An Anniversary



For our first date, he took me to a fancy Hawaiian fusion restaurant. We sat at the bar and ordered fancy drinks that only adults order; partly because we were both a bit nervous and awkward and partly because we wanted to own the title of adult all 20-somethings yearn to claim. We talked, we laughed, he drove me home afterward – to my parents house, where I was living at the time – you know, when you’re in-between here and there. I had just returned from life on the road with Janet and though my physical belongings sat in the room I grew up in, my spirit still felt fiery and restless. It’s the first time in life I felt complete ownership of and confidence in my self-awareness. It wasn’t lacking before, just still being molded.

He kissed me in the driveway, the oak tree hanging overhead. It sounds cliche to say I knew he was the one, but I knew he was the one. That night was only the beginning.
We have reservations tonight at a nice restaurant on the beach. A treat to one another. We laugh thinking back to that night, to that $100 dinner that was so out-of-form all those years back. And how I confided them the same confession that I confess tonight; that I’d be just as happy going to Denny’s.
Happy Anniversary to my one true love.

A Letter to My Boys

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Dear Hooper, Van, & Sonny,

You lost one of your Great Grandmothers, Norma Jean (aka Nanny), on the 14th. We drove out to Arizona two days later to attend the funeral. Hooper, my sweet firstborn, you cried; water welled up behind those innocent eyes. You couldn’t stand seeing anyone hurt and saying goodbye made you sad. Van, you stayed close to me for most of the ceremony and, picking up on the emotion in the room, whispered that you loved me. And Sonny, you sat still for about 20 minutes (which truthfully is 20 minutes longer than I anticipated) until you could wave no more to the people behind you and had to be removed; the back of the church, your playground. You crawled wildly, filled with an energy only sugar could fuel. Though you had none.

We drove home through a storm, the rain falling harder than I’d venture to say you guys have seen before; a testament not solely to your limited life experience but more so to the weight of the water falling. Visibility bad enough to necessitate driving with our hazard lights on only to give way to a break in the storm. A part in the clouds. A sliver of blue skies. And a rainbow, fully visible, end to end.

May you hold tight onto memories. Of loved ones, of laughter, of storms, and, of rainbows.

I love you boys,


A Day With my Husband

It’s funny how life works sometimes. The day before I passed out cold and Willy saved me from falling head first into the bathroom wall, we had a rare and wonderful date. In hindsight, it matched in beauty to what the evening matched in misery.
We started the day at The Penthouse in Santa Monica. I had the Belgium waffle with fresh squeezed orange juice and it was delightful. We drove around Santa Monica a bit before heading over to Venice, where we sat and people watched. Then we stopped at The Daily Pint known for all the rare whiskeys they carry. Willy got a glass that came out to roughly $6 per sip (I made him count). It’s not something he splurges on often, so it was nice to watch him enjoy it. And enjoy it, he did. We drove along the PCH on the way home and watched as the sun set. It was beautiful.
Then I came home, didn’t feel like eating dinner and spent the rest of the night on the toilet with a bucket on my lap. It all ended with an ambulance ride to the hospital and an overnight stay where I received a total of seven liters of IV fluids.
The ebbs and flow of life…

