My 10 Year Wedding Anniversary Reflection


Happy Anniversary!

That’s what we are supposed to say, right?

Couples celebrating an anniversary will say things like:

We’ve been through ups and downs but here we are!  Love you, babe!  You are the love of my life!  I love you now more than ever!

(blah blah blah)

Well no shit, Sherlock.  No marriage I’ve ever known has been peachy all of the time.

June 26, 2004.  Our wedding day.

June 26, 2004. Our wedding day.

I’m aware that I often view the world in a twisted upside down sort of way.   Maybe my outlook has something to do with my inability to graciously accept compliments (working on this – it’s a middle child syndrome issue).  Or maybe it’s because I like to delve deeper into the meaning of words.  To me, those phrases sound empty and cookie-cutter.

What is it we are trying to say when we say these things to married couples?  Congratulations for making it this long??  Whew.  We all know marriage can be real shitty death trap and we hope that at least today, on your anniversary, you are happy??  Or welcome to the marriage club.  Misery loves company!

Don’t mind me while I sidetrack a bit….  It reminds me of people who are tired from work and complain about their job all the time but let their friends know when there are job openings and offer to pass their resume along and even help them get the job.  And once they have the job they put their arm around their friend and commiserate with an, “Yeah, this place sucks.”  Another analogy is a person works this job their whole lives and instills in their kids to follow a similar path because it’s the “best” way.   How do you know if it’s the best way?  Is familiar always the best?  Have you tried an alternative?  Why do we see the status quo as the better option?  Okay, I’ll now resume with my irregularly scheduled blog.

Sal and I try to look for anniversary gifts for each other that correspond with the year.  The 10th year is aluminum.  When I think of aluminum I can’t help but think of my roll of foil in the kitchen.

10th Anniversary Traditional Gift:
Tin or aluminum. The pliability of tin and aluminum is a symbol of how a successful marriage needs to be flexible and durable and how it can be bent without being broken.

I’ve torn sheet after sheet off a foil roll.  In order to get foil to tear there needs to be sharp edges or put just the right amount of force on an edge it’ll tear.  Foil crumples very easily.  It also bends and molds to conform to whatever it needs to.  How much can aluminum foil bend back and forth and crumple before it is torn or broken?

San Francisco, December 2004

San Francisco, December 2004

Marriage is so, I dunno…weird.  Depending on our background, culture, religious or non religious upbringing, it is highly likely that we view marriage differently.  Some people will stay in a marriage regardless of it’s quality holding onto the literal definition of those words “til death do us part” and focusing on quantity of years versus quality of years.  Some people bail the moment difficulty arises.  Most married couples dance somewhere in between and focus more on the figurative meaning of the phrase “til death do us part.”

Chicago 2005.  I was pregnant with Aurelia in this picture.

Chicago 2005. I was pregnant with Aurelia in this picture.

2006  Aurelia's 1st birthday.

2006 Aurelia’s 1st birthday.

Many people have a list of do’s and don’ts in their marriage.  These are conditions in which they’d stay or leave (unconditional love, my ass).  An affair is a popular one with which we tend to test a marriage (in reality or theoretically).  There are people who swear they’d be out if the partner had an affair since that would be much like death to them.  Some people would stay.  I’ve know couples who’ve left and couples who have stayed.  I must say it’s pretty sobering and a wake up call to hear these stories regardless of how they turn out.

Lucia's birth at home in Bedford, TX.  I put Sal in a headlock while pushing.

Lucia’s birth at home in Bedford, TX. I put Sal in a headlock while pushing.

2008 Lucia's baptism

2008 Lucia’s baptism

The dance of marriage is so nuanced that it is impossible to have hard and fast rules.  The moment I realized this was the moment I let go of expectation and literalism.  The moment I put my checklist down of what I thought needed to happen or not happen in my marriage was the moment I began to be more present in my marriage.  I think that is the point.

Honestly, I don’t know what the future holds.  I could turn into a real pain in the ass to deal with and Sal says (say this like head like Californication’s Hank Moody), “Peace out, Mutha Fucka!”  Sal could all of a sudden reveal he’s had an affair the whole time in our marriage and fathered six more babies with four different women and is madly in love with a fifth woman and wants to leave our family and join a drug cartel.  Yes, I have a wild imagination hence why I also cited the possibility of me being a pain in the ass.  It’s a reality.  I am kinda difficult to deal with at times.

Fall 2009

Fall 2009

April 2010.  Birth of Keira.  Just moment after I gave birth to her in the bathtub and this was Sal and I working together to carry her to the bed.

