The Things We Wait For

November 1, 2012 15 comments

Every semester for the last two years I’ve printed the 1L xxxx School of Law course schedule and kept it tucked inside a notebook hidden in my purse. I’ve been carrying it around as if the schedule were my own, praying that one day it would be.

In a life which I’ve devoted the better part of to raising a family, my hopes to pursue a law degree has been a secret desire buried twenty years beneath the daily conundrum of kids’ science projects, football practices, mortgage payments, the ups and downs of my husband’s business, and my own nine to five job. When you spend that much time folding laundry and refereeing sibling rivalry attempting law school seems more like a pipe dream and less than a reality. Perhaps even more restrictive of this law school fantasy of mine was that bachelor’s degree I lacked but required if my aspirations were to become anything more than an unsettled yearning in my chest.

Truth be told, I liked to tell myself I was just waiting – waiting for the kids to grow up, waiting for my husband’s business to be stable, just waiting for a “better time” to concentrate on me and not my kids, or my husband, or my job. Waiting for my turn took me close to two decades.  It took that long before I realized my turn would never come until I actually believed my dreams were just as deserving as those belonging to the people whose needs I always put ahead of my own. Of course, that wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

Halfway into my junior year of high school I gave birth to my first son, a premature milestone in my life that would set the tone for the ten years that followed. By 19 years old I added an ex-husband to my growing list of bad decisions. Not long after I discovered I was pregnant with my second son, months before I could legally buy alcohol, not that that deterred me much. By my 23rd birthday I was a single mom, again.

Eventually I reconciled with my youngest son’s father, now my current husband, but not until after he dragged our family through several years of a crystal meth induced chaos. All of that every bit of the nightmare you can imagine. It’s a wonder any of us made it through those years alive, with only the bad memories to remind us just how close we’d come to losing everything, and each other. I made so many mistakes. Some days I still feel like I’m seeking redemption for half of them. In hindsight, I still marvel at how easy it is for someone to veer off the right path and then, once you’re astray, how hard it is to find your way back.

By the time I came to my senses I was neck deep in family life and a career that was only supposed to be an interim job. Somewhere along the way in my quest to keep my family happy and help my husband’s business thrive I lost sight of who I was and what I wanted, separate from being a mother, a wife, and the big sister with all the answers…but, oh, how I longed to find myself again.

So, in 2009, at 34 I took a deep breath, a leap of faith, and went back to school to finish what I started four kids ago.

Needless to say, it’s been a rough three years since. I have managed to get pretty close to perfecting the ultimate balancing act, one that required juggling my school assignments with checking my children’s, shuttling my daughters to the mall while they quizzed me on macroeconomic terms, and meeting deadlines for that project at work and the research paper due in class five hours later. Early on I learned to carry my study materials with me at all times because you’d be surprised how much you can read on an elevator or while waiting for your sons to wrap up their lacrosse practice.

To say I’ve spent these last few years in a constant state of tired is an understatement. I’m exhausted, but I’ve also never felt more complete. I’ve been told the key to happiness is someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for. I’ve been fortunate to never be short on the first two, but it’s only recently I’ve been blessed to experience the latter of the three. Changing the trajectory of my life’s initial path hasn’t been easy, but with every hurdle I cross I’m filled with an incredible feeling of achievement. Those moments are priceless and proof the rewards are worth all of my efforts.

Maybe the most valuable lesson I learned while working on my undergraduate degree was that where there’s a will there’s a way. My life story thus far is an example of just that.

Now I know, now I finally believe that my value extends well beyond who I am as a mother, a wife, the big sister, and an Executive Assistant. I’m also talented, charming, intelligent and funny. I am an articulate writer and an extraordinary storyteller. There is power in my words and heart in my stories. I am the perpetual student, an eager learner of life experiences and academics alike.