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Living Deliberately

I get asked a lot about how my recovery is going and I never know quite what to say. Like most things in life, there are good days and there are bad days but dumbing it down to that cliche doesn’t speak to the actual experience of recovery.
And then I came across “The Spoon Theory”.
The Spoon Theory was written by someone who has Lupus. The girl gives her friend a bouquet of spoons and has her talk her through her typical day. Each daily task comes at the cost of one of the spoons; taking a shower, for example, makes one spoon drop from the bouquet. And one by one, as the friend accounts for each event in her typical day, a spoon disappears.
You see, when you’re healthy the possibilities seem limitless. Never before have I looked at taking a shower as a task as opposed to a privilege.
Recovery has changed that for me.
Living daily life with a disability forces you to live very deliberately. Almost every decision is a calculated one and my reason for choosing one thing over another depends greatly on my pain and / or limitations. When I shower, for example, depends on when I’ve given myself my daily neck treatment (I have an ultrasound machine at home I use to massage heat into the sore tissues in my neck). The gel gets all over my hair, so when getting ready, it’s something I have to take into account. I also have to take into account when I took my pain medication last (the heat from the shower will make me pass out if it’s too close to the time I took my pain medication). And I thought getting out the door with two kids was hard…
For a long time, I had difficulty raising my arms up over my head. Washing my own hair just about used up all the spoons I had. Blow drying my hair was / is nearly out of the question. Today I’ve gained mobility back in my arms but due to my bending restrictions I am still unable to properly blow dry my hair.
And so, caring for myself – and, in turn, feeling good about myself – has been a challenge. It feels like it’s been years since I’ve had the freedom to wear whatever I want. In 09′ I was pregnant, in 10′ I was breastfeeding, then in 11′ pregnant again, then in 12′ breastfeeding again, and then surgery in 13′. I’ve resorted to leggings, slip ons, and an oversized cardigan I can fit over my back brace.
Recovery has made me let go.
Would you believe I bought Crest White Stripes for the sole purpose of feeling like I’m doing something to help my appearance?  
I digress. Back to living deliberately.
I went to run a couple errands by myself the other day. Sounds like normal life, right? It was during one of my I’m-feeling-better waves so I always take advantage and usually do more than I should; I dip into tomorrow’s cluster of spoons, if you will.
When I get into my car, I watch how far I open my door. If I swing it all the way open, once I’m inside sitting in my seat, I’ll be unable to lean over and close it. I keep the door just barely cracked and squeeze in so I can close it on the third rock: rock it back and forth once, twice, and with a third rock, I get my door closed.
I drive an SUV because I’m a mom in Southern California. The gear shift is up by the wheel and I dread putting it in reverse. As soon as I do so, my scapula on my right side feels funny and I immediately start wondering if driving is something I should be doing. I remind myself of the PDF my surgeon gave me and I try to picture the word “driving” with the words “one month post op” next to it. I’m three months post-op and I remind myself it’s okay.
I drive and listen to music. Nirvana comes on and I turn it up loud. It feels like forever since I’ve been alone. Between having family by my side or, more recently, the nanny we had to hire to come in to help, the days when I could simply get away and be with my own thoughts feel like long ago.
I want to go shopping for shoes. It’s been ages since I’ve been able to try any clothes on (just getting dressed once a day costs me a spoon) and a pair of moccasins I had prior to surgery somehow mysteriously disappeared. I pull into the shopping center to discover the store has moved.
I put the car back in reverse and I get that weird feeling in my right scapula again. I go through the same imagery as I did before, “Driving – – – one month”. I feel the weight of the chip on my shoulder as I drive out of the parking lot having stopped but not having crossed a single errand off my list.
I head to CVS to return some medicine we had bought for Hooper only to get home and find that the bottle had already been opened. I crack the door open and do my typical slide down off the seat and I close the door using my whole body. Because I’m not a fan of potentially poisoning my son or of spending twelve bucks on something we never used, I wait in line to return it. They give me cash back and I immediately remember I had wanted to pick up some hair gel and bobby pins too. I make my way to the hair aisle and as I near the gels I can feel the muscles in my neck starting to tighten. I glance back at the line of three people behind the only open register and I leave without hair gel or bobby pins for fear my time is limited. It was going to cost me an extra spoon.
I get back in my beast of a car and rock the door three times before closing it. I put the car in reverse and confirm that, indeed, my neck is sore.
I make it to the shoe store I had originally intended to go to. I slide down off my seat and close the door, again, with my whole body.
I walk into the store with my purse hanging from my shoulder. It’s the first time in three months I’ve dared to let it actually hang from my shoulder as opposed to caring it under my arm like a clutch. With the soreness creeping in, I immediately start cursing myself for the extra little things in there that I don’t need: the raisins that are starting to feel like rocks, the two pairs of sunglasses that are starting to feel like their actually sitting on someone’s face… someone’s face whose head is in my bag.
