Friday, August 28, 2015

My Parenting Recipe Disaster

His words shocked me to the core and I stood trying to process what I just heard. How can something so trivial have such a piercing effect on me? I heard his verdict and I simply refused to believe it. I knew deep down he didn't mean any harm but I took serious offense and felt unsure if it was something I could recover from.

"I think you put too much chicken meat in this. It's overpowering", my father spoke after he tasted the chicken soup straight from the boiling pot.

Too much?! How can it be too much? I've made this a million times and everyone always says how much they love it! Don't you enjoy how much flavor it has?

Before I saw what happens next, I woke up with a lingering feeling of self-doubt and wondered if it was more than just about the soup. It's never just about the soup is it?

Original Image from Wikimedia Commons

I know its strange that I can feel this way about a soup dream but let me further explain. My dream involved my 'Sopas', the Filipino Chicken Macaroni Soup, which I'm known to be an expert on. I pride myself in making really good sopas and have always done my best to replicate my grandmother's version (which to me is the best, of course!). This is one comfort food that I know I cook damn well and, considering how I consistently work so hard to perfect it every time I make it, you can pretty much expect that any criticism of my soup will crush me one way or the other. 

Once I narrated it that way it became clear that my dream simply translated for me remnants of the hurt I felt when my husband 'critiqued' my parenting style the previous night. I took offense in what I 'heard' him saythat I'm too intense, that I expect too much from our 8-year old and seem to forget that he's just a child, that I'm always angry and might just be driving our son away, that I never seem to know when to just walk away to cool down and let things go.

I knew he made sense but no one enjoys being criticized or corrected on something that you swear you're an expert on. As a matter of fact, my first thought bubble was "How dare you?! I'm more of the expert between the two of us and you can't judge me on the basis of what you witness for only a few minutes!" After occupying the same job position for years and having a huge chunk of your identity be defined by it, surely it would hurt to be told that what you're doing is not working. Most of all, for someone who just has a natural tendency to believe that going all out and taking things most seriously are the only routes to achieving success and then be told that her performance is less than stellar and is clearly not producing the desired results, is a painful blow to the ego. My ego. My mommy heart.

But I can't and won't resign from this job. Motherhood doesn't work that way. I know I'm very good at this, just as I know excellent sopas when I taste it. I just have to stop over-complicating things and go back to the basics. Just as is true for my soup, I have to focus on parenting as a source of comfort, a no-fail source of a sense of home, a warm embrace of love. 

So yes, I'm learning that sometimes less is better and knowing when to stop might actually create a better experience and produce something more palatable. It's not going to be easy for me to step away, relax and know when to stop giving and expecting too much. But I have to remind myself that there is wisdom in restraint and that the real end goal to parenting is not perfection but simply unconditional love. 

Highly skilled and seasoned cooks are those who are not constrained by set recipes. The great ones are those who can improvise, adapt to the conditions and ingredients available to them and still come up with something remarkable yet wonderfully balanced. I'm humble enough to admit that I'm not there yet as a parent but being open to critique and swallowing bitter reviews are always good first steps. I'll never quit and I know I won't ever tire of trying because there's an undying certainty within me that this is where my heart resides. This is what I'm meant to be.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Real Reason Why This Mom Hates Homework

I'm a featured blogger on Mamapedia Voices
"I'm surprised at the amount of homework my third grader has! Is it just me??"

"I need some alcohol to deal with all this!"

My son just started third grade two weeks ago. Barely two weeks into the school year, I’ve already read Facebook posts from parents of the other third graders complaining about the amount of homework these kids are given. I get it, believe me I do. I would much rather go for a root canal than sit with my son and lecture him on what needs to be done NOW instead of later and that he needs to do it PROPERLY and never sloppily. I wish we could just sit side by side peacefully watching our respective favorite YouTube videos, or have him play Minecraft while I research where I could pitch my writing to. But no. I have to dread 4 p.m. every week day and brace myself for frustration and tears (and I’m not admitting whose they are).

