(Excerpt from the book "The extraordinary life of an ordinary woman")
I was rummaging through my storage closet drawers trying to find some paperwork that I needed when I hit upon the photo album drawer.
This is the drawer where I keep all our family photo albums. Any time I go near this drawer my family heads for the hills because as they say, "Here comes Niagara Falls!"
Okay, I have been known to get misty-eyed when I see old pictures of the kids when they were little.
Alright, already, more than misty-eyed, it's a regular cry-fest!
But today I was so focused on finding my missing paperwork that I did not stop to look at the albums. I almost made it safely out of there until I lifted up some papers and the picture you see below fell out!
Mel and I had been married about three years when I took this picture on one of our frequent trips to go food shopping!
A buddy from work got a bunch of old BDU's that the surplus store was getting rid of, and since most of them were really small sizes he gave us some for our kids and our boy scouts troop.
Jess and Chris took it a step further and would always wear them with matching green shirts.
They would always wear them the same day so they could match.
Was it any wonder that these two were always mistaken for twins?
From the moment these two met they decided to be inseparable! Jess would tell Chris what to do and he would nod and go along with it!
For the most part they were good about not getting into trouble. I said for the most part!
I remember one day shortly after we had just gotten our first dog Sadie.
The kids were playing in the back yard and Sadie was running around with them. Somehow Sadie decided that the best place to play and roll around was under our blackberry tree! The ground underneath the tree was covered with all the berries that had fallen off the tree.
I was in the kitchen and could hear the burst of giggles coming from the kids. There are two types of signs that set of the Mommy-radar.
One is total silence. This is the most ominous because it usually means the kids are elbow deep in mischief.
The second one is the uncontrolled fits of giggles! This usually means that the kids are knee deep in something messy, sticky or downright gross!
I walked out the back door to see what was up when I saw our beautiful white and light brown puppy looking like she had been in a Stephen King horror, slasher flick!
At first I panicked because it looked like she was covered in blood. What kind of morbid kids was I raising, laughing at the sight of a bloody puppy?
Upon closer inspection I realized that it was berry juice, which Sadie was licking off herself with a big puppy grin!
I swear she looked like she was in puppy heaven!
Chris and Jess looked at me and swore up and down that they tried to stop her. Sure you did!
I grabbed Sadie and brought her in the house and gave her a bath. After twenty minutes she was clean, buffed, dried and smelling good!
As I put her on the kitchen floor Alexi opened the back door and Sadie bolted right out to the back yard again.
I ran after her to pick her up before she headed under the berry bush again. Luckily she did not head there this time instead she headed right into this hole that Chris and Jess had dug in the back yard and filled with water from the hose!
In jumped Sadie into the muddy watering hole and as she landed Chris and Jess got splashed from head to toe by the mud!
I had to ask them why they felt the need to dig a hole and fill it with water.
They looked at each other and busted out laughing and they looked at me like I was daft.
Because mom, the reason Sadie went under the tree was because she was hot! We made her a swimming pool to keep her cool!
Oh, really, how dumb of me to not see the obvious!
I watched in amusement as Sadie slopped around her "swimming pool" and the kids were having so much fun playing with her.
My first instinct was to get angry at the mess and at having to give the dog another bath, but I am glad I didn't get angry.
Jess and Chris had so much fun with the dog and later on they had even more fun running under the hose to wash off as much of the mud as possible.
When Mel got home from work he walked into the backyard.
He took one look at the muddy hole, the pile of muddy clothes, shoes and soggy kids. He just shook his head and said, "I don't want to know!"
We looked at each other and just started laughing!
Throughout the years until they went off to different colleges the "Blended twins" would continue to be close.
They shared a lot of the same friends, they helped each other with school work, Jess was Chris' personal planner and Chris was her bodyguard.
I picked up the photograph and put it back.
After I had found my paperwork I went downstairs and looked up at the picture of the two of them at their senior prom hanging on the living room wall.
Normally this would have created an opening of the flood gates of mommy tears.
But not today, I just had a good belly laugh remembering all the adventures those two got into growing up.
I was also extremely grateful that I had been blessed enough to be able to share in their adventures.
And as Jess so quickly pointed out that summer day so many years ago, rich people pay a lot of money to get mud baths because it's good for your skin!
I wonder if that applies to dogs too?
(Excerpt from the book "the extraordinary life of an ordinary woman"
I went for a walk today and wound up in the downtown area of our city. It was a beautiful sunny day, so I decided to sit on one of the benches and enjoy the weather. Invariably I started people watching, which is one of my favorite pastimes.