I scan a couple aisles of shoes. I try on some slip ons. I try to pretend that I’m normal as I turn left and then right in front of the mirror, carefully checking myself out like I used to. I see another pair I like and I curse my size for being the box on the very bottom, other sizes that are as useful as peanut butter to a kid with a peanut allergy stacked high on top of it. I carefully maneuver it out and try to ignore my urge to reach up and stop the box on top from falling. I’ve learned it’s not worth the pain later and better to let the damn box fall. This has bled into watching my kids jump on the sofa. I sit as far away as I can with my fingers crossed because I know they’ll shoulder the tumble better than if I were to sit there and try to break their fall.
I decide it’s time to go despite the fact I have not made it down all the aisles I’ve wanted nor have I tried on all I was interested in. I decide the shoes and boots that require any lacing up or buckling can be saved for another day, another spoon. I walk toward the exit where I see an older woman and her even older mother coming toward the entrance. We’re going to meet at the door at approximately the same time and I’m hoping they’ll get the door for me. Those pesky big, heavy doors are my nemesis. I can see by the look on their faces, however, that I am expected to be the doorman; I am young and deceivingly hearty. And so I get the door for them, awkwardly pushing it open with my whole body as my feet kinda shuffle under me. I try my best to hold it for the duration it takes for her to get her walker through the door. I watch as the door just misses clipping her ankle. I don’t feel bad, rather, I feel pissed. I just used another spoon and I didn’t even get anything out of it for myself. Pain can you make selfish.
Rock one, rock two, rock three, and I shut the door and start the car. I have one stop left.
I walk into the bank and am pleased to see there is no line. It feels like karma is back in my corner. I make my way to the teller, tell him what I want to do, and he asks for my ID. I flip open my wallet and when it’s not where it usually is I remember that Willy had taken it when the paramedics came to take me to the hospital the week prior.
He tells me he’s going on his break and I sit down in the chair and wait for Willy to bring me my ID. I’m fighting feelings of anger toward Willy for having not put my license back in my wallet and as I feel those negative emotions come over me as I sit and wait and wait, it dawns on me that that’s not me, it’s my pain, and it’s trying to take me down, trying to take me over. I would never blame my husband – my best friend – for having my license after saving me from falling after I completely lost consciousness and getting me to the hospital. My pain, on the other hand, has no friends. No loved ones. No family. My pain could give a shit about what’s fair or right or humane. My pain is an asshole; it preys on my patience, it preys on my otherwise fun-loving spirit.
Willy calls me to tell me he’s in the parking lot and I’m immediately pissed off that he expects me to get off my ass and meet him there to get my license. He says something sweet and cute but I truthfully don’t even hear him. My pain has made it so his words fall on deaf ears, his smile on blind eyes. I start to say something snappy but I catch myself and hobble back toward the bank, back through the heavy double doors. There is a short line now and I wait.
Recovery has changed me. I hope I will never be the same. These days, I live deliberately and I hope that when life does return to normal that I can remember these burdens, these pains. Normal, healthy people don’t know how good they have it.
Everyday we all make choices. For the healthy, these choices are made more unconsciously but for the disabled, all decisions are conscious decisions. When you have pain or limitations, you’re constantly having to assess the gas in your tank. If you run on fumes you have to deal with the fear your car may break down the next day, or worse yet, the reality your car won’t start the next time you get in it.
I find myself feeling constantly torn between having feelings of gratitude for having a nanny to help with the boys, the laundry, and the dishes and feelings of frustration that I cannot care for my own home independently; that I have to rely on someone else, always. It doesn’t feel so wonderful when it’s not a choice. Offer me a nanny when I’m fully capable but feeling lazy and you’ll probably see me beaming from ear to ear. But take away my ability to do things on my own and suddenly all I want is the freedom associated with independence.
Like many other with disabilities, pain, and / or limitations, I hate having to stay behind. I’ve missed birthday parties, days at the beach, gatherings at wine bars, day trips. Like The Spoon Theory states, having an illness or disability is – in itself – a lifestyle. It’s hard when you are your own dead weight.
I know I am not alone. The author of the spoon theory has Lupus. I’m recovering from major spinal surgery. But even motherhood is a disability in some sense, isn’t it? I mean when you have small children, you too must slow down, strategize, skip aisles of shoes and leave without trying on all the shoes you wanted to. For me, this was one of the biggest adjustments of becoming a mother; the realization that your life is no longer yours. So I guess we’re all in it together to some extent. We all have our handicaps.
When the pain subsides, I return to me and I see things for what they are. I’ve always prided myself for my ability to keep things in perspective; all the more reason I hate my pain for infiltrating my good attitude, for cracking my code so damn easily.
Health is such a gift. I hope I never lose sight of that.
I snapped these pics the other day standing in the same position; looking left, ahead, right, and down. I think it’s fitting to pair with this post because really, any situation can be seen many different ways. Recovery is not only a curse, there have been many blessings too.