In spite of this daily struggle though, I still won’t go so far as to say that we’re faced with an unreasonable amount of homework. I’m aware of the 10-minute rule as endorsed by the National Education Association. This means that depending on the child’s grade level, starting with 1st grade, there should be a maximum of 10 minutes of homework per day and this increases as the child goes up a grade level. Therefore, 2nd graders should only have 20 minutes of homework, 30 minutes for 3rd graders and so on and so forth. Yes there have been days when my son definitely had to work way beyond the 30 minute mark. But there were also days when he was done within 20 minutes or less. Time limits aside, the real reason why I don’t feel justified with the complaints is because I’m coming from my own perspective as someone who was educated abroad.

Growing up in the Philippines and attending a private Catholic school from elementary to high school, I can confidently say that I had way more homework than what my son is dealing with. From as early as first grade, we had a different teacher for each subject matter and there were days when it felt like there was homework assigned by each teacher. We just had to deal with it, organize our schedule, and be accountable.

Original (unmodified) Image by Grigory Kravchenko via Flickr Creative Commons

And herein lies the crux of my argument. What I resent most about this whole homework situation now is not the volume of the work required of our children, but the expectation of the current school system regarding the level of parental involvement. I wish I could say this is all imagined and merely subjective perception. But when the school repeatedly says that 'parental involvement enhances the child’s academic success', one can’t help but take that as something that’s extremely open to various interpretations. What kind of involvement? How much or to what extent? Though I'm certain the school wants us to encourage our children to work independently and to not lose sight of the fact that homework is meant to give the children more practice at home, I still can't help but feel that what we have now only fosters helicopter parenting. It definitely has that effect on me and I know it's harming both me and my son.

From the moment my son enters the door in the afternoon, I start sounding like a drill sergeant. We both go through his bag, his folders, his journals. We both go through instructions. I help him review. I ask him questions or dictate items to be answered. God forbid there is some craft project that needs completion, which then naturally forces me to become even more hands-on than with his usual daily assignments. I really don’t understand it and definitely don’t recall my parents doing the same to me and my siblings when we were young. We had homework and dealt with it ourselves, with my mother taking pride in the fact that not once did she have to tutor any of us.

I’m sure a lot of you are thinking that it’s my fault, that I’m the one who has to stay away and control my impulse to hover. I acknowledge that and know that letting go of the reins is something I need to address. However, if I let go or step back even just a little, is this to say that the other parents will let go and step back as well, hover less, hence leveling the playing field? Or would my decision to let go and be less involved simply put my son at a clear disadvantage academically? As a former overachiever and a recovering perfectionist, it’s a risk that’s not so easy for me to take.

So yes, I hate homework because it brings out that side of me I swore I’d never be as a parent. It brings out nothing but ambivalence in me as I do the dance of balancing involvement or support with trying to teach my child accountability, autonomy and self-discipline while still have him excel in all that he does. This current norm of hyper-involved parenting reinforced by the education institutions is driving me insane and makes me ask myself on a daily basis existential questions such as how far should I go, what can I change to make this better for everyone, or am I being a good parent with the choices I make? 

I suppose the only logical thing for me to do right now is to experiment. Clearly I need to define for myself just what 'parental involvement' means and start implementing what is necessary, no matter how painful it might be in the beginning. If the school won't spell it out, then we as parents need to decide what works best for our families, what is the healthiest and most beneficial for our children not only in the short-term but mostly for the human beings they need to become in the future. I need to remember that my parents standing back never made me feel unloved and that I still did pretty damn well in school. Most of all, parents need to remember that our success as parents lies not in our children's academic success or 'perfection', but in their level of resilience. Let's not be that group that raised a generation of cripples.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Romantic's Guide to Meteor Showers

Ever since I can remember, I've always been fascinated by anything celestial. Outer space is simply a topic I can never grow tired of, so my excitement over news of meteor showers should not be a surprise to anyone who knows me. After all, I've been waiting to see one all my life.

