind was going to worse case scenario, broken ankle, surgery, pins, hospital stay, yikes. As it turned out, it was a small fracture of my left fibula. The cast went on with instructions to put NO weight on my foot for four weeks. You never know how much a thing like this limits your activities until you’re trying to get to the bathroom on crutches. Not fun.

Sometimes a picture says it all.

Thank you to my wife (who’s birthday is today) for picking up the slack. The dogs are all confused as to why I am laying in bed, and what this wheeled, walker thingy is. My head is unfocused on pain medication. Christmas plans for a trip to the beach have been postponed. We have a whole new meaning for “Stay At Home!”

DOS TORTAS

Love to you all.

A Fun Week? Not So Much

6 Dec

In 2017 I wrote a blog entitled Rocks In My Head. I had been having migraines which were completely out of the norm, and went to the doctor. After a series of tests (don’t doctors love tests) I underwent an EEG.

I was diagnosed with small calcium deposits (rocks?) which were thought to have been there a long time. The funny thing is, I haven’t had a migraine since (knock on wood).

I had to stay awake all night prior to this test! Fun.

That said, I have had dull headaches that I tend to medicate and/or ignore. Recently I was diagnosed with three bulging disks in my neck. They are probably due to a combination of scoliosis and osteoporosis and just plain getting older.

The source of my headaches? Mmmm.

Anyone who has gone to physical therapy knows that it hurts like hell in the beginning until you retrain particular body parts to behave in a different way, take the strain off the offending muscle or tendon. Exercises can stir things up and cause more pain in the beginning.

That is where I’m at this week. It didn’t help that Stela, my blind pug head butted me while jumping onto the couch. She hit my chin as I bent over to pick her up and put my teeth into my lip.

So innocent.

A long story to explain why I’m not feeling all that great. Y’all hold things up while I take a rest. Hopefully next week I will have some inspiration to share.

DOS TORTAS

It takes us all.

A Day To Celebrate Gratitude

29 Nov

I wish I could ask my mother about her Thanksgiving menu. Why didn’t it occur to me until now? Her menu was the same every year. How it developed I’ll never know.

My MIL Alice, Lisa and myself. Pups Luna and Ms Bossy Pants, Stela, Happy Thanksgiving 2020

First there were the appetizers, celery stuffed with cream cheese, dates stuffed with walnuts and rolled in powdered sugar, tiny pickles and pearl onions. All were placed delicately on special plates saved for the occasion.

My mother, always in an apron.

Next there was turkey. My dad cooked the turkey, sealed in aluminum foil and baked to perfection. The turkey was filled with boxed stuffing mix, one of the only things that was not entirely made from “scratch “. There was always homemade gravy, silky mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes (sans marshmallows), mashed rutabaga (my favorite), broccoli and a salad almost no one touched. My mother made the best cranberry sauce. The bitter cranberries were lightly sweetened with apples from our tree and a touch of sugar. I have the cone sieve she used to separate out the skins. The fragrance filled our big kitchen. She would bake pies ahead of time, pumpkin, and minced meat. The desserts would vary when my grandmother was visiting.

Lisa and my first Thanksgiving 1994 (with family friends)

This year the beloved US holiday looked nothing like it has in the past, for anyone. We had one guest which gave me an excuse to get out my mother’s silverware. I thought of my childhood home, filled with extended family, my grandfather and his sister, my grandmother and my Uncle Jack who died this year, playing poker. Lots of grumbling but lots of love. Probably the best was my mother’s eggnog. It was more like liquid heaven, rich and delicious. One year my uncle spiked the entire bowl which meant we kids couldn’t have any. I thought my mother would kill him. My parents didn’t drink either.

Prayers of gratitude for you all.

Thanksgiving was a day to reminisce and tell stories. The Macy’s Parade in New York was always on the television. My dad loved parades and promised every year to take us. Watching the crowd bundled up and freezing, none of my four brothers and myself were in much of a hurry to go.