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Meet Your Parents

Photos by the wonderful Viera Photographics
Dear Hooper & Van,
Your Papa and I almost died once. Okay, I’m being dramatic. But we did almost burn our home down and if it had burned down, we could have died.
It was the night of our wedding. And though we may tell you the story in the years to come, I’m sure we’ll leave out this small detail: We were drunk. Really drunk. And hungry. Really hungry.
If you don’t take any other lesson away from this story, take this advice: Eat at your wedding. We did not. And, because of this, we almost paid with our home.
You see, we were too busy at our wedding to eat. We drank, we talked with all our guests, we danced. But we never ate. So when we got home, we threw some chicken nuggets in the oven. Some time later, we were awoken by the smoke alarm. The house was filled with smoke and inside the oven were the crispiest nuggets you ever did see. I guess there’s more than one lesson… In addition to remembering to eat at your wedding, you should also not fall asleep while cooking, not cook while drinking, and not eat nuggets for dinner. Write those down in your life notebooks, would ya?
Oh ya, and install a fire alarm. They’re sure to wake your drunk ass up.
I love you,
Side note: Check back tomorrow for a special giveaway from etsy shop Moonbeatle!

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Meet Your Parents

Dear Hooper & Van,
We bought our first home just a few months before our wedding. It was built in 1957 and the woman who lived in it prior to us was the original owner, I believe. We spent the first month or so ripping out floor, ripping off multiple layers of wallpaper and indoor wood shingles (I know, it’s like an indoor roof… not sure why), and painting walls.
Working on your home is hard work, but like raising children, it’s the best work. Take pride in your home and care for it like you would a child. The best work of art is one that contains the blood, sweat, and tears of the artist. Think of your home as a blank canvas, but leave the decorating to your wife. And, when you’re finished, reward yourself with ice cream. Or a beer. Whatever suits your tastes.

Meet Your Mom.

Dear Hooper & Van,
You’ll experience things in life that have a great impact on who you become. For me, it was the summer of 2006 and it was the trip you will hear stories from for the rest of your lives. It wasn’t just any trip, it was the trip. Much of my perspective and outlook on life today was built on those few months of that summer when the sun scorched our skin and our curiosity lead the way.
We arrived at the pyramids, crossing one more wonder of the world off our list of “yet-to-see”(We arrived in Egypt after visiting the Taj in India). We’ve all seen the pyramids photographed in every light and from every angle, but seeing them through my own two eyes was like being taken back in time. Cross the road to the entrance and poof!, magically you’re taken back thousands of years. The seemingly endless Sahara desert stretched further than my eyes could wander and off in the distance camels and horses roamed up, over, and across the sand dunes. Every so often I was tempted to wipe the dirt from my eyes and turn around on my camel to glance back across the street at the KFC in an effort not to play games with my mind, which was suddenly confused as to what year it was, what land I was in, and how the hell I mysteriously ended up in King Tut’s neighborhood. “Walk like an Egyptian” kept playing in my head. That, and the thought that the seven dwarfs may have been involved in the pyramid building process; For the entrance into the pyramid was made for none other than Dopey, Sleepy, and Grumpy alike. I remember being taken back by the grand scale of the outside versus the claustrophobic inside which was seemingly just enough space for Snow White to rest peacefully.
But my memory of the pyramids themselves is not what I want to share with you. Instead, I’d like to talk about the bottle of Coke you see me holding in the picture above. If you look closely, you’ll notice the Coke is full. Why, you may be thinking, is the refreshing Coke full when I’m on a camel in the desert in 100+ degree weather? Because the Coke was also hot. Very hot. Too hot to drink. Which begs the question I know you’ll be asking next: Why would I buy a warm Coke? To which I’d answer, I didn’t buy it. Well, not initially at least. It was kindly given to me by the man leading us around on the camel. Only “kindly” isn’t really the right word. He insisted I take the Coke, even after I sincerely said “No, thank you”. And by “given to me”, I quite literally mean placed in my hands. So to be polite, I took it. And, to be polite, I took the smallest of sips. It was flat and warm, as I suspected. When the camel tour was over, the man helped me off and held out his hand for more money. He didn’t speak English, but it was made quite clear that it was the Coke I owed him for; The Coke I initially refused. The Coke I only took one sip of. The Coke that was flat and warm. Just as the situation started to get heated, I gave him some money and vowed never to be polite again.
Not everything in the world is fair and not everyone in the world is nice. Don’t be afraid to trust people, but know there are scam artists. Don’t become one of them. Offer your guests a cold and refreshing beverage and tell em’ it’s on the house.
Oh ya, save your money and visit the pyramids. And go with your best friend. It’s worth it.