Growing up in the Philippines, I've never had the privilege of witnessing this celestial event. There was always something that kept me from viewing and it could be anything from the event being too late for my bedtime, or I didn't hear about it, it was too cloudy or stormy, or it was just impossible to see because I was in the Southern hemisphere. All these frustrated me and so this time around, when all the conditions seemed ripe, I vowed not to miss it. 

I marked it on my calendar. I made sure to stay informed on the best hours for viewing. They said the Perseid meteor shower this year would be very visible since it would be a dark, moonless night. Add to that the fact that I live in the boonies so there's not much light pollution to compete with. I felt optimistic to the bone and was giddy at the thought that this would be my lucky night!

The first time I stepped out last night was around 10 p.m. I went to our front porch, looked up, kept looking up until my neck got strained. Nothing. No shooting stars. Regular stars were abundant and I still felt happy and blessed to have such a stunning view of the constellations from my front yard. But tonight I wanted more but it wasn't there yet. So I stepped back inside and tried to keep myself awake as best I could. I read that the peak viewing time would be around 1 a.m. central time and so I watched a movie and set an alarm.

At exactly 1 a.m. I grabbed a chair and sat by the window of an upstairs room on the front of our house. From there I had a good view of the vast sky. While waiting for my light show to begin, the romantic in me kicked in (as it always does, 90% of the time) and realized that this experience has a lot of parallelisms with falling in love.

Perseid Meteor Shower 2012
Image by: Tucker Hammerstrom

You have to be in the right place at the right time. You can wait and stare and strain your neck looking out for this rare event, keep yourself awake, consumed by eager anticipation, but if you've got the time or location wrong, you won't see a thing. You simply won't find it. As is true with Love, a graceful confluence of different elements is necessary for everything to work out. 

You have to decide if you really want it. Most often than not, seeing a shooting star means staying up really late and at least for me, that requires serious effort and dedication. Patience is also certainly required because you don't know exactly when and where you'll see it appear. Last night, I almost gave up but I kept telling myself that I'm almost 42 and have never, ever seen a single shooting star all my life. It was time, I knew I wanted it badly and was certain I'd only regret it if I didn't try at all. The same is true for love. It's never easy and only those who are sure of what they want and that they really want it are bound to find it. Love demands dedication and sacrifice.

It's rare, but if you miss it, don't beat yourself up. It will happen again. On the slim chance that it doesn't, at least not within your lifetime, then remember that there are other important things to keep you busy. Remember that you can still beor actually already are—a complete person even without your meteor shower sighting, or a romantic relationship for that matter. 

Enjoy it while it lasts and just be in the moment. You know that when you see a shooting star it's fleeting. This is why you just have to keep your eyes on the sky, enjoy the experience and the privilege of witnessing this rare event. Embrace that the promise of forever and constancy are impossible in all things. The sooner you accept this, the deeper the joy you might derive in every moment.

The special ones, the truly bright, distinctive ones, will take your breath away and will leave an impression that could last forever. Last night, I felt truly lucky and blessed that the very first one I saw streak across the sky was a large and bright one. It almost seemed like a fireball that dissipated just as quickly as it appeared. I was beyond fascinated and I know I'll never forget that magical sight. Sometimes some of us get lucky too with the people who love us and with whom we build relationships. Sometimes we cross paths with remarkable souls who are not that easy to forget and change us forever. Treasure that and treasure the fact that though it might have been fleeting, loving and being loved by such exceptional people are enduring gifts. As for the forgettable ones, well, they were still there for a reason and if anything, at least they must have been entertaining...somehow.