April 2010. Birth of Keira. Just moment after I gave birth to her in the bathtub and this was Sal and I working together to carry her to the bed.

We’ve had honest conversations about our marriage.  These conversations help uncrumple our foil but it never returns to smooth and flat.  The creases remain.  A couple months ago Sal genuinely apologized for things he had done early on in our marriage than made us crumple a bit.  He admitted he was immature and probably wasn’t ready for marriage at that time.  If I’m honest, I wasn’t ready either.  We married anyway because we were “in love” and while we have many many great and wonderful memories in our first ten years we also have some dark times and things that were done and said that we cannot undo.

Spring 2011

Spring 2011


I’m not one of those people who thinks it is necessary to go through pain, suffering, and hurt in order to do or be better.  The hurt and pain we caused each other were definitely not necessary.  We’ve talked about the things we did wrong and the things we’ve done right (I think in the first ten years we’ve done a lot more wrong than right).  At times the conversations are hard and at times they are easy but they are always freeing and therapeutic.

There are sometimes when he has had to hold the relationship together by himself.  There are times when I have to.  There are times when neither of us wants to be around each other and there are times when we can’t get enough of each other.  We’ve cried together, laughed together, yelled at each other, threatened to leave, and held onto each other tightly.  We never need to hurt in order to know what love is.

Fall 2011

Fall 2011

Before we met each other we had vastly different plans for our lives.  Neither of us really had a desire to get married at all.  Mine for reasons along the lines of “Fuck all men!” and him for reasons of “Super important to me, being a nerd is!”  (Did ya catch that Star Wars fans?)  Regardless of our individual life plans we met and became victims to that early stage of love that makes a person stupid.

The birth of Elisha December 2012

The birth of Elisha December 2012

We both agree we were immature when we got married as most people are when they marry in their 20’s.  We were clueless how all the pieces would fit together or what would happen when they didn’t.  We both resisted change and both resisted giving up pieces of ourselves so that we may fit together.  He felt he gave up more of himself for our family and I felt I gave up more for it all to come together.

When I was first married I did have judgments toward people who divorced.  I was ignorantly self-assured early in my marriage because I was still in that stupid love stage and also because I was in my 20’s.  Have I mentioned how cringeworthy my 20’s were??  Let’s face it we’ve all done plenty of stupid things in our 20’s.  I’m just glad my 20’s aren’t documented on social media.  I use to see people who got divorced as not trying hard enough or there was always one party to blame.  Ten years later I can see precisely why and how marriages dissolve.  And you know what?  I hold no judgment now.  I see exactly how it happens and how often times it is a slow death over time.  Sometimes divorce is a good thing, even healthy.  There are couples I personally know have divorced and they are much healthier people because of it.  I also know people who really should consider divorce. (If you think I’m talking about you, then I probably am.)  These people have already died in every other way except a physical death.

Fall 2014

Fall 2013

Married people aren’t some superior group of people.  Marriage isn’t a marker of if you’ve made it or not.  Duration of a marriage means diddly squat.  Marriage isn’t necessarily evil.  Marriage isn’t necessarily heaven either.  I reject the idea that there’s someone for everyone, in order to be happy a person must be married, or that single people are sad and lonely.  There are plenty of people who are extremely healthy and happy being single, just as there are many unhappily married couples.  It isn’t a bad thing to be single.  It can be the healthiest thing a person chooses.  The hierarchy of relationship statuses is bullshit.

I understand why some people consciously choose to remain single.  I understand why some people consciously choose to marry.  The key to happiness isn’t choosing one or the other by default nor is it placing one above the other.  It’s knowing which one is right for you at what time and being respectful of another person’s mind, body, and soul in whatever your decision.

Sal and I have talked about what it would have been like if had waited longer, a few years perhaps, before we got married or even not married at all.  How would it be different?  Would it be different?  Would we be pliable like aluminum?  Would we have bent back and forth more or less?  Would we be crumpled?

May 2014 Windy Day on the Beach in Galveston

May 2014
Windy Day on the Beach in Galveston

We also think about if our children come to us as a teen or in their early twenties wanting to get married what will we say?  What if they never want to get married?  Would either be because of something we did or didn’t do?

It’s easy to get carried away in measuring successful marriages in number of years when we should be measuring successful marriages in the quality of those years.

For now, in this moment, I am happy with my foil.  My marriage crumples, bends, and smoothes out, although never as smooth as it was in the beginning.  Sal and I are happy AND healthy.  We both have contributed to the way our imperfect piece of foil is.  There are things that cannot be undone.  There are also plenty of things I am glad I’ve experienced within our marriage.   I do not know what person I would be if I hadn’t married or waited to marry or married someone else.  Would I be happier?  Miserable?  The same?