When I people watch, it's not to criticize or gossip. I look more to what kind of "character" that person is, from a writer's perspective. I try to guess their age, profession, and demeanor. I try to imagine what their lives are like, neighborhoods, families, likes and dislikes.
I think this hobby of mine is the reason I did alright as a police officer. I did not look at people to "profile them", I observed more to get a "feel" for what that person was about; to try to better understand where they were coming from and to be able to be as fair as I could to them, whether victim or perpetrator.
As I was sitting there it brought back memories of when my oldest son, Derek, (before we had James join our family) taught me a valuable lesson about people.
He was only two years old and we had a doctor's appointment at the local city hospital. Derek was born with severe asthma. He had been in and out of emergency rooms and hospitals a lot in his young life. I had finally been able to get an appointment for him with a specialist who was willing to take on a patient with minimal health insurance.
It had been a long day. I was five months pregnant with my second child, who loved sitting on my bladder. I was in the bathroom every two seconds. I had worked all day at the biotech factory where I was employed on their assembly line. In order to get from work to my mom's to pick him up and then to the hospital, it involved three bus transfers and almost a two hour ordeal.
By the time I got to the waiting area I was tired, cranky, wishing my bladder would fall off and without the energy to chase a hyperactive two year old. Derek was not your typical two-year old either. He had the full vocabulary of a grown man and had the most inquisitive mind, way beyond his years.
I finally convinced Derek to sit next to me and started to read him a story. Derek suddenly looked up and waved "hi" to an elderly gentleman sitting across from us reading a paper. He just ignored Derek. Mama lion instincts kicked in and I was a little upset at the man's rudeness. He looked to be in his seventies and looked like life had not been too kind to him. His breathing was labored from years of what I thought was heavy smoking. All in all he just looked like a miserable, lonely old man.
I told Derek to leave the man alone but I guess Derek took it as a challenge. He persisted in smiling his toothy grin and waving non-stop to the poor man. Try as I might Derek would not stop.
I got up to go to the bathroom again when Derek escaped my grasp and ran over to sit next to the man. He scooted over and gently tapped the gentleman on his arm. The man finally looked up from his paper and glared at Derek. Derek met his glare with a big smile and another "hi"!
I quickly walked over, as quickly as a waddling pregnant woman could, to grab Derek. Like a little jumping bean Derek jumped to his feet on the chair and threw himself into the man's lap and gave him a hug! I was mortified! I started to apologize to the old man when a small smile came across his sun-dried face.
"My but you are persistent, young man!" the gentleman said. Derek's face lit up and hugged even tighter. "I like you", Derek said.
I finished my apologies and was going to take Derek off his lap when the gentleman assured me it was okay for him to remain in his new seat. I sat down next to them and was enthralled watching their interaction.
Derek asked this man about his family, his life, what he did for work, why was he sick and so on and so on. Every time I tried to reprimand Derek for being too intrusive, the man just shook his head and said it was alright and answered Derek's questions.
This man had been unable to serve in the military due to his poor hearing. He worked in the shipyards in Quincy, in an effort to do this patriotic duty. He was there for years before we know of the harmful effects of asbestos and as a result he now had a horrible pulmonary disease that was slowly killing him.
His only child, a son, had been killed during the Vietnam War while evacuating injured soldiers out of the hot zone. His beloved wife of 40 plus years had died recently and now he was all alone. He had no surviving parents, siblings or extended family. He had never had any grandchildren or nieces or nephews. This man was truly all alone.
The man, whose name was Sam, looked over to me and said" He's quiet the little interrogator isn't he? I can't believe he got me telling him my whole life story!" Sam looked down to Derek and asked him,"How old did you say you were again, young man" With his most dazzling smile he answered with pride," I am two years and 3 months old!"
Sam chuckled and ruffled the top of his head. Derek giggled and hugged him again.
I turned around as I hear the nurse call out Derek's name. "We have to go, Derek, say good-bye to Sam now!" Derek looked up to Sam with his big, brown eyes, a little sad and asked Sam if he would ever see him again. Sam looked down at Derek with misty eyes and said" probably not friend, but I have something for you to remember me by." Sam reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a 50 cent coin. "This is my luck coin and even though some people might not think so, it has been good to me. I want you to have it now".
I started to protest but quickly stopped when Sam looked at me with pleading eyes. I nodded yes and Derek took the coin in his tiny hand and looked it over with amazement.
"Wow, Mr. Sam this is so cool! But I don't want to take your lucky coin. Aren't you going to need it to help you get well?"