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1,095 Days Later…

Willy and I recently celebrated our third wedding anniversary. And we have yet to murder each other. Hell, the cops haven’t even been to our house. And trust me, they’ve been to the house down the street once or twice. Our marriage is far from perfect, but it’s perfect for us. There are things we both acknowledge we need to work on, but at the end of the day we love each other deeply and share an intense love similar to a fifth grade crush on crack. I’ve spent some time pondering what it is that makes our marriage successful. I asked Willy to do the same. And here’s what we came up with:
-Don’t keep score. I need to remind myself of this one constantly because it feels like I’m always keeping score and that I’m always ahead. Woman do things more efficiently, so instead of berating your husband for not being as organized, give yourself a pat on the back (because no one else is gonna pat it for you) and move the eff on. This also means not holding a grudge when you have to shit faster than you piss because of the two munchkins running around, while your husband makes it a priority to sit over his own feces and play angry birds while you breastfeed one and scold the other. No grudges, capiche? Let it go Ashley, let it go. Are you picking up on the fact this rule is my greatest challenge?
-Mind your manners. All because you’re married doesn’t mean manners go to the wayside. I think Willy and I both do a good job of being polite and respectful. He always asks my permission before making an appointment to have his tattoo worked on, recognizing that my days are busy too and that leaving me with both of our members could potentially create a problem. Running his plans by me first helps me organize and plan ahead and simultaneously helps things run smoothly.
I always try to remember to thank Willy on the nights he makes dinner, which are all nights other than the ones we eat out. Even though it’s something that over the years has become his duty and responsibility, thanking him for his efforts shows recognition and appreciation. Appreciating each other for things we do on a daily basis is important, for it’s those little things that are most easily overlooked but make a world of difference.
-Encourage hobbies and interests. It keeps a person sane, right? There’s nothing worse than watching a relationship develop where the two individuals seemingly morph into one and lose all individuality. Willy loves going to concerts. If there is a show coming up and it doesn’t interfere with anything else, I encourage him to go with a friend. This is because I’d rather step in a pile of fresh dog shit than have my poor ears subjected to the hootin’ and hollerin’ shit he listens to. If Willy Nelson’s playing, on the other hand, then there will be a problem if I’m not going too. If it’s a quiet weekend, Willy will take our members out so I can work on editing photos or scurry over to some of the local thrift stores or, on a rare occassion, get my nails did (uh huh, I said it. Now move past it). Especially with kids, it’s nice to help one another find time to enjoy things we like doing for ourselves.
-You can’t tell the other how to feel. This is somewhat connected to keeping score. When I get up in the middle of the night to feed Van, I’m tired the next day. It goes without saying, right? There is nothing worse than hearing Willy complain about being tired when I’m the one getting in and out of bed while he snoozes off in never never land. But if he’s saying he’s tired, it’s clearly because he’s tired. I have to watch out for it becoming a competition where only one of us can have the privlige of complaining about being tired and just accept the fact that dispite his nine hours of beauty rest, he may still be tired. So yes, you can’t tell one another how to feel. If you’re tired, you’re tired. Take a nap (me first though) and move on.
-Have a sense of humor. When Hooper was an infant, he’d cry a lot. Way more than Van. It was agonizing as first time parents to feel so helpless and clueless. To make light of the situation, we used to cusp our hand back and forth over Hooper’s mouth, making him sound instead like an Indian chanting. It didn’t solve the problem, but it made it more bearable.
What have you learned from the relationships you’ve been in? What works, what doesn’t work, for you?

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Meet Your Parents.