Ten years later I know myself better, I know him better, and I know marriage better.  I am more mindful when I am handling my foil; my marriage.  I can’t take back the past.  I can’t predict the future.  I am here now and present in my marriage.  And I think that is the point.


As I was writing this blog, I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons kept popping into my head.  

I Will Wait – Mumford & Sons

Well I came home
Like a stone
And I fell heavy into your arms
These days of darkness
Which we’ve known
Will blow away with this new sun

But I’ll kneel down
Wait for now
And I’ll kneel down
Know my ground

‘Cause I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you

So break my step
And relent
Well you forgave and I won’t forget
Know what we’ve seen
And him with less
Now in some ways
Shake the excess

And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you

Now I’ll be bold
As well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart
So tame my flesh
And fix my eyes
A tethered mind freed from the lies

And I’ll kneel down
Wait for now
And I’ll kneel down
Know my ground

Raise my hands
Paint my spirit gold
Bow my head
Keep my heart slow

‘Cause I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you


Posted in Being Human, Family | Leave a comment

Salsa Recipe I Stole

I put this salsa recipe on this blog post a couple years back and I find myself going back to it enough that I thought it deserved it’s own post so others could enjoy it.


Ok, I lied a little.  I’m posting it here so when I go and search for it I can find it a little easier.  But if by any means it helps you and it tastes friggin’ fantastic then lucky you!

My disclaimer is that this is not my own creation at all.  Not even gonna try to take any credit for it.  My friend Julie gave it to me.  She got it from one of her friends.

So here is this awesome salsa recipe that can be tinkered with to taste.  Pretty much everything on here is to taste.

Huge Tip (that’s what she said):
Quality of ingredients DO matter.  You buy crap ingredients you get crap salsa.

Another tip:  Tinkering with the amounts of ingredients will yield different flavors and levels of spiciness.

Salsa recipe

  • Canned fire roasted tomatos
  • Lime juice to taste
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • raw onion cut into quarters
  • jalapeno, half of ribs and seeds removed, or however hot you want it – keep that amount of seeds in.  Today I used a HUGE jalapeno, removed 3/4 of the seeds – I wanted my kids to enjoy it.
  • garlic
  • cumin & chili powder to taste (I never measure anything, I just dump to my little heart’s content, but probably at least a tsp of each – maybe a little less chili powder)
  • Any other random spices that might tickle your fancy – coriander seeds, chipotle chili powder, I’ve even used smoked paprika before
  • cilantro to taste.

Dump it all in the blend-tec (or vitamix or if you’re po’, the boring food processor) and pulse to desired consistency.   I think that the hardest part is washing the cilantro.  Damn pain in the ass, that is. (Valerie’s side note:  I think she buys naughty cilantro since hers seemed to be dirty.  Side note to the side note:  I usually fill a large container full of water and submerge the cilantro and shake it out underwater to clean it.)

Or another variation I sometimes do is to cook out the onion, jalapeno and garlic in a tiny bit of olive oil, add all the other ingredients, except for the cilantro, let it all simmer together for awhile (plus a tiny spoonful of sugar) and then add the cilantro when you take it off the heat – puree it with the immersion blender right there in the pot and serve warm.  I call that “winter salsa” – more so b/c of the canned tomatoes, but it makes sense to serve it warm in the winter.  I did that more often before I broke my immersion blender – now it is hard to puree with my make-believe immersion blender.(Valerie’s side note: how in the hell does one break their immersion blender???)

Voila.  Salsa!

Posted in Food | 1 Comment

The Mountains We Move

It’s amazing the mountains we can move when we have a support system.

I used to think I could do it all by myself.  I used to be told I had to do it all myself or if I asked for help or gave off the perception I needed help that I was weak and undeserving.

Over time I’ve realized that I can’t do it all.  I just can’t.  It doesn’t make me weak.  It doesn’t make me undeserving.   I’m working on removing those feelings of inadequacy and guilt.  It’s a constant daily struggle.

Support systems or rather lack thereof is something that weighs on my mind often.  I think it’s because I’ve felt the weight of the lack of support especially having a large family living near no extended family.  There are days where it becomes overwhelming and the worst parts of myself emerge.

When it comes to motherhood our generation is facing a crisis of sorts in the area of hands-on, multigenerational support.  While we do have our friends, which is helpful in some areas of nurturing our journey, when it comes to pregnancy, childbirth, and the day to day needs of being a mother, our friends are going through the same struggles as we are at around the same time.  We can’t hand over our oxygen mask to our friend when we can’t even breath ourselves.