Sam laughed in between coughing and said" No, Mr. Derek, I think that coin has done all I need it to do for me! It's all yours now!"
Derek hugged him again real tight and promised to take real good care of the coin. The nurse called our name out again and slowly Derek got off Sam's lap and sadly waved good-bye. I leaned over to Sam and thanked him for his kindness and he replied softly, "No, thank you!" and smiled.
When we were done with Derek's appointment and went to leave Derek ran into the waiting room, but hung his head with sadness when he saw that Sam was gone.
On the bus ride home Derek told me that he was going to really miss his friend Sam. I sat Derek on my lap to soothe him and he slowly fell asleep.
I was deep in thought about Sam. How could someone like him be all alone? He wasn't a bad person; he loved his family and his country. Yet destiny had stricken him alone and very ill. How sad that no one would ever remember Sam or the things he had done in life.
But I was wrong.
Derek is now in his late twenties, yet he never forgot his friend Sam. When my son became a young teenager he assigned me to be the keeper of Sam's coin. I could have stuffed it in a drawer or a safe but instead I carried Sam's coin inside my police badge holder.
Every time I had to pull something out of there I would feel Sam's coin and it would remind me to not judge people by their appearance or demeanor. It helped me to be a better cop and a more caring person.
Sam's memory also fostered a desire in my son to be friendly to everyone and to especially reach out to those that are sometimes overlooked.
As I looked around the city square as all the people rushed by, it dawned on me that in a way Sam's memory did go on.
His life and his influence had continued to be a good example to others. I smiled to myself happy to know that Sam and Derek's friendship had not been only for a brief second in time in a noisy waiting room, but had lasted and would last a lifetime.
Nice job Sam!
Today I was reading the paper about all the controversy about letting the public, i.e., the media have access to the flag draped coffins of our servicemen and women killed in battle on their journey home.
At first I was angry at the thought of some media vultures salivating as they snapped away photographs that would later be somehow used in some sick political game.
But by the same token after much thought, I was even more upset at the thought of our beloved soldiers being treated like a dirty little secret; being sneaked back into the country under some shroud of mystery.
Hollywood and television glorifies war and killing. The sign of killing the "bad guys" has always brought some morbid sense of satisfaction among movie goers resulting in big monetary returns for the big studios. But unlike the actors in these shows, our soldiers cannot get up, wipe off the gore and go home to their loved ones.
The price of war goes far beyond the expensive equipment, weapons and vehicles. (Which by the way no taxpayer wants to foot the bill for anyway) The price of war is human lives, young men and women, many barely out of their teens and early twenties. The price is birthdays uncelebrated, babies unborn, anniversaries that cannot be celebrated, dreams unfulfilled and brokenhearted parents, spouses, siblings and off-springs.
Yet we the American people go on, day in and day out oblivious to this great price.
We as a nation should stop and at least acknowledge this sacrifice. Some people say it is too morbid, too depressing or it's an invasion of the families of the loved ones lost, at a most painful time.
War is morbid and our soldiers have to live in that morbidness, non-stop, while they are in battle.
Nothing is more depressing than being sent over to protect our way of life only to be second-guessed by every arm chair analyst, who could never in a million years, really know what it's like "over there".
Think of the depressions of countless soldiers who come back alive only to be told what a waste going to war was. The depression they feel over the guilt that they made it back and their buddy didn't.
Think of the depression over a Government that asked them to step up to the challenge, and which they gladly did; only to come back to sub-par medical facilities, non-existent family services and unemployment. The depression of civilians not understanding why they drive so fast, trust no one or are so over cautious in crowds and cannot get a good night's sleep.
We worry about invading the families' privacy? What could be a greater invasion of privacy than asking you to pay the ultimate price and then have your loved one ushered in the back door of a hanger like some second class citizen?
Our soldiers, our heroes; yes I said it, Heroes, should be given the biggest home coming possible. Everything should come to a total stand still when those flag draped coffins come off the planes.
I do not care that you might be ten minutes late for your business meetings, family vacations, etc.
These heroes went over there and asked for nothing in return except respect and the hope that we as a nation would be there for them in their time of need, just like they were there for us when we needed them.
Their families should at least be able to feel a sense of fellowship from total strangers for their loss.
I hope that you do get depressed over the sight of flag-draped coffins in the paper as you sip your double latte. I hope that you are moved to say a silent prayer for their families. Or if you do not pray I hope you are moved to action, to ask, no demand more respect for our veterans, more services for their families and an ultimate resolution to a war that has dragged on way too long.
When I say this it's not to spark a debate over whether the war, the reasons for it, etc, are right or wrong. My only desire is to point out what I feel is the most important thing here, our servicemen and women and their families.
