Saturday, April 19, 2014

The bittersweet taste of April 19

I sort of love this day -- it's my birthday.
I love the sweet birthday wishes from everyone; they make me smile and feel happy and warm and loved. Thank you all so much for that. It's the day I feel truly Grinchy...by which I mean my heart grows three sizes. (Oh, no worries, it will shrink back down in a couple of days and I'll be back in Curmudgeonland)

I sort of hate this day -- it's my birthday.
I am older but seldom wiser, crazier even without cats, and more GET OFF MY LAWN YOU LITTLE BASTARDS.
It also (and more importantly) marks the tragedy of the OKC bombing in 1995. All those lives lost needlessly, those children in the daycare...for what? Because some whackjob wanted revenge against the federal government. I believe in Hell and I am bloodthirsty enough to hope that McVeigh & Co rot there.
My kids were still in the NICU on April 19, 1995, and after the bomb went off, bomb threats were called in to the Children's Hospital and I nearly went out of my mind when one of the hospital administrators tried to explain why they were not (yet) evacuating.

But I am glad that people remember the tragedy and pay tribute. I'm glad that some of us still drive with our car headlights on in remembrance of those lost 168.

And I'm glad that people care enough to remember my birthday.

It's a happy-sad day.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

You will be ASTOUNDED at what you read in this post! #UpworthyStyleTitles

Okay, I'm not much of a giver. Usually it's because I don't have anything to give...but to be honest, even if I DID have stuff to give, I probably wouldn't because I'm thoughtless like that. I mean if you need something or want something that I've got, I will most likely say "of course! Just take it." If you ask for something and I have it, I will give it to you. But too often it doesn't occur to me to just GIVE something.

On the other hand, I try not to be too much of a taker. What I mean is - if you give me something, I will be surprised and deeply appreciative, but I don't expect things (unless of course it's my birthday and then I certainly expect you to sing me a birthday song or possibly do a little dance).
I don't like to ask for stuff (especially help, as my family and closest friends can probably tell you).
The point is - I end up getting a lot more than I give back.

Since I know what a struggle it is every month around my own household, just getting by while running my own tiny business (PS GO LIKE THIS PAGE! Click the links and SHOP SHOP SHOP! SHARE the posts!), I thought that maybe I could give a little by offering a little free word-of-mouth advertising for my friends who also have little business or ventures.
These are people with whom I've actually done business, or used/purchased their products, or read their books, or know personally in "real life".
So I'm vouching for them, their products, and their excellent service. You should bookmark these and go back often (and this too!) Give them a little support, if you can.

Trust me. No, really.

Like fun vintage clothing, shoes, and costume jewelry? Visit my friend Jaclyn's Etsy store.

Make your house smell fantastic with Scentsy warmers and delicious scents - talk to my pal Deejay!

I know some of you are foodies and loooove to cook, so if it's fun and hella (do people still say hella?) useful gadgetry you want, holla at my friend Melody for Pampered Chef goodies!

Looking for some awesome books to read? One of my favorite couples in the world both write - completely different styles and subjects, but both are brilliant at what they do: read Beyond The Bridge by SK Waller for a rockin' rock & roll story, and So Faithful A Heart (the love story of Nancy Storace & Wolfgang Mozart) by Lynette Erwin for some actual, interesting romantic history.

If you're redecorating and need some wonderful artwork, may I (strongly) suggest you visit Neil Kramer and Megan Gordon? Because their photographs are completely different in style and completely stunning. Your walls will thank you, I promise. I have artwork from both of them and get lots of compliments.

Speaking of photographs, if you're in the Virginia area and need some absolutely gorgeous family photos, I highly recommend my very talented friend Kimberly. Go look at her portfolio too - she's amazing.