Back when our mothers were having us, it was an unquestioned guarantee that grandma or an aunt or some multigenerational help would be there as a hands on support.   This sort of local multigenerational help doesn’t exist for many modern women.

My inlaws have been more than helpful to us since we started having children.  They have dropped what they were doing on a dime in an emergency like when I was in a car accident or was hospitalized for my kidney infection and stone.

The day to day help isn’t a reality because we live in a another city, three hours away.  I know what it’s like to not have help because we are without family in this city on a daily basis.  While I love that my four children are with me all day long every day, it is difficult to do things most people use the time that their kids are in school to do.  It might be a different situation if our family were smaller.  It most definitely would be different if my kids were in school.

My homeschooling friends have family nearby to drop off a kid or two while they take another kid to an event or appointment.  Another scenario I see is the small family dynamic.  Friends with kids are more likely to be okay with taking one or even two kids from another friend.  Parents with one or two kids seem to have an easier time finding childcare because it isn’t much of an inconvenience for a friend to watch one of their friend’s kids.  Not many people would watch all four (or even three) of my children while I go to an appointment or event for another child.

I also know what it’s like to have help because my inlaws have come when we needed them.  The distance does make availability a little harder and immediate help a little delayed.  When the help arrives it is a huge sigh of relief.  Currently, two of my children are in San Antonio with their Mimi and Papa which is allowing me to spend some eye-opening quality time with the younger two.  I’m getting a chance to breathe.

This support I’ve been given from my inlaws I’ve been able to move mountains.  I’ve been able to better care for myself as well as support and help people in my life.  My inlaws are the oxygen mask for me.  They help me breathe again.


Most recently, my sister gave birth to her third (biologically) baby boy.  I was able to support my sister because of my inlaws.  My mother in law watched my children all day so that I was able to be by my sister’s side during her labor and birth.  I’ve given birth four times.  I’ve always had the point of view of the mother giving birth.  This time I had the privilege of being the person supporting the birthing mother.  I had support when I gave birth and I wanted to pay that forward to my sister.  It would have been impossible without my inlaws.

Not only did my mother in law watch my children, she also offered up her house for my sister’s four and five year old to spend the night once my sister returned home with the baby on the night her husband had to work overnight.  A day after I returned home, my inlaws went to my sister’s house to drop off food and other items for her family and visit.  Not only did they directly support me so I could be there for my sister, they also directly supported my sister.  They saw a need and stepped up.

I know my sister needed more support than I was able to give.   This is where multigenerational support and a community would fill in the gaps for my sister.

For whatever reason there is just a lack of a strong support system for the modern mother.  A lack of support system can make a mother feel isolated.  Isolation can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression.  We need to be there to lift each other up especially in times of need like having a baby.

My mother in law supported me so I could be strong enough to support my sister so she could be strong enough to birth and care for her newborn baby.  We all moved mountains for the highest good.  Great and wonderful things happen when we support each other.

Presence is so important.   Just show up.

mother teresa I can do things

I am grateful for my inlaws.  I am grateful for all the people who have shown up in my life.  Thank you.  Thank you to all the people who are present in my life, who offer to help, who want to support me because they want to see me succeed.   I recognize I cannot do it all on my own.  That is okay.  I recognize that accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness, rather a sign of courage and strength.

I know what a relief it is to receive support.  I also know how lonely and overwhelming it can feel without support.  I’m becoming more aware of the gaps in other people’s lives.  I want others to feel the sigh of relief I’ve felt.  I also don’t want anyone to ever feel alone in this journey of motherhood.

There is a natural ebb and flow of giving and receiving.  It is important to practice both.

When we are supported, we are whole.  When we are whole we can move mountains.

Posted in Being Human, Pregnancy | Leave a comment

Happy 34th Birthday to Me!

On this day in 1980, I was born.  So much has happened in 34 years yet it seems like there’s so much more I haven’t done!

Like go to NYC.  I’ve never been.   Sal, if you’re reading this, I want to go.   Oh and maybe Vegas, Australia, and Spain, and places in Asia, and South America, and California again, and, and, and.  Can you tell I didn’t find out I wanted to travel until I entered my 30’s???

live once

Maybe it’s because I’ve been popping out babies and breastfeeding for so long and am just itching to step out of my cage, er I mean house.  I’m craving exploration, adventure, and seeing as much of the world I can.  There is a piece of me that cringes with regret that I didn’t do this when I was younger, before marriage and kids.  At the same time I didn’t have those aspirations when I was in my 20’s.  In my twenties it was easy for me to say, “Some day….” to myself.