I hope everyone sheds a tear or two at the sight of our fallen soldiers, because even though we might not have known them in life, in death they have become our protectors and our heroes.
So if we can allow the media in to show photographs and images of happy homecomings and reunions with loved ones when our soldiers come home alive, we should afford the same courtesy to our fallen brothers and sisters; our protectors, our heroes. We should show their families that their loved ones did not die in vain; that we as a nation are truly in their eternal debt, for their unbelievable loss.
And maybe by not hiding this tragic loss in the shadows we as citizens, law makers, politicians and the powers that be will be more hard pressed to ensure the safe return of our guardians as quickly as possible.
Go quietly into that dark night….Urrrahhh.
In today's day and age we are bombarded with so many negative issues. The economy, unemployment, wars, etc.
Is it any wonder that so many people are depressed, overwhelmed and just plain tired of the battle?
But what happens when we add past transgressions to the burden as well?
As you, my amazing, faithful readers might have noticed, I have been out of cyberspace for a while, a long while at that.
While a minor illness played a part to an extent, the bigger picture was a state that I call "What-the-heck-have-I-done-with-my-life-and-oh-my-goodness-I-ain't-getting-any-younger-itis"!
I have been known to come down with this dreaded illness every few years or so, but this time it really sent me into a tail spin!
I felt I was at a crossroads in my life's path. My beloved hubby Mel is nearing a place where he could feasible retire from police work in a couple of years when our youngest son graduates high school.
I guess for me that has been the challenge. I retired early from a career in law enforcement that I loved, a lot more than I realized, to be a stay at home mom to my blended brood of 9 plus kids. That was many years ago.
My hubby has repeatedly thanked me for what he calls "my sacrifice" of giving my career up to ensure some sense of balance to our children.
I really did not view it as a sacrifice but have now been wondering if it really was something that I needed to do.
Our family, as some of you know, is a blended family, who came together at a very challenging time.
I was faced with having to declare bankruptcy, signing over my home to my ex (who was MIA and let it go into foreclosure) and a mountain of divorce related debt that years later I was still trying to pay off.
Add to that, two teenage boys who were hurting emotional and as a result were acting out and getting into a lot of bad situations.
On my hubby's side he had gone through a nasty bitter divorce and as a result there was a lot of animosity between his ex and him.
He had the four kids who he adored but were constantly being used as pawns to "get him back". My hubby was like the walking wounded and he had shut down a lot emotionally.
Trying to bring a family together under these circumstances was the last thing on my agenda. But God and our hearts sometimes have other plans for us.
After almost two years of trying to anchor our fragmented families into one, while having two full-time high pressure careers going, we knew something had to give.
This decision wasn't based on the fact that I was the woman and therefore the stereotypical choice. It was a logical decision. I was the one with the time already vested so I could retire early and still receive some form of small pension. I was the one with the organizational skills to run a home with so many members, somewhat effective and I was the one who at times had the clearest picture of where this family could go.
With that said I went from rappelling out of helicopters, knocking down doors and arresting the bad guys to PTA meetings, baking cookies, sewing costumes and being the soccer mom.
To say I was in culture-shock was an understatement. I had never really been the homemaker type and when I say this I am not being disrespectful or condescending!
Being a full time mom is by far the hardest, most under-appreciated and demanding job in the world!
I had always place my value and self-esteem on the size of the pay check I was bringing home to my family. When the amount shrunk, so did my confidence.
When people asked me what I did for work they quickly turned away or changed the subject when I told them I was a homemaker. Ironically these same people would return, with renewed interest if they found out I was a retired cop.
Gee, wasn't I still the same person you shunned two seconds ago?
Invariably the rudest questions in the galaxy would be asked, "Why would you leave such an amazing career for this? What if your husband divorces you?";or my all time favorite, "Why would you do something so stupid?"
Excuse me; do I even know you for you to talk to me that way?
Really, honestly people could you be any more ignorant?
I would get so angry to feel that the average person thought raising my kids was such a colossal waste of time and that there must be something seriously wrong with me for making such a choice.
In my mind I thought that by being there, full time, my kids would grown up to be "normal", happy adults; who would learn to overcome challenges, no matter how bad, to become successful people, not some social psychologist nightmarish statistic.
This is where my "illness" mentioned above kicked into overdrive.
I had this vision of 9 college graduates, owning homes with white picket fences, 2.4 kids, a mini-van (okay maybe not a mini-van, I do not like mini vans) a SUV, with a dog, happily married forever.
