Monday, January 01, 2018

My Two Words for 2018

I have spent the first day of 2018 resting, reading and meditating on my plan for the year. I've meditated a little longer than planned, but it's all good. Things will get done while I'm on vacation this week.

My Harper Lee candle that my beautiful niece Hannah gave me, lit to send me some positive energy to my creativity and writing, The little typewriter because of course, writing
So here are the words for 2018: Evolve and commit. I am evolving. Every year that passes from freeing myself of long held beliefs, I evolve. I am finding my spiritual center. I remember the words I read on my last birthday at Mr. Martin's niche, "to put my trust and faith in my own mind, to live and die free." I am evolving every day to do just that. 

To commit covers SO many things. I want to commit to this evolution, to my spiritual journey, to my health, to my children and to my career. I am committed.

2017 was a challenging year in many ways but I also have A LOT to be grateful for. I read through my happiness jar and I was reminded of all the wonderful things that happened this past year, like my kids are alive and well, despite an illness. I'm grateful for our amazing summer trip to Germany, a new roof over our heads, and so much more.

So WELCOME 2018. I have faith in you. I believe that this will be a good year and one of the best in a long long time. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

My Vanguard & Magnet School Advice

As the mother of two kids who are in Vanguard and Magnet schools, I am often asked questions by soon to be and new parents. They want to know how they can send their kids to good schools inside the loop (or close to it) without having to pay for private school or having to move to the suburbs. Here are links to some of my top blogs with advice on how to navigate the Houston Independent School District Vanguard and Magnet system. 

The Kids and I, Seth is in 8th grade at Hamilton in Vanguard and Miranda is a junior at DeBakey H.S.

If you have a child starting Kindergarten the Fall of 2018 you've missed the application deadline- it was in December. You'll have to check with HISD if they have a second phase application for Kindergarten. I'm not sure about that.

If you have a child starting Kindergarten the Fall of 2019 the application is due in December of 2018. Start drilling him or her on their alphabet, sounds, colors, shapes, now because they will have to take the Vanguard test January or February of 2019. That's only one year away! My best advice on this. Buy those workbooks at Walgreens and CVS in the book/magazine area. They were great for teaching the kids the basics and inexpensive.

My personal experience

Elementary School

The Vanguard Test when they are 4 years old (for Kinder)

Middle School

Second Phase Application

High School Application

The Kinkaid EMSI program- a well kept secret. 

Not everything is always rosy. If you aren't lucky enough to have a child attending a Vanguard or Magnet school, things can be tough. Or if your child has a special education challenge. Here is my experience when Miranda went on to middle school and Seth had to leave a really good elementary school to go to our neighborhood school because his sibling transfer wasn't renewed, before he was in Vanguard.

Note: I added one more at 3:30 p.m. about high schools.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Roof Over Our Heads & Other Things

Hurricane Harvey came and flooded thousands of homes in Houston. I was very fortunate that I wasn't one of those homes. However a day or two after the storm, as we continued to have rain, a piece of my kitchen ceiling came crashing down. I had a weak spot on my roof and the rain was too much for it. I knew I needed a new roof but I had been putting it off. Harvey forced me to make an important decision; to sell my house or to stay in it at least until Seth graduates. I chose to stay.

Jar of Happiness to be Opened on New Year's Eve

The home and property values have really gone up in our neighborhood and I'm constantly being approached by people asking if my house is for sale. I know that I'm sitting on a huge lot and a half, and that they aren't looking at my house. They're looking at my property size and the fact that I'm on a corner. These buyers can build two tall town houses on my lot to sell for double the amount they are probably trying to offer me. However I don't know that I'm ready to sell. Miranda graduates from high school in a year and a half and Seth in five. So I decided to roof the house and stay for 5 more years. 

I told the kids that the saying, "All you need is a roof over your head," is very true. Think about it. If you have a roof over your head, protecting you from the rain and inclement weather, you don't need anything else. All your possessions inside your house and you are safe. So I fixed the roof to have a roof over our heads and everything else will fall into place. Who knows, maybe I'll make more money this year and I'll be able to progressively fix the house. 

The kids and I started this "Jar of Happiness" in January. Every time something good happens we write it down and put it in the jar. Miranda and I do it a little more than Seth, I have to remind him to do it, but we do. This year we have a lot to be happy about. 