Did you enjoy last night's light show? Did you get into a romantic mode as well? If you want to watch the Perseid meteor shower, you might still catch it tonight. You may not see as much, but I've read you can still get lucky! 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Building a Case for My Friendship With Taylor Swift

Today I've decided to come out. My husband has always thought it was pretty obvious but I was in denial for a long time. It's not because I've been completely ashamed but I've felt it was kind of inappropriate given my age and the stage in life I'm in. For God's sake I'm an almost 42 year old married woman with an elementary aged son! But I've thought about it and realized that whoever has a problem with it is entitled to their opinion and it only says something about them and not necessarily about my preferences or character.

I am a Swiftie. A Taylor Swift fan.

It all started out innocently, with me enjoying some of her ballads from years ago and then a few upbeat songs here and there. I think what really did it for me was her song We are Never Ever Getting Back Together. It has been my perfect treadmill-jogging song for the longest time, but then one thing led to another and I ended up clicking on her other YouTube videos. I believe I reached the point of no return when I heard Blank Space and heard her sing "Cos darling I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream". I was hooked and turned into a certified fan. I mean, gosh darnit! I wish I had come up with that line myself! I now totally want to make a wall decal of that and stick it on my walls!

One might think this Joy-Taylor combination seems weird and I admit on the surface it looks that way for sure. We are very different after all.

She obviously has lean and long, neverending legs. I have....legs that function, let's leave it at that.

She loves cats and has two of them. I think cats are evil.

She clearly has a very colorful love life and a long list of ex-es. I have one ex who I ended up being friends with so I can't really write an angry song about him now, can I?

She has countless fans worldwide, with 61.8 million Twitter followers and God knows how many other millions listen to her music. I'm still struggling to become at least momentarily viral after six years in the blogosphere and seven on social media. How sad. 

She was born in 1989, when I was old enough to have her. (Just old enough, but definitely not mature enough). 

But Taylor, oh Taylor, you and I can still be besties, cant' we? We're really not that different and let me prove  this to you.

We're both overthinkers and overanalyzers, with brains constantly bombarded with fears and neverending anxieties. I heard you say that in one of your interviews and I gave you a virtual high five!

We're both writers and though I wish I had written half of your hits myself, I invoke my not-so-interesting life as my solid excuse for not being able to do so. 

You and I both have connections to Nashville. (A for effort, right?!)

Finallyand this is the most important similarity of alllook at you with a hat. Adorable!

Image by: Jana Zills

But see!....I can wear a hat too!!

So what do you think? Send me an email, a Twitter or Facebook message so we can meet up for drinks or something? I'm a good listener, I promise, and I bet I can be your best 40-something year old friend!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Luck's Twisted Sense of Humor

It was to be our first time at this posh and very highly-reviewed downtown restaurant. We were both excited and feeling romantic about this anniversary dinner. I guess most of all, as foodies, my husband and I simply couldn't wait to experience the culinary adventure we knew awaited us. 

I get the sense though, that when I thought 'culinary adventure', the Universe probably only heard the last word and decided to give me a taste of its sense of humor once more. For as soon as my husband surrendered our car to the valet attendant and he got the chance to feel his back pocket, he blurted out, "Oh shoot! I don't have my wallet!"

My panic at that point wasn't so much from the fear of not being able to pay for dinner since I knew I had my credit card with me, but from not being able to pay for our valet parking! On my own, I know that this would have been a full-blown disaster in my head. Luckily, I'm married to someone who simply knows how to talk to anyone and find solutions calmly. My husband very discreetly but candidly admitted the situation to our server, who happened to be a very nice and approachable gentleman, and they came to an agreement that he will give us some cash which we'll just add to our gratuity to pay him back. Problem solved! Blessed with a savior, an angel, once more!

That's the thing I notice about AJ. He's lucky (and not just 'cos I married him, haha!). Good fortune seems to follow him somehow. I'm not talking about winning the lottery or anything like that (although I'm still hoping!), but more about being blessed with kind strangers or finding himself in situations where circumstances thought to be hindrances or bumps in the road just almost magically evaporate, open up or resolve themselves in such timely manner.