In my thirty-four years, I’ve made some really wise choices…and some, well, not so wise choices.  All from which I learned a great deal.  It’s amazing, really…how I’ve not ended up dead in a ditch somewhere…or in jail…or pregnant…oh wait.

Something shifted when I entered my thirties and am still experiencing this life shift.  I’m becoming less fearful and more fearless.  I’m speaking up.  I’m standing out.  I’m becoming comfortable in my own skin.  I’m figuring out who I am.


It sounds contradictory but I’m also trying to practice the art silence.  This is hard for me.  I began to find my voice in my mid-twenties and now I’m learning when to most appropriately use use it.  I was silent for so long in my youth that once I found my voice I wanted to shout from the rooftops!  I found quickly that it’s much like beating someone over the head with a bible.  Sometimes it’s not about being right, it’s about doing the right thing and sometimes that is to just shut up.

Life can high extreme highs and extreme lows.  I’ve learned that really, really, really horrible shit can happen to you…Life altering, not sure you’ll ever find your way back to your old self, kind of bad shit…and you can somehow manage to keep on a trucking’.  You never do find your way back to your old self, though.  You sort through the muck and mud and emerge a different version of yourself.  I wouldn’t necessarily say better, rather, different.


I’ve learned everyone has a story.  Sharing mine is not only therapeutic for me but it also opens the door for other people to share their stories and perhaps make at least someone else not feel so alone in theirs.  My husband recently told me I am disarming.  He told me that people tend to let their guard down around me.  I’m still trying to process what he means and if I really measure up to that compliment (that is a compliment, right?).  Another person observed me with a child (not my own) and called me a “Kid Whisperer.”  Apparently listening and engaging in people in general is a strength of mine.  Who knew?

I crave connection.  Somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain I’ve always known that relationships are the most important and unique part of being human.  These intimate connections to people in my life over thirty-four years solidifies this sentiment.  People come in and out of everyone’s life over the years.  There isn’t often anyone I forget and feel disconnected to even years later.

“She holds the hand that holds her down. She will, rise above.”

-Pearl Jam

Lyrics in songs mean different things to me than they did even ten years ago.  Books and stories mean more to me.  Reading and listening to poetry, sermons, or speeches resonate with me more now than they ever did.

I soak in what young people tell me, especially my own children.  Their thoughts and opinions about life and about me are direct feedback.  I need that.  They are blunt.  I don’t discount anything they say simply because they are children.  It is their truth and it shouldn’t be ignored.  Children are also the best models for forgiveness.  Oh how they show me forgiveness daily.  It humbles me.


Children best modeled what forgiveness looks like.  There are still many people I need to forgive and let go of the hurts they caused me.  My happiness is contingent upon me forgiving them.  I struggle with feeling like my happiness is contingent upon them saying sorry.  The truth is they probably have no idea how deeply they’ve hurt me and probably never will and I will hold onto this resentment and in the end it ends up harming me.  So as much as I would love to hear those two magical words, “I’m sorry” I need to accept that this is unlikely to happen and just be happy.  On the flip side I can’t be so arrogant as to think I never hurt anyone and they are feeling the same way about me.

My eyes widen and my heart opens when I listen to people who are 20+ years older than me.  When the older generation is willing to be authentic, open, and honest about their life, I listen.  I’m not talking about the negativity or the condemning.  I can tell when it comes from a place of judgment verses a place of love.  It might be a subtle difference but it is definitely different.  I’m stealing a line from someone who said to live our lives with “the path of least regret.”  That is why I’ve made some seemingly off the wall and unconventional decisions for me and my family.  They aren’t random and senseless to me.  They are very much intentional.

Intentionality.  This is my current mantra; being deliberate and mindful of everything I do.  It doesn’t always happen but when it does there are amazing results.  I feel the best, I smile more, and I enjoy life more.  I never fully understood this until recently.  I just thought it was yet another hippie phrase and for those really far out there people.  And now here I am trying to apply mindfulness into my life.


And finally acceptance.  This one recently burrowed itself into my life to the point I can no longer ignore it.  I had an aha! moment recently when talking about a situation I’ve desperately wanted to be different but it just isn’t and hasn’t been for a long time.  I tend to lean toward wanting to change something or at least waiting for it to change.  I cling to hope.  I hold onto what should be and what could but, not what actually is.  Acceptance is a hard one for me.  I think this will come with more time and maturity.