I’m strategic and resourceful; possess a sharp eye for detail and an impressive knack for problem solving. As a CASA of Travis County and a former foster care parent, I am a passionate advocate for disadvantaged children. I am certain that my skill set, strengths, and talents combined with a law degree will help me reach a greater audience, hence, allowing me to help people that need it most.  Time and again I’ve been tested in this life and on each occasion I have summoned the resilience to push through and forward, leaving no one behind. I am a leader.

And contrary to one of my greatest fears, my life is far from over.

I know the path to becoming a lawyer at my age, while working and going to school with a family in tote, is a daunting feat. I dare not think of the barriers too long lest I’m tempted to throw in the towel when I’m only a quarter of the way through. Often the goal line seems so far and the journey to it a slow crawl. At least once a day I find myself reciting a personal mantra, “I need to want my goals enough to endure the hardest parts of my journey to achieve them all.” And I do. I do, I do, I do.

I’m fully aware of the tremendous effort and sacrifices it will take on my part to ensure my success in law school, but rest assured my resolve is strong and my conviction steadfast. I have an amazing support system made up of encouraging family and friends and I have my faith. I’ve come this far and I have no intention of relenting now.

As a woman minority and a former teen mom, it means the world to me to know that I didn’t hit the glass ceiling, that I was more than a statistic, and that I have the opportunity to fully utilize my talents and share them with people who can benefit and learn from them. I’m only asking for what I’ve worked so hard far, what I deserve – just a shot, a chance to prove to myself and to the world that I do have what it takes, that I’m that girl, the woman who, in my boldest moments, I’ve imagined I could be.

I have invested so much time and efforts helping other people pave their roads to success, for once I’d like to walk that road myself.  I don’t know if a law degree will ensure my job security or promise me riches, but I want the education and credentials so I can explore that for myself.  I want my children to know that even when the odds are stacked against them, perseverance and heart will carry them farther than they ever imagined. I want to know I taught them that.  Most of all I want to feel the pride that comes along with knowing you finished what you started, even if it does take twenty years to do it.

They say it’s never too late to be what you might have been.  In my heart I believe it, and it is that belief that gives me the gumption to try.

**Folks, don’t forget I gain a large portion of my readers by word of mouth. If  you like what you read, if I made you laugh, even cry, please do share my blog post. Forward it via email, Tweet it, Like it, Facebook post it, talk about it.** Oh, and please root for me, ’cause I’ll take all the prayers I can get. Much love, MS

It’s Almost G Day Folks!!

I contemplated long and hard about writing this post. I wasn’t sure if I should be embarrassed…or proud.

I think people tend to be their own worst critics. Course, I don’t believe that about everyone. Browsing through my husband’s Facebook newsfeed, you might actually think otherwise. There’s definitely a good amount of tooting-your-own-horn going on over there. Maybe that’s why I don’t have a Facebook account. Heck if anyone wants to read snarky comments about my life every ten minutes on his or her feed. A few hours of that and I imagine people would start blocking me.

Truthfully, I always feel uncomfortable accepting compliments or praise and it’s a rare occasion I’m not kicking myself for something I wish I did better. It’s a little tiring really, flogging myself all the time. I wonder if it’s a reflection of that infamous Catholic guilt and the six commandments I managed to break before I turned 27. Or maybe it’s because I’m a woman, a working mother who carries that all too familiar affliction of wondering how she can possibly be a good mom if she’s always working, and in my case working and studying. We could even blame it on the 20 years worth of mistakes that have result in much of my life’s self inflicted drama. Mistakes that have served as both heart breaking life lessons and burdens of guilt on my soul. It’s taken me many years to stop playing the “what if” game, many years.

One of my biggest regrets is not finishing college. Foolish me. The years I should have been wrapping up my general ed requirements,  I was busy clubbing on Tuesdays, popping out kids like I was allergic to birth control, and helping my husband kick some seriously self destructive habits. When I finally came to my senses I was neck deep in family life and a career that was only supposed to be an interim job. Somewhere along the way, amidst the boys’ football practices, kids’ science projects, my husband’s special events, and weekly staff meetings, I lost sight of what I wanted for myself, separate from who I was as a mother, a wife, and an executive assistant.