I always tell him this and explain that it's probably because of his good karma, a law I firmly believe in. Aside from the fact that I'm married to a genuinely kind human being, I suspect he's also done some pretty amazing stuff in his past lives to reap these blessings. It's just the little things that add up. A good parking spot suddenly opens up in front of him in spite of an entire building or lot being insanely packed. Or being given the date and time slot he really wanted for our civil wedding eleven years ago even though it seemed impossible given that we booked so late. There are other examples, I'm sure, but the point is that he appears to have a charmed life.

Mine is a little bit different. I'm not saying I'm highly unlucky or cursed. But 'luck' seems to have a funny way of showing up for me. I think it likes playing hide and seek first before fully revealing itself. I think it gets a kick out of scaring the shit out of me initially before consoling me with its appearance.

Here's what I mean. For the past two weeks, my brain and creativity in general seemed to have been taken hostage by worries over jury duty. I received the dreaded letter summoning me for jury selection and for three days each in the past two weeks, I was to make myself available in case I needed to show up in court and be part of the pool of potential jurors. I ended up being summoned to appear in court two out of the six days. This meant that for those two days, I held my breath for a total of approximately 5 hours, intently willed myself to manifest whatever mind control or telekinetic powers I might possess, while simultaneously prayed to God and all the saints and angels, in the hopes that I would be lucky enough to NOT have my name and number be called. To say that it was beyond nerve-racking is an understatement. Sitting in that jury box is definitely not in my bucket list!

Luckily, my name was never called. But seriously, how 'lucky' of me that I've been sent that dreaded letter twice now when I've only been a citizen of this country for seven years?! I know of people much older than me and who were born here and yet have never ever been summoned for jury duty! How crazy is that? 

My first time was in Illinois and I was a new mom at the time. I was excused because I was the primary caregiver for my newborn. Dodged it. Now living in Tennessee, but only for 4 years, here we went again with that dreaded envelope that says "SUMMONS FOR JURY SERVICE". Fantastic.

I'm unlucky that way, but still lucky I suppose for not being selected in the end. But like I said, I had to shit in my pants first before luck let me have a big sigh of relief. I must have been a prankster in my past life and now it's payback time. Luckily I'm married to one lucky guy! Let's hope his seriously good luck can balance off the mischievous nature of mine. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Are You a Slave to Your False Beliefs?

"Your total is $66.68".

This was all the cashier had to say to the woman in front of me to bring her to a state of semi-panic. Hurriedly, she turned to her side, deciding what small item she could purchase to add to her total. I'm not sure what she ended up grabbing, maybe a pack of gum or a candy bar, but what I did hear was her saying, "Oh no. There is NO way I'm ending up with a 666 total."

Obviously the woman considered it bad luck and felt compelled to do something to avoid it. I thought it was nonsense and amusing, but really, who am I to judge? It's her belief, her life and her choices were really of no consequence to my existence, other than to inspire a thought for this blog post, obviously. 

The idea of false beliefs, and how these affect our lives, is what came to mind. And I'm not even talking about mere superstitions although they do function in similar ways. By definition, a superstition is a belief in supernatural causality even in the absence of rational, scientific proof. But a lot of us who say we're not superstitious still cling to certain beliefs about ourselves and our realities that don't make much sense, don't have much basis in practical reality. These same beliefs are also clearly detrimental to our mental health and how we conduct our relationships.

As a teenager, I was told by someone that if I didn't lose weight and become slim, no one 'worthy' (translate: an all around great guy) would fall in love with me. I believed it for a long time until I realized it was too painful to hold on to. Eventually, I had to convince myself that anyone truly worthy would choose to see past my size and appreciate what I'm truly about. Events in my life have disproved this false belief. I'm obviously married to a most wonderful man who saw beyond my bulges and tomboyish demeanor. But I'll admit that it's still a daily struggle to fight that mean voice in my head. The worst part is that now the voice is mine and it's one I have to always keep in check, at least until I'm able to finally fully slay it.