On my 34th birthday today, I am reveling in the intangibles time teaches.  I’m loving this phase in my life.  I think back on the past and dream of the future yet not remain in those places.  Today I am focusing on the present.  That is the best birthday gift I can give myself.

Posted in Being Human | 8 Comments

Keira is 4!

My Keira.  Boy, has she grown up in the blink of an eye!  4 years old.  Wow.

My 4 year old

My 4 year old

Love her face!

Love her face!



Being silly

Being silly

She is so verbal and uses complete and complex sentences, vocabulary that doesn’t quite seem age appropriate (in a variety of ways) yet is used correctly.  She talks and talks and talks.  Aurelia and Lucia complain that she won’t stop talking when they are trying to go to sleep at night.

Keira at 8 months old.

Keira at 8 months old.

During her third year she ended nursing and has most recently given up a nighttime diaper.  She’s becoming more independent.  She’s hung out with older kids for awhile now so I’m not sure if she know or even desires to play with children her age.  She seems to get plenty of fulfillment and challenge playing with the older kids.

She is a physical child.  She is strong.  The things she is able to do with her body are amazing.  We are taking a gymnastics class within the unschooling community and she refuses to let people help her because, “I can do it myself!” as she says.  She will separate herself and sometimes go away and becoming very upset if people insist on helping her with anything.  It’s best to ask her if she can do it herself before assuming she needs help.  She also wants to open every door herself.  This is very important to maintain harmony while we are out in public.  Always let Keira open the door.  She wants to do tasks around the house herself like put the toilet paper roll back on the toilet paper holder with the spring action holder.  She wants to cut up food when we are cooking.  She wants to make her lunch herself.  She wants to be assigned tasks to complete herself.

Keira, age 1

Keira, age 1

She also wants to help her sisters.  If she gets a snack she grabs enough for her sisters too.  If she gets herself a drink she will get her sisters a drink.  Food items, dishes, and other things that end up upstairs she will bring down to me without being asked.  She knows they belong downstairs and just does it.

She loves to tumble around the living room.  She learned to ride a scooter when she was two.  She has developed incredible motor skills with outside play.  She loves to jump off of high things and likes to jump far.  She enjoys testing her physical abilities.  She runs fast!

She has a contagious smile.  When I’m lying in bed at night and I go through my day in my head, when I come to her and think of her in my head it’s always with her huge smile.  She will give the biggest and tightest hugs.  She loves touch.  She will also lick my cheek instead of a kiss.  When she does kiss me she smushes her face up against mine.  She loves cuddles and when she crawls into bed on some nights with us she taps me on my back and asks in thorough enunciation, “Mom, can I please sleep with you guys?” It’s like 2am and she conjures up a complete sentence, with the word “please”, and says it in a fully awake voice (homegirl hadn’t even had her coffee yet).

Keira, age 2.

Keira, age 2.

She will sleep hard and long.  Her sisters have commented that once Keira is asleep she doesn’t wake up for anything.  They’ve turned on lights and played loud games and apparently she stays asleep.  She seems to play hard, work hard, and sleep hard.

Keira, age 3

Keira, age 3

Entering age four is surreal.  It still feels like she is two to me.  I remember all of the moments when I’d nurse her and rock her when I was pregnant with Elisha.   I loved squeezing in those last moments with her before her youngest sister was born.  Occasionally, I still get to rock her.  I love her touch just as much as I’m sure she loves mine.  Her hands are so comforting.  She loves texture and is tactile.  I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and she told me, “Soft bread.”  One time she grabbed a loaf of Mrs. Baird’s bread off the shelf at the store and gave it a huge hug and proclaimed, “Ahh!  Soft bread!!” Touch, feel, and sensory things are important to her.  She will also brush my hair and wrap her arms around my neck.  I love it.  I love giving her squeeze hugs right back and smushing my face up against hers too.

Her goal this year is to grow her hair out.  A few months ago she decided to give herself a mullet.  We went ahead and cut it so it would be even (and people wouldn’t look at me like my kid had mange).  Now it is growing out at the same rate.  So watch out for a longer haired version of Keira this next year.

Sure she’s had her 3 year old moments but this girl is so happy with life.  When she has had plenty of rest, a full belly, and engaged she is full of energy and loves life.  She wants to feel it all!

I love you, Keira!  Happy 4th birthday!

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Stories and Lessons from a Kidney Stone: Part II

Stories and Lessons from a Kidney Stone: Part I

gerson heal

In the hippie world I live in there is always an underlying emotional issue which explains the physical manifestation of a problem. According to the eastern side of things these are the emotional reasons for what I experienced physically.