They are professionals, cops, doctors, lawyers, nurses, oh my! The American dream!! Right?? Wrong!!
Instead I have three aspiring music rappers, a budding fashion industry insider, a dancer/singer/actress, who informed us that she is marrying a famous pop singer, he just doesn't know it yet!; an aspiring professional baseball player, a fledgling film director/screen writer/producer, a wanna-be criminal psychologist who hasn't even started going to school for this, even though he's in his mid-twenties!!
Oh, yeah and a future professional soccer player, who despite the fact that he is of Latino heritage, can't seem to pass Spanish class!!
Where did I go so wrong?? Honestly I left my career for this??
This way of thinking people, is what is really wrong with America at times!! And the reason my "illness" flairs up!
My hubby and I created free thinkers! We always encouraged them to follow their dreams, no matter how far-fetched the world thought their goals were.
Now that they were doing that, I was feeling like a failure for not spawning what I thought was "normal".
My hubby once again was the voice of reason.
We took a bunch of so called "broken people", my hubby and I included and somehow with God's divine intervention, turned us all into a family.
We are a Latino family with 6 kids who graduated from a college preparatory private high school, with the youngest still there.
The other two boys got their GED's and some form of specialized training.
All our kids have attended or are going to be attending college in some shape or form.
None of them have children out of wedlock, no teenage pregnancies, no one is incarcerated, or on drugs, no drug dealers, no car thieves, no junkies, no alcoholics, no welfare mothers or fathers, no deadbeat dads or moms, no Department of social services involvement, no probation officers to report to, no unemployment slouchers, no spousal abuse or neglect.
Oh yeah and they aren't illegally in the country, they pay their taxes, one has served in the military and while we are on the subject, we can't go back to the country we came from, because we are already here!
No I did not lose my train of thought I mention all of the above because according to main stream American media and TV, isn't this the only things all us Latino people are about? Apologizes to my readers who are progressive thinkers and understand how ridiculous stereotypes are!
Our only married child dated his wife for 8 years before they tied the knot in their late 20's.
They now have an amazing 8 month old baby boy who is loved and taken care of by two hands-on parents. My son works hard so his wife can work on her Master's degree and take care of their son. My grandson's eyes light up every time his daddy walks into the room because dad is very involved with his son.
One kid plays baseball at his division 2 college, one daughter played softball at her college and another daughter is on the competitive traveling ballroom dancing team at her University!
Another is working on his own cable access TV show with his brother and is a regular on "You tube" and news websites, video blogging about hot button topics like the economy and breastfeeding! Did I mention he was 20?
The rappers have their duo album out, (self financed) and are working on their individual albums.
One kid works for a major clothing chain and has already worked up to assistant manager and is earmarked for upper management at the ripe old age of 24. Oh, yeah she's female, Latina, single and with no kids!
This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as where these kids are headed!
This summer my son, who has already written various screen plays, did I mention he is only 20, will be directing and producing one of his short films with the help of his siblings.
The younger daughter will be recording her debut album, (did I mention she sings too) which is being produced by her older brothers.Does this mean they are superstars and wealthy? Far from it. They are striving to get there and struggling along the way!
So as I sit here feeling like a failure because none of my kids have graduated college yet, or have claimed their corner office yet and wondering what we did wrong and why did I leave my job behind; something has become really clear.
The kids have become everything we wanted them to be, just not in the cookie-cutter way we thought they should as dictated to us by mainstream stereotypes!
So I guess the real question here is, now that the kids-excuse me our adult children, are creating their worlds, what am I going to do about mine?
Do I sit and wallow in self-pity because I am not the head of the state police?
Do I sabotage myself by not writing for weeks on end because I feel that my words are of no value, because I am writing about family instead of firearms?
Do I refuse to finish my stories because there is no publisher waiting with a fat check, yet?
Or do I reassess the situation and forge ahead onto my next mission.
I can say without a doubt that so far our family has been mostly a success, so why can't I go and pursue my dreams now?
The answer is yes! I can go out and pursue my own dreams!
But I can't go forward if I am always looking backwards!
As a matter of fact if I don't get going quickly, pretty soon my kids will be on me letting me know that I am slacking!
So with all this said, I am here to say I am back!!
Stronger, faster, better...no wait that was the Bionic man! But I guess it applies to me as well!
To all my beautiful readers thank you for your kind thoughts, words and prayers. You are all really extraordinary in all you do!!
And to the rest of the world watch out! Cause ordinary woman is back in the extraordinary saddle again!!!
Now if only I could find my glasses I would be all set!!
Making ordinary moments extraordinary!