One recipe I actually got from my mom.

I wish you good memories and loving connections, even from afar. We had a Zoom call with our children, which was a sorry replacement for the laughter, smells and tastes from my mother’s kitchen. And best of all, the eggnog.

DOS TORTAS

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Feeling Stupid Is So…Stupid

21 Nov

Before I retired from the Texas State Health Department, I worked at a job that I loved. It was creative, meaningful, and funded by a federal grant. With the shift toward conservative politics, the funds dried, up as did my job. I was moved to another department that had an empty position. After years of a hiring freeze, I don’t think anyone even remembered what tasks were associated with that position. As a result, I was given no assignments. None, zip, zilch. I begged my boss to use my grant writing and organizational skills. In spite of promises to do so, I sat twiddling my thumbs and planning my escape to Mexico.

Our prompt for the week, NOT KNOWING

One day while perusing the department website, I noticed that the program material was outdated, wordy, and poorly organized. I asked and was given permission to take training to work on our section of the larger Health Department website. Web editing and development were far outside of my wheelhouse.

Adding my own graffiti.

The training was challenging and went a long way to stimulate my mind and teach me that I can pretty much do anything. So when this week had me spilling frustrated tears over failure to figure out an Application that is part of my art class, I needed to be reminded of my ability. Like many people, being called or thought of as “stupid”, especially by oneself, is the lowest of the low.

Ms Bossy Pants, Stela supervising in the studio.

The truth I learned is that I have judgement about people who don’t have basic computer skill. One of those people is my brother. He has an old phone, no texting, no exchange of photos, nada. I finally figured out the application, more or less. And just in case you wondered, I am stupid about a lot of things. Aren’t we all?

DOS TORTAS

Creating Our Own Happiness

15 Nov

When the high point of my day was reporting both dogs’ bowel movements after our morning walk, I knew it was time to take action. The daily routine of COVID isolation was getting to me. When an invitation showed in my inbox for a Zoom “Painting Circle” with my friend and teacher, Connie Solera, I didn’t hesitate to sign up.

Gazing at the far horizon.
Night time musings.
Not Knowing.

I have also subscribed to Audible, audiobooks. Laying in the hammock to read, makes me feel lazy and puts me to sleep. Listening to The Secret Room by Corrie Tenboom or some equally interesting book, both inspires and motivates. I can prep dinner, clean out the refrigerator or give the dog a bath, all things I tend to put off, while feeling accomplished and lifting my spirits.

I have also picked up my crochet hook and am working on a colorful afghan during the evening TV time. I have told my mother-in-law Alice that the blanket is a gift for a friend who is expecting a baby. That way she can ooo and aaah without knowing it is a gift for her.

As Covid quarantine stretches on for months and perhaps years, reading about what the Jews who hid out during WWII experienced keeps me humble. I suppose reading The Diary of a Young Girl could also be added to the audio list. Keep occupied, look out for your neighbors and please, wear a mask.

DOS TORTAS

When Communication Is Not Your First Language

8 Nov

Sometimes a comedic line on a TV series can hit a bit close to home. As was the case when Patrick’s said to David on the Emma Award winning series Schitt’s Creek, “I understand David that communication is not your first language.

A must watch tale of love.

While I had a good laugh, I’ve also had to ponder (as my wife would say) communication as a language skill.

A relationship takes a commitment to love and communication.

Since moving to Mexico, I have been daily studying Spanish as a second language. My foray into learning Spanish began in high school. It continued during a junior year abroad in Mexico and with additional college coursework and a job where I spoke Spanish daily.

Regardless of how hard I work, I am clear that I will never pass as a native speaker. Between idioms, accent and constructing new cognitive frameworks, I have a lot to learn.

I think the same can be said of communication. When my kids were little, I used to teach a course called, How To Talk So Kids Will Listen. Also for ten years, I have been a student and coach of Real Love by Dr. Greg Baer.