Kidney Problem
Criticism, sensitivity, disappointment, frustration, shame, fear. Chronic anger. Feeling like you didn’t do enough.

Kidney Stones
Lumps of undissolved anger.

From Health Problems and Emotional Causes.


Am I aware of these emotional issues inside of me? Hell yes. I am human after all and have a past I still deal with while I try to also digest the present.  My past is full of some dark shit.  My present is full. I have four children who are home with me all day every day.  I much prefer my present but my past does get in the way.

It’s frustrating when I am stressed and people tell me to just relax and calm down. Or my favorite is, “Don’t worry about the mess. It’ll be there tomorrow.” Yes, for me to clean up double now. For me to do more. That stresses me out more. Big messes are hard for me to tackle. Smaller messes are easier for me to tackle. If a person doesn’t have children at home all day every day, then we are coming from different places.

I’d love a few hours a day to get done what I need to get done. It’s not possible. I’d love to really work on my stress and anger and shame and everything else I feel. It feels overwhelming because four little souls need me constantly. When people offer me suggestions other than taking my kids for a bit or getting me a cleaning crew to do the heavy cleaning it feels like a suggestion they want to give so they can rid their heart of a burden they know is too big to handle instead of really helping.

I struggle with feeling this is all my fault. I created this and now I must deal with it on my own. Do not ask for help, Valerie. It makes you appear weak, Valerie. Then when you ask for help you must return the favor. I have a lot of negative voices in my head that I battle daily.

I think it’s hard to really understand what it’s like to be a stay at home homeschooling mother of four children with no family around to help on a semi-regular basis unless you are also that person. And when you are that person you are so overwhelmed in your own life that you really can’t help. I find it hard to relate to a lot of people. Pulling this load on my own takes it’s toll and has a downside. This time the downside was a two-day hospital stay. I crashed and burned big time.

It’s a wake up call for sure but I’m not sure how to fix it because things need to change and I feel that so much is beyond my control. Having a health scare like puts me in a place of vulnerability. It makes me feel lonely. Ashamed. Angry. Sad. I still do not feel good enough.


I share the emotional reasons behind kidney issues because maybe it’ll help someone else.  I share because I think we are all too silent about our emotions and the psychology around disease and health.  I think too often we think we are handling something and then it presents itself in a physical symptom like a headache, anxiety, stress, stomach ache, irregular heartbeat, etc.

I’m just one little voice speaking up in a sea of people who rather not talk about emotions because that’s just not want you’re supposed to do or the stigma surrounding anything to do with psychology and emotions. Negative emotions are to be squashed and buried as soon as possible and no one is ever supposed to talk about them. Ignore it and definitely never share it with anyone.  Never share the bad things that’ve ever happened to you because you will be judged, right?  Suppressing emotions are such a good idea. Um, okay.

I find it frustrating when the older generation doesn’t share they’re struggles with the younger generation. I know they’ve had them but they do not talk about them at all.  At least this is not the experience I’ve had.  I wish someone were to tell me the good, bad, and the ugly about different phases in life but they don’t. They just don’t. The silence is deafening. The older generation tends to ignore, change the subject, or shame us when we struggle. Sometimes they just address the physical part of the issue. Never the emotional part.

I hope to share the whole picture with my kids. I hope to be there when they are doubting or get their heart broken or feel worthless or are scared because I want them to know I’ve been there too. I remember.  I was there too.  I want to share my stories with them no matter how hard I may want to suppress it because of what I’ve been told and no matter how hard it is to utter the words because my stories make me human.  Sharing my life and stories, the good, bad, and the ugly, is probably the best gift I can give my children.


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Stories and Lessons from a Kidney Stone: Part I

What do you when you wake up one morning peeing blood, and have kidney pain???

Well, if you’re me you try to ignore it, brush it off as a UTI, take some herbal shit from your hippie medicine cabinet, and go about your day…for the next week or so.  And on some level it helped.  I think the infection I had did subside, especially in the kidney without the stone.

I’m the type of person who under reacts.  I always think it’ll get better on it’s own because for the most part things generally do.  Plus I don’t like to inconvenience anyone and I knew that I’d need to find someone to watch the kids and whatnot.  Annnnd I don’t trust western medicine.

kidney stone

The next Tuesday I was struggling to move or breathe because of the pain and started vomiting.  That’s when I texted Sal that I  might need to go to the ER.