My struggle has to do with my false belief about the relationship between my physical appearance and my sense of worth and lovability. It continues to cause fear and insecurity within me which of course is never good for my marriage and how I open myself up to others. I know it doesn't make much sense but I still allow it to affect my behavior and bleed into my relationships. It's just as baffling as that woman's superstitious behavior in the store, only much less amusing and more damaging.

So why do we cling to our false beliefs? 

I think it's because we derive a false sense of security from them. They become safe and comfortable spots for us. Perhaps your false belief has become convenient and has protected you from taking risks or kept you from pursuing something more challenging which will force you to venture into the unknown. Perhaps it has become easier to cling to what we already know rather than change our minds and try something different. Status quo is always the path of least resistance but also the path of least evolution.

Maybe you think you're damaged. Maybe you think you're incapable of making anyone happy. Perhaps you've convinced yourself that you're not good at anything. Or perhaps you believe that no one around you could ever be trusted. Whatever negative belief you're holding on to, do yourself a favor and at least pause to question your data. How reliable is your belief? What gifts has it really given you? Is it costing you too much?

If you muster the courage to ask and consider the alternative, you might actually want to give it a try and realize that there is greater peace to be found in walking through life more freely without your false beliefs as crutches. Simply try it. You might just enjoy the amount of growth that's bound to follow. 

Are you holding on to a false belief? 
What have you done recently to challenge it?

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Intimacy of Love and Hate

My sweet blogger friend, Susan of The Most -- Of Every Moment, wrote a post on love and hate last week. She created an interesting list of things that she simultaneously loves and hates, depending on the facet she's focused on. I enjoyed reading the post as it highlighted the complex relationship we sometimes have with things in our lives, that it's not always as simple as loving or disliking something in its entirety. You can check it out for yourself here.

On that post, she tagged me and some other wonderful bloggers. So here is my personal take on this love-hate topic.

I'm very careful with these wordsLove and Hate.

To me they are both very strong and meaningful words, and should never be used loosely. I don't believe you can really love or hate unless you fully know and understand someone or something. These feelings assume a deep level of intimacy with whatever is loved or hated. 

That said, I've decided to focus my list on marriage and family life since these are two realities that are very dear to me and definitely possess intimate knowledge of. 

Let's start with things I LOVE about my marriage and family life...

The sound of my boys' laughter. This to me is the pure sound of joy and it melts my heart every time. It's like the Divine whispering to me, reminding me that this is all that matters, that life is good.

Spooning. My nights never seem complete when I don't feel my husband hold me close in the middle of the night. It doesn't have to last all night and I don't think I'd last too long anyway because I'm a restless sleeper. But feeling his arms around me and our bodies fitting perfectly in each other's arches always reassure me that everything is alright, no matter what we went through all day long. 

Five star food reviews. It's not always easy satisfying everyone in my family when it comes to meals. I still have a picky 8 year old, not to mention the pressure I have to always try to satisfy both Filipino and American palates in our household. So when I make something and hear "That was really good, Mama!!" (and they both call me Mama), it makes all the hard work truly worth it. 

PDA, but only on a non-embarrassing level. I'm merely talking about holding hands, or arms wrapped around the other, kissing my son (although sadly he's beginning to be shy about this now), or the occasional goofy stuff my husband and I do to each other such as winking at the other or pinching the other's cheek. I love these random acts that make me and my boys feel loved. 

Receiving special occasion greeting cards or notes that bring me to tears. Birthdays, anniversaries, mother's dayall these make me look forward to the kind and loving words that my boys come up with to show their affection and sentimentality. My husband is not a poet but he certainly always chooses the best greeting cards. And when he finds the words, writes his own note, with my son adding his spontaneous and completely unfiltered words of appreciation, they never fail to make me cry. 