In June I received a promotion and more pay to move over to another team as an Account Manager. It's been a whirlwind 6 months but I love it. I'm definitely challenged more on this account desk and it's stretching me professionally. I've also been chosen recently as our team's mentor for new team members. I'm really excited to have this leadership role on our team.

When I decided to roof the house and to stay here a friend of my ex-husband, who didn't even know me, offered some extra help to roof the house. I am forever grateful for the kindness of this man and for my ex husband who over-saw the whole thing and did a lot of work himself. He's been replacing the wood trim all around my house, which isn't easy work. He's a great co-parent!

There are a lot of other things that happened in between. Daddy had seven falls in a row, almost one every other week. He went through a few weeks of physical therapy and he's doing much better. One of his legs was weaker than the other but the physical therapy really worked. Grateful for the wonderful physical therapist Shannon. Daddy turns 94 in March, God willing. 

As we got closer to the end of the year I finally got to meet my beautiful great-niece Kindread last weekend. I was so in love with that beautiful girl! She looks like a mix between her mama and her daddy. She shares her daddy's and my curly hair and our under-bite. Too cute!

Yesterday I received another wonderful gift. My beautiful, favorite niece (and only one) had a baby boy and named him Nicholas after his great-grandfather. You could tell my dad was pleased because when I showed him a picture he said, "Is that my tocayo?" Tocayo is the Spanish word for someone who has the same name. 

So here I am at the end of another year. It's been a long time since I blogged because I've been experiencing a little bit of writer's block. I have been so very overwhelmed and trying to over come a lot of the anxiety that I mentioned in my last post. Things have been better and I'm hanging in there. 

I have a lot of plans for the new year. Some of the same ones I've  had in the past. I want to eat better, exercise more, refinance my house, work on my finances and get my kids through the second semester. 

High school applications were filed in time for the boy and we find out where he was accepted around Spring Break. I didn't write about it this year but yes, we applied to DeBakery, Carnegie for Vanguard, Lamar and Heights. The boy has been doing really well! He's taking 9th grade Algebra and Science. 

Once we get him off to high school it will be time to start college applications for the girl. Hard to believe. I have a blogs on here when I was applying for elementary school for Miranda! Next year this time I'll be in the thick of college applications with her!

Yes, we have a lot to be grateful for. Our health, a roof over our heads and wonderful brains in these two kids. I'm happy. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

My Body is Changing, I'm Getting Older

I'm officially past 47.5 now. I hit the halfway mark last month. It was at 47 that I started feeling my body change and looking in the mirror and seeing the changes in my face, in my skin. I'm getting older. I love a quote that says, "Do not regret growing older. It's a privilege denied to many."

Me at 34 and 47. 

In the top picture I had just had Seth. I sure bounced back pretty quickly at that age! I was still young enough to have kids and my face looks radiant, like someone who just created a life. In the bottom picture, taken a few months ago, most people would say I still look great. Believe me, I appreciate it. I know I look younger than some people my age. However, I also know the reality that I'm growing older.

I feel like we aren't always allowed to talk about aging. Either people are embarrassed to acknowledge it or we're told to shut up, age is just a number, be grateful for what you have, etc.  I get both those points of view. Sometimes aging is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. And I get being grateful. My older sister passed away at 42, my mom at 69, and I've had family, friends and acquaintances who have died young. I get that I should be grateful to be alive and I AM. I try to practice gratitude every day and I think about something that I'm grateful for.

None of this changes the fact that I am getting older and that yes, it is happening to me. I don't know why it's such a big deal to acknowledge that. It's a fact. It's happening to all of us and there's nothing we can do about it. I find it hilarious that even the word "perimenopause" is highlighted in red on this blog program as if the word doesn't even exist. Yes, it's real and all women with two ovaries and a uterus are going to go through it.

I miss my mom. I miss being able to ask her questions about menopause and when did she first see the signs. All I can do is try and remember events and conversations I overheard from my childhood and I do the math as to how old she was then. I guess she started heading towards menopause at 47 based on a very clear memory I have of her having an embarrassing incident out in public. I remember conversations I overheard about her going through "the change." I was around 8 years old and that would make her 47. I'm 47.

They say that often women start menopause around the same time as their mothers. Based on that math I'm pretty much on target and I can feel the signs. There's the irregular periods, the super long periods that don't make sense, and how hot my body feels very often. I've never been irregular since I started having kids at 31. That was something that used to happen to me in my teens and early 20s.