When I was wheeled back to the ER I was put in the “safe room”. You know, the room they put the patients who might be a danger to themselves or others.  Score!  I wasn’t flailing about or cussing at anyone so I’m not sure why I got that room.  No one ever gave me confirmation if I was or was not put there for that reason.  They just kept smiling when I’d ask.  WTF?!?!  I still wonder…

Yeah, so I cannot just go into a hospital asking for Dilauded.  I'll look like a drug addict.

Yeah, so I cannot just go into a hospital asking for Dilauded. I’ll look like a drug addict.

But, I got a shot of Dilaudid while I was in there…a few hours AFTER getting in there because apparently patients with a stroke and a heart attack came in after me and they got priority.  I totally get that.  The doctor was apologetic when he came in a explained that the 5mm kidney stone patient (me) kept getting bumped down on priority.  I don’t mind waiting.  I just wanted to wait with drugs in my system.  I’ve had Morphine before but Dilaudid took pain management up a few notches.  That’s some good shit.  Why don’t they sell this stuff on the street.  Wait.  They do.  I found forums online of people shooting this stuff up in place of heroin and some people liking it more than heroin.  See, when drug addicts give their seal of approval, you know you’ve got the good stuff.  And good it was.  I hadn’t a care in the world.  I was flying high on Dilauded.  I was content, pain free, oh so pain pain free, I could lay in any position and it not hurt, but I was also loopy at shit.  I also cannot be help responsible for whatever words came out of my mouth while on drugs.

When I was being transported to my room after being admitted (mind you I was on drugs at this point), I asked the transport guy if he was taking me to the psych floor. I swore I thought they all thought I was not mentally stable and lying about a kidney stone since they put me in the “safe room” and didn’t give me pain meds for hours.  This had to have been the pain meds but those voices were quieted down with the carefree, on Dialudid, voice in my head that said, “You’re cool as a cucumber.  Nothing phases you.”

In the time I was there I had 5-6 nurses.  Something like that.  There was one who was a repeat.  I had 2 doctors. One urologist and one internal medicine.  Only one nurse was really really good.  I made sure I told her so too.  I made sure I complimented the shit out of her.  She deserved it.  She seemed to actually genuinely care and went out of her way for me.  One nurse yanked my arm down and forcefully injected morphine into my IV when I told her morphine wasn’t working and it wasn’t what I was given.  She basically told me I didn’t know what I was talking about and I just needed to give this a second chance.  Did it work? Nope.  She finally found the paperwork (which had been crumbled up – not sure why) and it said Dilaudid.  She had an “oh shit” look on her face and changed her tune.

The urologist saw me the next day and said that I needed the stone out immediately because of the damage/blockage it was causing since in it wasn’t passing.  I was put on the books for a noon surgery for removal.  Kidney stone removal.  I’ve had this done once before when I was in college.  It was more mortifying then because I hadn’t been through childbirth where a roomful of people can see your vagina.
kidney stone surgery
This kidney stone removal involved going up my urethra with a scope, camera, and a bunch of other tools (I’m not sure how they fit all those instruments up such a small tube) and either break it up and get it or just grab it and pull it out.  His goal was to not put a stent in.  The possible consequences of breaking it up is causing pieces to lodge up into the kidney and usually ends up with a stent to allow them to fall out over time.  When he went to grab the stone it flew up into the kidney and he had to fish around for it.  He was able to pull it all out though.  No stent needed.  However, my whole naked lower half of my body was on display for the 6 people in the surgical room.  I’m just glad I wasn’t awake to make eye contact with any of these people while the surgery was going on.  It’s not like a beautiful newborn baby is coming out and everyone ignores the vagina.  I was giving birth to a kidney stone, through my urethra.  Totally different.

Pain afterwards was more intense than it was before.  There was a lot more inflammation since there were lots of instrumentation up there and he had to go digging around for gold, I mean the stone.

It is things like this why western medicine is helpful.  Acute, emergency type situations.  From here, I will handle this a non-western route and get to the root cause of my now 2 episodes of kidney problems and stones.

I do not think my hippie medicine cabinet failed me.  I actually think it helped in this issue.  I did need a manual removal of the stone in order to clear the infection on the left side.  My right side was fine.  This is a case of complimentary medicine working.   I think that if I had gone to a traditional doctor prior to the ER, they’d have put me on antibiotics for a bladder infection and sent me home.  I’d still have a had the stone and I’d have had to have it removed anyway plus more antibiotics.  I do not regret my path or decisions.

I broke this post up into two parts because the second post is less funny and more of a serious tone.

Stories and Lessons from a Kidney Stone: Part II
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