My friend Ed has written 5 (FIVE!!) books about New Orleans history - if you want to get to know NOLA, then Ed's your guy. He makes the history lively and interesting! Go get a book! (I'm particularly fond of the one about jazz)

Looking for something lovely to read to your child at bedtime? My friend Corey Feldman (NOT the 80s actor)(although it would be cool if that guy was my friend too) has just the thing - a series of books about Egret The Elephant.

Some of my most treasured books were written (and AUTOGRAPHED JUST FOR ME ONLY!) by my long-time blog friend Karen. The books written by her cats are even funnier than her own books. You should read them all.

The lovely Heather and Angie keep my skin smooth and smelling good with their delicious homemade sugar scrubs - and if you fancy fancyin' up your garden, they have some excellent garden pallet signs!

I do love me some Mary Kay products (they have some dermabrasion stuff for your face that makes it like SILK!) - and my friend Karmen can fix you right up with everything you'll ever need to keep looking young and fabulous.

If you're an old-time blogger like me, you've most likely heard of Golfwidow's Ministry of Silly Walks blog. Clever and funny, Golfwidow aka my friend Sondra has a funny, fabulous book you should buy!

If you want to get some permanent makeup - lips, eyebrows, eyeliner - then you should talk to my friend Crystal. I haven't had it done myself (because BOC BOC!), but she's trained and licensed and I've known her since about 5th grade. I would trust her to do it if I wasn't a needle-coward.


I'm quite certain that I've accidentally left some people off this list and for that I'm sorry - I can only chalk it up to being old and forgetful. I have trouble remembering nouns. I say things like "go get me the thing by the dealie." So please don't take it personally, and send me a message and I'll advertise your business too. xoxo
(passive/aggressive PS: or maybe you don't ever engage with me or give me a "like" every now & again so that's why I forgot about you. Is all I'm saying)
(aggressive/aggressive PPS: or maybe I just don't really like you)

Saturday, April 05, 2014

a day out of time

Apparently the 12th street Love's Country Store in Ardmore is a popular place for Kid Exchange. As we were transferring my kids/wheelchair/duffel bag from my van to the dad's truck, a lady pulled in next to me, a little girl with a suitcase got out & walked to the truck on the other side of my van, hugged Dad hello, hugged Mom goodbye, and the vehicles drove off in opposite directions. Then I went through the exact same scenario myself. A little funny. A little sad.
As many times as I've been to Ardmore, I never knew that there was a tiny library tucked on a little side street right across the way from my hotel. A small-town library (one of two libraries, I came to find out) in a mid-size town...where silence is still golden without the buzzing chat and activity that I'm used to at the Midwest City library near my home. It was so small that even hushed voices could be heard clearly, but it wasn't disturbing. There was the white noise hum of machinery, the quiet clicking of mouses and keyboards, the occasional cough or cleared throat, and soft, soothing Muzak in the background that barely registered but added atmosphere. It was the most pleasant, relaxing two hours I've spent in a very, very long time.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Compacted.

Most days I don't think much about my responsibilities...I mean, they're THERE, they exist, they get dealt with in order of importance (and insane-making ability).
Just life, deal with it, move along.

But some days are like this:



Today is one of those days.
That is all.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A book review that will CHANGE YOUR LIFE and BLOW YOUR MIND...

I've decided to start writing all my titles Upworthy style. So always be prepared to REACH FOR THE TISSUES, HAVE YOUR HEARTSTRINGS TUGGED, and BE AMAZED.
Really.
I mean it.
Or whatever.

Several months ago, my pal Nicole introduced me to author Taylor Stevens. Well, not INTRODUCED introduced, like a handshake and a butt-hug, but recommended, is what I mean to say.
Taylor has written a series featuring the character Vanessa Michael Munroe.

First of all, let me just say how much I love love love series. I get attached to the characters, I live with them, I think about them, I wonder what they'll be doing next.
I especially love series that are full of spies and espionage and bad-assery.
I love thrillers and detective stories and novels about assassins. And SEALS/Special Forces/Rangers. And covert operations/Black Ops. Crime solving psychologists and psychic government agents? Count me in!