Dear Hooper & Van,
The photo above was taken via self-timer on the night your Papa proposed we spend the rest of our lives together. We were on our first international trip together, in the Dominican Republic. Here’s the story:
My first impression of the Dominican Republic was to be fearful.  We arrived at the airport in Santo Domingo around 11:30pm.  As we went through customs, we met a local who spoke English.  We told him of our wandering plan of adventure: no plans, no reservations, and public transportation.  He said he’d pray for us.  He just may have, but if by chance he had forgotten, we certainly didn’t need it.  My fear and hesitation quickly diminished.
 We hooked up with another guy at the airport headed to Boca Chica and we split a cab ride there with him.  With Lonely Planet in hand, we arrived at our first hotel in Boca Chica.  It was around 12:30am.  Prostitutes and local hoodlums were still out hanging in the streets around the two food stands that were still open selling meat that I presume had been hanging there all day long.  The room was seemingly nice at first glance.  Behind the bed was a hand painted mural depicting a beach scene, palm trees and birds included.  Upon closer investigation, however, there were a few stains on the sheets and initially suspected blood stains on the floor (Tabasco?).  Between the music playing, the dogs barking, and the pillows made literally of stuffed cotton balls, I don’t think either of us fell asleep until 5am. Unknowingly, this would be one of the first truths we’d learn- and ultimately love- about the Dominican Republic.  Music is always playing.  Always.
This first learned truth leads into the second- its counterpart: the people are always moving.  The Dominican’s are kinetic- no two ways about it.  They radiate with pazazz.  Their smiles linger and seemingly stretch wider.  It’s almost as if their movement is contagious and one person is always passing it to the other.  They dance even when there is no music and yell to turn up the music when it’s serving merely as background noise on the public bus.  It’s nice to be somewhere where there is something that unites everyone.  A blessing, but also arguably a curse in America, is that there are so many cultures and different tastes that public transportation could never get away with playing anything because it could never appeal to everyone.  The truth that later would be shown is that the Dominican Republic would merely be a simple Caribbean island with a few pretty beaches and several daunting all-inclusive resorts in the absence of it’s people; The people are the soul of the D.R.  They aren’t only alive, they’re vibrantly alive.
From Boca Chica, we continued east, hopping from bus to bus.  Four bus rides later we arrived in a small town with only a few dirt roads.  Bayahibe is the town we will be speaking of with sparkles in our eyes years from now when we reminisce on this little memory of ours.
In Bayahibe we stayed in a Cabana owned by a warm and inviting family.  The toilet lacked a toilet seat and the shower was bone-numbing cold, but neither took away from the experience.  Each night, the entire town met in the town center and danced to bachata music (Dominican country music).  Here in Bayahibe we spent lazy days on the beach, played with the children (who loved being photographed), and watched local baseball games.  On the 23rd, we got drinks prior to dinner.  The tables and chairs, of which there were only 3 or 4, sat outside the hut they served you from.  Willy and I got into the topic of engagement and marriage. More and more the topic had been presenting itself.  I told Willy that he shouldn’t feel any pressure… that when he’s ready, I’m ready and the answer would surely be yes.  Looking back on it now, I had felt it coming and truthfully was eager to relieve pressure on both sides.  I didn’t want him to go to extravagant lengths to tell me everything he’s already shown through something much more important- action.  I didn’t need him to get down on his knee- after all it was a dirt road- only to propose what we both were already committed to.  I thought it was coming on Christmas, so I felt it was my job to say all of this prior so that when it did come, it’d be simple, carefree, and natural.  And in a moments notice I got everything I wanted and suspected when I least expected it.  I can remember saying everything I felt I needed to say, feeling good about how I said it, and then in a celebratory moment I took a sip from my drink and a glance over at the water only to turn back and find a ring awaiting me.  “Will you marry me?” he asked.  “Of course”, I said.  We both shed a few tears.  He had been carrying the ring with him all the while, waiting for the right moment.  And the right moment it was.
We spent Christmas nearly stranded as only one of the five or so restaurants were open.  Spanish jingle bells blared through the streets all night long. Again, everyone celebrates Christmas so it’s only fitting that everyone celebrates together.  We left Bayahibe Christmas morning.
Driving northwest we passed through the countryside and then took a shoddy form of a boat across Bahia de Samana and arrived in Samana.  Here we had our first silent night.  The culprit, I suppose, is that electricity didn’t run 24 hours per day.  The arrival of massive cruise ships brought about our departure.  After one night, we hitched a ride in the back of a pick up truck- filled with 18 people- to Las Galeras.  Our room in Las Galeras was the cheapest yet and a chapuza in every sense of the word.


Chapuza- Shoddy piece of work.