Certainly I don't love everything. So, from the top of my head here are five things I HATE with regard to family life...

Cleaning bathrooms. Even after all these years, I still hate cleaning someone else's bathroom mess and please don't ask me to expound. I'm sure you can all imagine the kind of grime I deal with living with two males. 

Homework time. I still don't understand why I must suffer along with my son when he gets home from school as he deals with homework. It's not that I do things for him but I can't resist the compulsion to monitor him and make sure he's doing what he needs to do and is doing it right. I honestly don't recall my parents doing the same to me when I was in school. Was I just more disciplined, or were my parents just busier and I have more time being a SAHM? It could be a combination, who knows? When you've unlocked the secret to finding the right balance between caring for your child's success and teaching them a healthy level of autonomy and accountability, please let me know. I'm still not that consistent. 

Not knowing what to cook. I don't mind cooking, as a matter of fact I enjoy it. What I hate is when I run out of ideas to cook and every dish I think about simply bores me. Although when I start thinking this way, I try to force myself to change perspective. It could be much worse, right? At least I still have something to cook for my family.

Worrying. I wish it were possible for me to care about someone and not worry or be obsessive. But this is the curse for most of us. As I always say, Love and Fear are more intimate than most of us would like to acknowledge. Whether it be about my family's safety, health and general well-being, you name it, I worry about it. I'm not proud of it and I definitely hate it.

Hurt feelings. But this is inevitable, isn't it? Vulnerability is part of love, and love is what we share in our family. Just as we have the power to bring immeasurable joy to each other, we can also wield that power to break each other's hearts and cause the other pain. I may hate fighting, miscommunication, and feeling hurt, but we have to accept all of it as part of learning how to better love each other.


I'm supposed to tag a few blogger friends on this post and challenge them to create a list of 10 things they love, and 10 things they hate. As this love-hate list has morphed now since the original, I'd say you can create your own list involving loves and hates depending on how you want to interpret it. You can make a simple list of what you love and hate, or create a theme, or whatever sort of configuration or iteration your creativity dictates. I obviously deviated from the original idea so I won't tell anyone how to write theirs.

I want to emphasize though that these bloggers are in no way obligated to create such a post. However it would be interesting to see what they come up with as this list of amazing bloggers features both humor and 'serious' writers. I hope you can find the time to visit these great sites!

Have fun ladies!

Marie Nikodem Loerzel of Rock the Kasbah
Krysta Manning of The Thoughtful Mom
Rena McDaniel of The Diary of an Alzheimer's Caregiver
Janine Ripper of Reflections from a Redhead
Sarah Schmitt of Salty Bug

Friday, June 26, 2015

Road Trip Part II: Everything IS Big in Texas

"I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22, everything will be alright if...." Taylor Swift was still echoing in my head minutes after turning my music off. We were talking, commenting on the traffic, the drizzle and then BANG! 

Or was it BOOM?! 

The loud sound of metal crashing.

"What the....!"

I was on the front passenger seat of our SUV, with my Mom behind me, and Dad behind my husband who was driving. Noah was in his car seat between my parents. I looked to our left as I felt our vehicle jerk to the side. Mom screamed. I was mostly confused. I still couldn't process what was happening until I saw this red truck moving between us and the left guardrail, hitting our left side all the way through until BAM! The other driver had obviously lost control and swerved right, further hitting the front of our SUV. At some point, I saw and heard the left airbags deploy, and I could hear my Mom still screaming in shock. I looked back and saw she was in tears, asking if my Dad was okay. Dad's ear was bleeding, though only superficially. He said he couldn't hear on his left ear. AJ's left arm was a bit sore from the airbag. We were all in shock, disoriented. I couldn't figure out why the truck that hit our rear still kept moving and hitting us. It was all so fast and yet it felt like the longest 30 seconds or so.

What just happened?!