So as my oldest son turned 18 and my husband’s business approached it’s 10 year anniversary, I took a good look at my life and realized – crap, in a minute I’d be 42, all my kids would be out of the house, and if we were lucky my husband would be in his 18th year of business, but as for me, well, what would I have really done with my life…for myself? That’s one helluva’ scary thought, to think at such a young age your life’s best years stand to be behind you and not ahead.

So at 34 I went back to school, to finish what I started four kids ago.

Needless to say, t’s been a rough ride. There were dozens of times I had to convince myself that just because it took more than ten minutes to find parking it was NOT a sign from God I was okay to cut class and call it a night. Some weeks it was all I could do but curl up into a ball and cry because there just wasn’t enough time to wrap up my to do list before it renewed itself at midnight with a dozen carryover tasks from the day before. Half of me is thankful for 5 Hour Energy shots. The other half is afraid the FDA will eventually discover the shots contain an illegal stimulant, issue a recall, and then I’ll be panicking over what I subject my health to, all in the name of ten hour study sessions.

Then there were the numerous occasions my neighbors and colleagues, strapped with their MBAs and graduate degrees, innocently inquired on my personal life and what I was going back to school for. Enter the awkward moment I tell them about my kids and that I went back for an undergrad I never finished. They’re busy counting backwards pretending not to be shocked I have a 20 year old and I’m struggling to suppress my urge to scream, “I’m really not as stupid as it sounds! I’m not, I’m not, I’m not!”

I have no idea where I found the energy to study and work, let alone keep up with the kids and my husband. Better believe I did a lot of crying in the car when no one was there to witness my mini mental breakdowns.  I spent plenty  of my lunch hours writing essays while the sandwich beside me grew stale and many a night I stayed up past 2AM calculating statistical equations. To say I’ve spent the last three years in a constant state of tired is an understatement. I’m exhausted.

But it’s true what they say. Nothing worth having has ever been easy and success really does taste that much sweeter the harder you’ve worked to attain it.

So despite my norm…am I…could I possibly be on the verge of tooting my own horn here? Absolutely not. I’m honking the sh*t out of it. I’ve worked hard, paid my dues, and have the battle scars to prove it. Contrary to what I habitually kick myself for, the last twenty years have not been wasted. I’ve raised four great kids and I’ve been a good wife, a loyal sister and daughter, and a thoughtful friend. Those A’s and B’s were hard earned and my co-workers love and respect me for good reason. I’m slowly learning not to base my self worth on my lowest moments and, more importantly, that there’s no shame in where I’ve been. I’m learning to work on me.

Next Saturday I’m taking a break from beating myself up and over analyzing the errors of my past. I’m going to throw on my cap and gown, and then, if only for just one day, I’m going to revel in what I’ve done well.

Happy (early) graduation day to me. God willing, may this just be the first of two more to come.

**Folks, don’t forget I gain a large portion of my readers by word of mouth. If  you like what you read, if I made you laugh, even cry, please do share my blog post. Forward this email, Tweet it, Like it, Facebook post it, talk about it.** Much love, MS

Curling Irons and Training Bras: The Glories of Tweenhood

Last summer I sent my girls to California and they came back to Texas with boobs. Mind you, little boobs, okay, mosquito bites, but still, boobs nonetheless. Now if that’s not a warning sign my girls are growing up, then the discarded toys replaced with Claire’s and “I Love Justin Bieber” accessories sure are.

I gotta’ say the most amusing thing about watching them grow up as of late is the pace, or rather the response with which each girl is treating the changes that come with adolescence. One girl has taken the oh-my-God-what’s-happening-to-me approach, whereas the other couldn’t be more welcoming. I’m not sure who I should be worried about more.