The shower might as well have been a hole where someone pokes a straw through and squirts water.  The painted-over wasp nest adjacent to it is as no bit complementary.  But for the price, we settled for a trickle for a shower, a toilet that wouldn’t flush, and a door that wouldn’t lock.  After all, the beach was gorgeous with a rustic appeal and backed by a forest of palm trees.  We hooked up with another couple from Norway.  As if luck flew our way, they had a rented car and when it was time to move on we hitched a ride from them.  They dropped us on the side of the road at the turn off for Las Terrenas.
From there we jumped into the back of another pickup truck- one hand on our backpacks, the other on the rim of the truck bed- and a half hour later arrived in the beach town of Las Terrenas.  Our room here?  Well decorated with lots of paintings and the most lavish bathroom yet- showerhead included.  A famous phase comes to mind- don’t judge a book by it’s cover.  In this room, we weren’t alone.  We accepted the cockroaches and lizard that inhabited the bathroom, but our nocturnal friend- the rat- refused to let us rest.  We awoke mid-night and found him nibbling about behind one of the paintings.  Eventually we watched as he crawled across the beams that lined the ceiling and exited through a hole in the roofing.  Needless to say, we moved to another hotel the next morning and took a mid-day siesta to catch up on some sleep the rat stole from us.  Went to a cockfight and don’t ever need to go back.
 From Las Terrenas we moved south- all the way south- to Santo Domingo.  After four to five hours of waiting for a bus, we left.  Fifteen minutes later the bus we waited so long for broke down.  After another hour waiting, the journey continued and five or so hours after getting back on the road, we were finally in Santo Domingo.  We spent the few days we had left resting, recuperating, and preparing for the final journey home.  Great to be gone, great to be home.
When you’re ready to settle down with the one you want to love for the rest of your life, visit an enchanted land together. And take public transportation.

P.S. Van, you’re Papa and I are over-the-moon about your decision to finally join us. Love is overflowing in our home.


Meet Your Parents.

Dear Hooper & COME-OUT-ALREADY-Van,
Your Papa invited me back to Arizona to meet the people I now call my mother and father in-law a few months after we had met back up and started dating. Your Papa will proudly recount the talk he had with his dad after I had gone to bed, where he was warned “not to f&%# this one up”. It was in the warmth of the Arizona morning sun, that your father, my best friend, turned toward me and whispered that he loved me for the first time. I whispered the same thing back and buried my giddy face in the pillow. I spent the rest of the weekend quietly observing your father and making a mental list of all the things I loved about him. I still add to that mental list to this day.
Make sure when you marry, you marry your best friend.
PS. You can read more about this story here.

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Meet Your Parents

Dear Hooper & TODAY IS YOUR DUE DATE Van!,
Before people started turning up raped and beheaded, your Papa and I used to drive down to Baja, Mexico with friends to surf and camp. We’d set up shop right on a cliff that looks directly out to the ocean. A woman would come by daily selling Tamales and a DJ would play music at a nearby hotel in the night. I farted, for the first time, in front of your Papa on our first trip to Baja and managed to convince him it was actually the smell of his own fart he was inhaling.
We were in the tent when your Papa decided it would be funny to go fart in his buddy’s tent. I knew then I could let my own fart out and blame it on your Papa crop-dusting it back into our tent. It was one of those historical farts that we talked about for years afterward. It was that bad. Your dad couldn’t believe the smell of his own fart could gross him out as much as it did. I knew at this time I wanted to marry this man. Anyway, years later I confessed that it was indeed my own making. He agreed to keep it a secret and we shook on it with the agreement that I could secretly add dog shit to his food if he ever told another living soul. And here I am, spilling my own dirty laundry.
One day, when you’re choosing a wife, make sure you chose one who farts in front of you. Don’t ask why, just trust me on this one.
P.S. Van? Can you hear me? How ’bout coming out one of these days…

Meet Your Parents.

Dear Hooper & Soon-to-be-Van,
Before you guys were born, we had a life. We had friends that considered us “cool” and some of them still do. We did crazy and stupid things. We did things you’ll hear about over and over in the years to come; stories that are ours that will become yours. Stories that will shape the way you think about us as your parents. Stories you will share with your friends despite our plead for you to keep stories “like that” in the family. And then there are other stories you’ll probably never hear because we’ll never share. Stories our own parents may not even know about us. And still there will be other stories we had no intention of sharing  that will inadvertently slip out after a few glasses of wine on a family vacation in a distant and dreamy land like Paris or Singapore. You’ll tease us about these in the years that follow and we’ll regret ever having a relaxing drink in a romantic place.
And so we start this little series here on The Stork & The Beanstalk entitled, “Meet Your Parents”. My apologies to you, Hooper & Van, this is who we are. Enjoy the stories to follow in the coming segments.
The photo above was taken with a disposable point and shoot camera before your Papa and I were married. We were in Arizona, on a bus, preparing to float down the salt river. The trip included both family and friends, beer, and Creedence Clearwater blaring from a stereo we attached to an inner-tube.