It didn't take long before AJ dialed 911. While on the phone, we saw an old man alight from the red truck that hit us, and watched him walk closer towards us. He was shaking, asking if we were alright. He mumbled something about his mother being stuck inside his truck. The 911 operator instructed all of us to stay where we were, flash our hazards and that help was on its way. I'm certain the operator said a lot more but honestly, I was too much in survival mode at the time that I really don't remember all the details of what was said. I was mostly concerned with making sure everyone was okay and figuring out if I was still REALLY alive. (To be honest, I still wonder now if this is all real and that I really made it out of there alive, or if I'm like Tom Cruise in the movie Vanilla Sky).

We were 42 miles northeast of Dallas, travelling towards Benton, Arkansas where we were booked at a hotel to spend the night. One more day and we were back home from our vacation in Las Vegas, our almost two-week cross-country drive. Everything had been fun and amazing up until that point when things just turned plain scary. 

Who would've thought? We were doing everything right. AJ was awake. I was awake making sure he was awake. Traffic wasn't even fast. We were on our lane. We always signal when we change lanes and always do it carefully. But not everyone is the same, right? We still don't know what caused the other driver to hit us. He might have been distracted. He might have fallen asleep. But the logical conclusion is that he clearly did not anticipate that traffic had slowed down in front of him and he just kept going. We're just thankful that it appeared like he had done his best to not hit us head on. Our guess is that he hit the left guardrail first to try not to hit our vehicle, but then he probably ricocheted and ended up hitting our left rear wheel area and then slid all the way to our left side, inserting his truck between us and the left guardrail. Finally he swerved to our front, towards our right, until his vehicle stopped. 

It was a big accident that stopped the interstate for a while. It was bad. And traumatic for all of us. But in the grand scheme of things, we are still grateful and believe that angels watched over us and protected us. It definitely could have been worse...much worse.

What if we were hit directly on the back? The force would have pushed us towards the semi-truck that was right in front of us in traffic. 

What if, instead of hitting the left rear wheel which is a solid part of the vehicle, the other driver had hit the left passenger door which is more vulnerable and not as solid as the wheel? My Dad's injury would have been far worse, far more serious. All of us might have had some injuries too, including my 8-year old. I refuse to even think about it.

Point of impact

Damaged front

Damaged right front corner

Trauma and paranoia aside, this experience highlighted a number of lessons and realizations for me. 

First of all, please, please, please...Wear your seat belt, even when you're seated in the back. All the police officers, EMTs, nurses and doctors asked us that question and were all relieved to hear that all of us were wearing ours. I'm sure it would've been a different story if one or some of us were not securely belted in the vehicle.

Second, I still can't explain why I remained so oddly calm while it was all happening. I remember hearing a crashing metal sound and then the airbag popping and everything else that happened around me. But I also remember just simply looking and knowing deep down that we were going to be alright. I don't know how or why I thought this but the thought definitely kept me calm. Divine intervention? Perhaps. Who knows?

Third, I know it's cliche but life can really change in an instant. You always say it will never happen to you, until it does and you're shaken to the core. These experiences really make one focus on the good and the real things that matter. I believe that is Love. It's the people we truly love, the relationships we genuinely treasure. Everything else is 'stuff', background noise, replaceable. It's a shame that it takes crises for this realization to be brought to the fore. But as Maya Angelou always preached, "When you know better, you do better."

Before I end this post, I'd like to share that though the accident was truly unfortunate, I believe we were still fortunate and blessed to have met such caring and supportive Texans. Officer Daniel looked after us and made sure we received the help we needed. The hospital staff who cared for us at Hunt Regional Medical Center in Greenville, Texas, specifically nurse Brandi and William, are two of the most amazing strangers I've ever met. They were willing to give us a ride to the closest hotel and went above and beyond their professional responsibilities. I will forever remember their kindness and thank them from the depths of my being. May they always be blessed with earthly angels just as we've been blessed with them.

Thank you everyone for your thoughts and stay safe!