On one side I’ve got a girl who thinks she’s 11 going on 23. Her bathroom counter is littered with a curling iron, a hair straightener, four different perfumes, and a variety of fragrant lotions. She just wrapped up her exploratory hairstyle phase, too. Believe me, if I didn’t love my kids so much I’d tweet the pics of some of her hairdos for public entertainment.

A  few months ago she came down for dinner with a tangled web of hair pointing every which way and sprayed together like a nest. She looked like a cross between a Rastafarian and Sad Girl from Mi Vida Loca.  Another time she wore a dozen braids, each held together by a different color rubber band. I almost asked her if she was trying out for a spot in the Boo Yah T.R.I.B.E. Of course, my doting father husband kicked me under the table before I got a chance.

As for my other girl, my sweetheart of a girl, she’s happy to don a simple ponytail and her bathroom decor still consists of a lime green frog rug and the matching garbage can. My challenge with her is she’s stubbornly resisting every angle of adolescence.

Up until recently she refused to wear a bra or deodorant. This has made for some awkward moments, especially the days we were loaded up in the minivan on a hot humid day. It’s bad enough we have to deal with the boys and their everlasting gym socks stench, now add to that the pungent smell of sweat and..well, you get the picture. Years from now the stink of body odor and dirty socks will be reminiscent of my child rearing years.

At one point this sweet kid even resort to hiding her bras, which would’ve remained undetected had we not realized her less developed sister was taking the bras and sporting them herself. Imagine my husband’s surprise when he picked the girls up from school and noticed one of them was, as he report back to me, unrealistically “puffier looking” in the chest. Yeah, we put an end to that real quick.

Quite frankly, I’ve concluded navigating my girls through puberty is turning out to be a greater challenge than I remember it was with my boys. The girls have a lot of questions and are experiencing more bodily changes that require explanations and my calming reassurance.  With the boys, outside of the sudden growth spurt and deeper voice, the only other signs of their pubescence were my constantly missing Victoria’s Secret catalogs and the prolonged time they started spending in the shower.

Last semester I signed the girls up for Kardivas. It’s something like a girl empowerment club and it’s actually helping me tackle some of the girls’ questions. Last week’s topic of discussion was middle school and boys. The girls now perceive the secret to knowing if a boy likes you is, as one of my girls put it,  “if he’s mean to you or he gives you the winky face”. A little confusing if you ask me, but then again trying to figure if a boy likes you when you’re 11 is just as baffling when you’re 32.

This week the girls came home from Kardivas club with a sample pack of maxi pads and an assignment – ask your mom about her period. The adolescent opposing daughter coyly suggested we opt out of the assignment. Poor kid. I think she’s secretly hoping if we don’t talk about it then she can somehow magically delay any further onset of puberty. Meanwhile, my other daughter, who’s now moved onto her fashion discovery phase and wearing a shiny blouse that screams disco fever today, is wondering aloud if she should start carrying the pads in her purse “just in case”.  Oh boy. Someone wish me luck, I may need it.

**Folks, don’t forget I gain a large portion of my readers by word of mouth. If  you like what you read, if I made you laugh, even cry, please do share my blog post. Forward it via email, Tweet it, Like it, Facebook post it, talk about it.** Much love, MS

The Stories They Leave Out of the Marriage Manual

February 18, 2012 17 comments

Some days I look at my husband and think, “I can love this man a thousand years, in this life and the next.” Other days I find myself struggling to figure out how I’m supposed to stand him one more day. Marriage is funny like that. It’s like a roller coaster, complete with that sick-to-your-stomach-feeling you get when you catch a dip you didn’t realize was going to be so steep.

There really is a thin line between love and hate. I should know, my husband and I have danced on both sides more often than I’d like to count. On a few occasions I’ve just been one bad decision away from setting his clothes, his car – heck, sometimes his *ss on fire. Good thing I know better, at least now I do.