I like the good guys better once they've got a little dirt on 'em. The ones who play outside the boundaries.

I love the Jason Bournes and the Mitch Rapps and the Jack Reachers and the Pike Logans and the Alex Delawares.
I love the ass-kicking women like futuristic cop Eve Dallas and ADA Alexandra Cooper and forensic sculptor Eve Duncan and brave youngsters like Katniss Everdeen and oh yeah, that fire-playing, hornet's nest-kicking chick with the dragon tat.
And Vanessa Michael Munroe.

She's a gatherer and seller of information. Her androgynous look lets her slip easily between the "Vanessa" and the "Michael". She has a hard, tragic, violent past that has shaped who and what she is, and has left her a little feral and a lot dangerous.
She wants to be good, but she's not afraid to do what needs to be done.
I love her.

The latest in the series, The Catch, was written to be a stand-alone book...and I suppose it is, but it offers only hints and teases about her background - which is important if you're to understand Munroe at all.
(I suggest you start at the beginning of the series and read your way through - all series are best read that way if you ask me. And even if you didn't ask me, it's still true)

I'm not going to give you a long, drawn-out plot synopsis - that's what Amazon and book blurbs are for.
But I will say that The Catch is deliciously full of piracy and double-crosses, hidden agendas, violence and bloodshed. (♥ ♥ ♥)
And the understanding that it only takes the slightest ripple to send a whole plot awry.

This particular book does seem to focus more on Munroe herself, her internal struggles between what's best and what's right, her thought processes, her actions, and mostly single story arc as opposed to having several offshoots with other past characters, friendships, and plot lines intertwined as they were in previous books.
I liked that about The Catch - it added some depth and layers to the already complex and complicated Munroe.

What it all boils down to is this: get familiar with Vanessa Michael Munroe and her author, Taylor Stevens.
You can start with The Catch (available in July!) - or use the time wisely between now and then to start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. (okay, how many of you just read that in Maria's voice from Sound of Music? HA! I KNOW YOU DID!)

Sometimes the good guys wear the black hats, not the halos.




***Disclaimer: YES, I was given - for freebies! - an advance review copy to read. NO, I was NOT told that I had to publish a review, nor what kind of review I should publish if I chose to do so. There were no promises, no threats, no bamboo spears under the fingernails, not even a passive/aggressive tweet suggesting I write any particular kind of review at all. My opinion is my own, and if you don't like my opinion, you can SUCK IT. I say that with love.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hey 19

I know, I know - you've read this all before.
Too bad.
It is time for the Annual Birthday Post!

My tiny little 1lb babies are 19 today.
I know, right? Some of you have been reading the Birthday Post since they were about 10 or 11.
Time is not just flying, it is traveling at the speed of sound.

I remember a tiny Becca setting her pacifier down in something that had spilled...she picked it up, took a suck, and said, "What the hell is all over this?!" It made me laugh so much that I couldn't even correct her.

I remember one single sentence of absolutely clear speech from Joshua in 19 years...he was sick and angry and yelled, "I WANT MY BOTTLE!"  It was astounding and amazing and thank goodness my mother witnessed it or I would have thought my ears were playing tricks on me.

Seems like yesterday, and a hundred years ago.

Much like the lady in the news right now whose husband works for AOL, I also have million-dollar-plus "distressed babies". Six months in NICU adds up quickly, even 19 years ago.

So to those of you who read this faithfully every year - my babies young adult children and I thank you.