Learning the language of communication takes daily effort and attention. Remembering that most people have never worked to improve the skills that mom and dad taught them, helps me to have patience. It also reminds me to not take things personally and lower my expectations. I don’t think communication will ever be my first language either, but remain a lifetime study for as long as I live.

DOS TORTAS

Self Image and Aging

25 Oct

This week I bit the bullet, so to speak and started taking blood pressure medication. This is after years of a vegan diet, daily meditation and an exercise regime. Both my parents had high blood pressure. Apparently one third of hypertension is hereditary. Getting older is definitely not for sissies.

Thanks for the genes Mom and Dad. My parents were married 50 years.

I’ve always had enviable numbers. Through the birth of three children my midwives were in awe of my low pressure. Health fairs and work related screenings evoked comments like, “wow, I wish my pressure were as good as yours.”

Keeping track this month.

During the last year or so of routine doctor’s visits, I’ve seen raised eyebrows and looks of concern. Don’t you just hate it? I’ve hunkered down on my eating but had to finally admit that this is as good as it gets. My battery operated home monitor won’t budge. I’ve even changed the batteries and had Lisa take her BP for comparison. No dice, the numbers aren’t good.

My doctor finally said something this week that clicked. He told me to take the medication and monitor how I FEEL. Hopefully my energy will improve. This is a trial for a month, at least I tell myself. Evidence says otherwise. We live too far from a hospital and a stroke is nothing I’d wish on anyone, least of all me.

Our doctor Oscar. Do you have your doctor’s cell phone number?

It’s going to take awhile for my heart to adjust to the medication. I woke the first morning feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. It may take even longer to change my self image.

DOS TORTAS

Self image can be a double edged sword.

Life Markers

18 Oct

For most of us, we have life markers, events that forever changed us, our world and the way we look at things. Nine-eleven was a huge marker for many. It’s hard to find anyone in the world who wasn’t touched by it. I realized from visiting the book depository/museum in Dallas, TX that the assassination of President John Kennedy was a marker of my childhood, comparable to Nine-eleven. It too affected many people around the globe. Kennedy was a charismatic and beloved world leader.

November 22, 1963, fifty-seven years ago.

On a more personal level, the death of my youngest brother from glioblastoma/brain cancer in 2000 left a big gap in my life. Our parents get old and we know they will pass, but the death of a child or siblings can be extremely hard. It was for me. I can’t believe December will be twenty years.

On the left, Michael, older brother Ken on the right.
When we were lots younger. Michael on the right. I still tell folks that I have four brothers.

Covid is certainly an historic marker that we all share. There will be many stories of life before and after. And since we are still in the throws of it, it’s hard to imagine what the after will look like.

What are your life markers? This post started out with thoughts of how my life has changed after moving to Mexico seven years ago. It has turned out quite different from what I expected. However, clearly the blog took on a life of its own. Maybe another time.

DOS TORTAS

In Mexico Count on the Motociclistas

11 Oct

Thursday evening I got a call that no one wants to get. My phone said the call was from my wife, Lisa, so why was some guy speaking garbled English? He was telling me there had been an accident. It took my brain awhile to process.

The chariot that brought us to Mexico.

I jumped in the car heading to kilometer 51, about 15.5 miles away. I arrived on the scene to find a band of motociclistas directing traffic and surrounding Lisa who was sitting on the side of the highway holding her head. Her truck was off in the jungle. It was very dark by this time, and all I cared about was getting her to the hospital.

She is fine, a slight head injury and wearing a cervical collar. Her beloved truck is likely totaled. I didn’t get to thank those guys, not the guy who scooped her up and carried her to my car, or who went back to the truck to get her purse, nor the one who called me, or who stood on the highway slowing traffic keeping her safe. They were an incredibly sweet and caring group of men.

She had been side swiped while passing a car. Her truck went spinning off the road. The other driver did not stop. Thank you motociclistas. It could have been so much worse.

DOS TORTAS

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