The last few years of our marriage have been rough, which is saying a lot considering the first ten was chock full of cinematic worthy drama. I don’t doubt the stories of my marital highs and lows wouldn’t incite screenwriter Tyler Perry into writing part three to his ‘Why Did I Get Married’ movie series.

Let’s see – there was the stupidity of our early twenties, which entailed a lot of partying too hard; his drug dealer turned drug addict years; quickly followed up with the can’t-stop-resenting-him period of my life. I almost forgot to mention in between all that mess every four years we managed to have another kid, all four before I turned 27.

In 2001 we settled down some, bought a house, and got bold enough to start a business. While we did well enough, the arguments stemming from the stress and our difference in management styles took a significant toll on our marriage. At the time I thought we’d outgrown fights where we hit below the belt, but stress like that took our arguments to a whole new level.

All things considered, if I let myself think about it too long I have a hard time reconciling the good with the bad. The lows were just…so low. Truth is, even when you forgive a mistake it still leaves a scar and most of our scars still sting when you touch them. Needless to say, we do better when we keep the past where it belongs, with the bad memories tucked behind the better ones.

A lot of things have changed in the 17 years we’ve been together and not everything in our favor. At 19 years young you barely know who you are or what you want out of life, let alone who you want to spend the rest of your life with. That may be the biggest drawback to settling down at such a young age, you eventually grow up and discover that what fit you perfect at 20, not so much at 35.

It’s a hard thing to look at someone you’ve spent half your life with and try to wrap your head around how much has changed  between the two of you and then how, when you’re not careful, those differences can create a divide that feels wider than any ocean.

Last summer my husband and I got as close as we ever had to divorce. It took a whole lot of soul searching to decide how we were going to save our marriage and, more importantly, if we still wanted to. It was most disturbing to look at divorce papers and realize 16 years of life and love with someone could be reduced to a two page list of  divided assets and a couple signatures on the dotted line. It was our wake up call. Marriage is hard, but divorce isn’t easier.

Sometimes it takes having to get that close to losing what you’ve forgotten means the most to you in order to realize  you’ll do whatever it takes not to have to live without it.

Whatever the shortcomings of this relationship, there’s no denying my husband is the love of my life. It’s the one thing, even on our most awful day, I’ve always been certain of. He’s helped me raise four children, one of them not his own, and another we adopted together. He is my constant and my muse, my reminder of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come since.

On his best day my husband is no Prince Charming, not even a second rate boot leg, but even on his worst day he’s the only man I can imagine spending the rest of my life with. That has to count for something.

I don’t know if there’s such a thing as forever. I fancy myself a realist so can’t say I believe in words that elude otherwise. What I do know is that this marriage is worth fighting for, tooth and nail, however steep the uphill battle. And dear husband, if you can meet me halfway, the universe  might just make a believer out of me.

As for tonight, well, tonight I’ve just been thinking…I can love that man a thousand years, in this life and the next…

**Folks, don’t forget I gain a large portion of my readers by word of mouth. If  you like what you read, if I made you laugh, even cry, please do share my blog post. Forward it via email, Tweet it, Like it, Facebook post it, talk about it.** Much love, MS

Happy New Year…from my house to yours..

January 14, 2012 2 comments

Another year has come and gone, another memorable chapter in our lives closed.

It hadn’t been one of our better years. As individuals, and as a family, I think each of us learned new things about ourselves, strengths we didn’t realize we had and weaknesses we would’ve preferred keep to ourselves . My husband and I found ourselves doing a lot of much needed self reflection. We rediscovered what it takes to keep a family whole and how being happy with ourselves and each other plays a key role in that.

Between the hectic schedule of a family of six and despite our tumultuous summer, we’re all still laughing and driving each other nuts, in a good way..at least most of the time.

My oldest is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up, which I steadily keep reminding him is now. Some days I’d like nothing more than to hypnotize him into believing my way is the right way, but then I remind myself that 1) that’s probably illegal, 2) he’s old enough to choose his own path in life, and 3) although I hate to admit it, sometimes my support is needed more than my direction. So instead we’re just trying to keep faith in the common sense and lessons we’ve armed him with throughout our last 19 years of parenting.