Happy 19th, kiddos. Mommy loves you.



twins


(Also? OMG I HAVE 19 YEAR OLD CHILDREN. Pretty soon I'm going to have to stop pretending to be 29. Only not this year, I'm not quite ready for THAT. Baby steps)


THE DUE DATE: June 4th
THE BIRTH DATE: February 14th.
I know, right? These children clearly get their lack of patience from me.  They were born at 24 weeks, or about 3 and 1/2 months early. They weighed just over 1 lb. each, and were about a foot long. I'm talkin' teeeeeny tiny. Micro-preemie, I think is what they are called now. 
Anyway, this is my boy, at about a month old:



I woke up the morning of February 12th, headed for the bathroom, and after about 5 minutes I called out to the baby daddy, "Either I've lost all control of my body functions or my water broke".
I'll give you a hint - my functions were still under my control.
So natch we rushed to the hospital, where the stupid ass snot face condescending nurse (actually I love nurses in general, but this one? NOT SO MUCH) had me lay on a gurney for an hour and then said that I was fine, no fluid was "leaking" (I know, gross), and the pains in my back and belly were just muscles stretching, NOT CONTRACTIONS...and then she tried to send us home. 
Me being me, I caused a scene.
Hey, guess who ended up being right about me being in labor?
Here is my little girl, at about a month old:



The doctors tried to stop my labor for 24 hours, but apparently my kids were having none of that. On the 13th of February, my boy arrived in the usual way - of course, I was knocked out for the entire thing. My daughter was still safe and secure in her bedwomb -- the idea was to let her 'cook' a little longer (which would have been weird to have twins with different birthdays, right?).  So they were wheeling me into recovery when Miss Contrary's heart rate dropped to zero, and they did a SUPERFAST emergency C-Section to get her out. Evidently she didn't like being alone.
So it was like Twins Two Ways, with extra Mommy Staples.
This is also where I discovered my love of morphine.

Their ears were still folded down (WEIRD! I didn't even know ears did that until my kids were born. It was like puppy ears or something), and their lungs were not completely developed, and their little hearts were working overtime/doubletime.

They struggled for every single breath. They fought to live.

And so they did.
Thank you, God.

Thank you for this little miracle....(my girl at about 2 months)

and this little miracle...(my boy at about 3 1/2 months)



The doctors gave them less than a 50% chance of survival.
Fortunately they got my stubborn genes as well as my temperamental ones, because my kids wouldn't listen to percentages; they were all YOU DON'T KNOW ME! I DO WHAT I WANT!
Their hearts were overworked, their lungs were and are covered in scar tissue, they are cursed with keloid scars as well as scars from perc lines and central lines and a million little junkie scars on arms and feet from being pricked with lancets every hour. They have scarred veins, they had damaging bleeding in their brains, preventing brain growth. And yet...
        


Becca's first day home from the hospital! Nearly 4 months old and barely 5 lbs. I still have this amazingly tiny dress - I swear it's barely bigger than Barbie size. Those booties she has on? The foot part is less than 2 inches long. Each twin came home attached to oxygen and an apnea monitor - whenever we all went anywhere together it looked as though we were leaving home for a month, so laden were we with electronic equipment, oxygen tanks, diaper bags, strollers...which is partly why I became the hermit I am today. #Lazy


Here they're about 7 or 8 months old, I think (did I ever mention that I am TERRIBLE about labeling pictures? Because I am). Clearly Becca was already trying to wear some sort of tiara:



One morning I discovered that my daughter knew how to climb into her brother's crib.



When Becca was about two, this is what "Go get ready for bed" meant:



Josh had the softest, wispiest hair so I let it grow and grow... until that time I gave him a buzz-cut and he's been sporting a Greg Brady WhiteBoy 'Fro ever since. IT IS OUT OF CONTROL.






Josh 2007

Becca 2007






There were middle-of-the-night phone calls with doctors on the other end of the line telling me that they didn't think THIS twin or THAT twin would make it through the night- so we'd rush to the hospital to sit and put our hands in the "baby terrarium", as I thought of them, and listen to the beeps and the whooshing of the ventilator and wait for the inevitable.