When my 15 year old son isn’t playing lacrosse or Xbox he’s hanging out with his seemingly plethora of friends. However, recently I’ve implemented the new Rodney Rule obligating him to spend as much time with his family as he does anyone else. I’ve already had to clarify it requires he leave his room and actually interact with the family downstairs and, no, it is not considered quality time when his father and I are shuttling him to and from the mall. Initially, he wasn’t too keen on the rule, but he’s warming up to it.

The older of the two 10 year olds is growing up and into tween-hood a lot faster than her sister. Her life seems to revolve around cheer, shopping at Claire’s, and (the dreaded) Justin Bieber. She’s becoming quite the beauty with a self confidence to match. For Christmas we gave her a smart phone and within hours I had to warn her if she continued to take pictures of herself I would replace the thing with an archaic phone, unattractive and less the camera feature. Needless to say her cell phone photo shoots have ceased.

The youngest, in true baby-of-the-family form, has less interest in all things tween and would much rather play with our dogs or read books under the dining table while I study above her. She’s a darling and sometimes her innocence, in contrast to her siblings’ more brazen manners, worries me. She’s entered her seventh year of swim and recently started swimming in the more competitive meets held at local universities. Earlier in the school year she mentioned her fear of moving onto middle school the following year. When I asked her why she replied in all seriousness, “The lockers, Mommy. What if I forget where my locker is? What then?”

The year was possibly most trying for my husband, but he’s proving to be stronger for it. Upon concluding a commute between states was no longer worth the stress, our concessions business discontinued participating in special events in California. After ten years it’s hard not to feel the sadness that comes with ending such a significant era in our lives, but we both understand that better times are ahead for the business. Less time commuting means more time spent concentrating on the business in Texas and we’re going to need that time given my husband’s plans to open a food trailer in Austin.

As for me, I’m still on the grind, studying and working, and writing in between. I’m hoping to finally graduate this spring and I’ve still got my sights on law school to follow. I am ever so grateful for the readers who continue to follow my blog. The readership and support means so much to me. You know, it’s hardly ever easy – marriage, raising kids, keeping a business moving, and all the other mechanics that make life fun, but drive you mad. Still, it’s a wonderful life and one that I wouldn’t trade a thing for, not even if someone promised me the return of my sanity.

Renee – A remembrance and tribute to love..and loss

Recently, I was given the opportunity to provide a remembrance at a memorial for my dear friend’s wife, who was taken from us far too early. It was my tribute to their extraordinary love…and to his new found pain. 

I didn’t get a chance to know Renee as well as I would have liked, but as David’s Executive Assistant and as his friend, I did have the pleasure of getting to know her through his eyes.

I know that she was beautiful, intelligent, and strong. She loved the arts, especially ballet. She went to school at Texas A&M and maintained that fighting Aggie spirit throughout her entire life. I know she was a dedicated Aggie, so much so she made David a convert when he actually attended Baylor and UT.  Read more…

A Private Room…For Dogs..To Do What?!?

October 19, 2011 8 comments

As if four kids wasn’t enough we also have four dogs, all boys. Feeding them, keeping their shots up to date, and buying them toys costs us a pretty penny, same as our kids do, but they’re worth more than the trouble they get into so we keep ‘em around. Hmm, same as our kids do. *Insert pic of light bulb turning on above Maria’s head here.*

My secret favorite dog is Hogan, a sweet lil’ Dachshund Chihuahua mix, whose daddy, I’m convinced, is not actually the chihuahua his mother has led everyone to believe, but rather the much more good looking  Doberman Pinscher “player” from around the way.  Hogan maintains the never-experienced-a-shelter-mentality, innocent and loving. He’s constantly smothering people with dog kisses, which wouldn’t be so bad if his breath didn’t smell like a fish container.  Read more…

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