There were six months in the NICU and 3 or 4 Thanksgivings and Christmases spent in the hospital. For awhile I thought they were going to name a wing of the children's ward after us, or at least keep "our" room in reserve.

There was RDS and BPD and ROP and a bunch of other things with initials that I barely understood.

There were staph infections and even a broken arm that was caused by changing my son's shirt whilst in the NICU - he of the tiny little brittle bones. There were breathing treatments and nebulizers and oxygen tanks and albuteral and constantly changing medications and seizures and paralyzing fear (well, that last thing was *me*).

All that and so, so, so much more...and I continue to be amazed that here we still are, 19 years later.




How could I not believe in a higher power? In miracles?
I love you, my babies. I'm STILL thankful for every breath that you take, every blink of your eyes, every morning that you wake. I love you with everything inside me.
You still make me laugh, you still make me cry, you still make me want to smack you upside your silly little heads.

If all the world was a beach, I would love you more than all the grains of sand added together. Times ten million.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Is that a Magic Stick in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Can I stuff your stocking with my Magic Stick?
Why don't you bring that Magic Stick over here and...charge me up?

Wait wait wait, this is starting off in a whole other place than I wanted to be.
Sorry.
Ahem.

Okay, so I got this Magicstick to review from Powerocks USA. It's a portable charger, and...
I FREAKING LOVE IT so far.


The fine folks at Powerocks were kind enough to send me one of these portable chargers to try out (they sent me a silver one but it also comes in a variety of pretty colors! I wish I'd got a green one but HEY FREE so I am not complaining). It's lightweight and compact - perfect for your pocket or purse. (and it even has a little velvet bag in which to store it)

One of the upsides is that it's so easy that a monkey could use it. You press a button on the end to check the charge with an LED light: blue is full, green is 70%-30% charge, and red means PLUG ME IN NOW. 
Actually it kind of reminds me of the thingy I had in the hospital when I was hooked up to morphine - just hold it and use your thumb to press the button every 8 minutes for deliciously dreamy pain relief which is probably another reason why I like this.

It's got two portals on the bottom - one for a standard USB and one for a tiny plug. Fortuitously, the charger cord for the Magicstick actually fits my kindle touch and my slide-open-keyboard T-Mobile phone (I don't have any kind of smart phone. I barely have the next step up from a flip phone - which is actually what I used up until a few months ago - but this charger worked on my sister's iPhone when I tested it) - so that's two less cords I have to worry about right there. Bonus! 
Also I use a USB adapter for a wall outlet, and the Magicstick can be used with that or charged from your laptop. 

I got the 'Stick fully loaded...then I charged my kindle (which was only at 1/4 power) AND then I charged the iPod nano (which was dead), and the Magicstick was still in the green when that was finished.
This little gadget is so cool! I remember when I took a train to Chicago from TX, and when I got to the train station I had to wait and then fight for an outlet to charge my phone enough so that I could call my friend to come pick me up. NEVER. AGAIN!
The 'Stick is supposed to deliver up to 2 full charges before needing to be recharged itself...I'd say that seems likely, judging by the use I gave it today.
I can't say how well this will work in the long term, since I just got it, but to all my friends who have long commutes or travel a lot and are always forgetting to bring at least one of the chargers they need for this or that - YOU NEED A MAGICSTICK

So stuff those stockings, charge yourselves up, and keep that Magic Stick in your pocket, mister!

(PS: Yes, I was given one free magicstick to review and either keep for myself OR host a giveaway - yeah, I'm keeping it. Get your own. No really, get your own. You'll thank me later.)
(PPS: Also I have received NO OTHER COMPENSATION except for the magicstick, and I wasn't told what kind of a review to give - if you've been a reader of this blog for any amount of time then you don't need to be told again that I only review products I'm interested in trying, and I will only write honest reviews -  if a product sucks I'll tell you why I thought it sucked. I won't do reviews for any company who puts conditions or restrictions on my reviews. Shit, you made me tell you again anyway.)