Of course all this has to happen right when my OBGYN of over 20 years retires. So I went to see my primary care physician right after a two week long period. She sent me for blood work to see if I was pre-menopausal but instead of focusing on that she was distracted by other things she wanted to check, like my blood sugar and my cholesterol. When she called me with my results she told me those and then promptly hung up. I had to call her back to ask her, "Hey, what about menopause?" She had forgotten that was the main reason I had gone in. (Once again I wished that Dr. Miro hadn't retired.) She told me that the blood work didn't show signs of pre-menopause. She had already said to me in the office that if that was the case she recommended that I find a new OBGYN. Exactly what I didn't want to have to do.

I know my body. I know what's happening. I'm so ready for it too! I'm ready to embrace this new phase of my life. I just wish it didn't come with the discomforts that come along with it. Like why do I have to feel warm all of a sudden? And why do I have to feel anxiety? Nobody told me that was a side effect until now. It's either one of those secrets or one of those things I ignored when it didn't pertain to me. Surprise! As I've gotten older I started feeling anxiety and I didn't know why. It probably started a couple of years ago, well now that I'm moving towards menopause I feel it even more. Apparently it's the hormones.

Then there's my face. I look at myself in the mirror when I'm washing my face or putting on my make up and I can see the elasticity of my skin changing. It's so weird! I see it in some pictures more than others. I see the skin under my eyes has changed too.  I think, "Here I am. I'm getting older." And it's amazing. Where did my youth go? It was over in the blink of an eye.

In the words of Colette all I can say is, "I love my past. I love my present. I'm not ashamed of what I've had, and I'm not sad because I have it no longer." I will just have to roll with it and ride this crazy wave.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Post Hurricane Harvey from Houston

A lot happened between my last post on August 20 and today. The kids did not start school on August 28 as planned and they are now starting on Monday, September 11. Hurricane Harvey is the reason.

Although Houston was not directly hit by Harvey when it made landfall on Friday, August 25 the rain started out slowly that night. It was so slow in fact that some people were fooled on Saturday into thinking that maybe it wasn't going to hit us as hard as they had been saying. Some even went out to watch the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight on Saturday night and were trying to get back home when the deluge happened.

Downtown Houston- Photo by Edward Isamu Nicholas
People found themselves stranded on bridges or they had to turn around and go back to friend's homes. When we woke up on Sunday this is what our city looked like. People had to evacuate their homes and some were rescued in boats by the fire department and first responders. As they day went on ordinary citizens called the "Texas Navy," like my friend Kim Maraldo took their personal boats out and helped save people from their homes. They were amazing.

Stude Park off I-10 & Studewood- Photo by Mary Ann Marucci

In the aftermath of this horrible devastating storm the city and state has really come together. People have been tearing their houses apart, cutting out the wet sheet-rock, throwing out all the damaged things in their houses. 

Yesterday I took Miranda to volunteer at one of her lacrosse teammate's home. The neighborhood I was in was filled with people's belongings, wood, sheet-rock, basically, their homes. It broke my heart. All these people out there working on their homes. 

A Home in the Braeswood neighborhood

I parked on the side of the street to see if she was going to stay there or go to another home and as I was sitting there a woman came up and asked me if I needed anything. She and her husband were out dropping off food and water to people working on their homes. When I went back to pick up Miranda the mom of the home told me one of the mattress companies had just donated 4 mattresses for them.

Ordinary people have been out helping where they can. A friend of mine's home was flooded and a group of my friends went out to help her. I found out too late because I was taking Miranda out to help her friend. When her sister, also my friend called me she was telling me how a woman from the neighborhood just stopped by and asked how she could help. Just like that. 

Businesses all over the city are doing extraordinary things. Jim McInvingvale, or Mattress Mack as he's also known, has opened up two of his locations as shelters. He's letting people sleep on his brand new furniture and providing them restrooms, showers and his restaurant. He also volunteered his company moving trucks to rescue people from their homes and highways. His trucks were out from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Sunday rescuing people. Amazing! 

We were extremely blessed. I woke up on Sunday morning to the downpour. I'm not an early riser but I was up at 6 a.m. and I went out into my foyer, between my back door and my garage, to film the rain and our street. The video is dark but you can hear the water coming down hard and you can kind of see how full the street is. The water only got that far and never even filled my yard. It was like a regular heavy rain day for me. Our neighborhood, Lindale Park, is built higher, our homes are built even higher, and many, like mine, are on pier and beam. I know I have so much to be grateful for. Others, like friends of mine, have not been so fortunate. If you can, please consider giving and donating what you can to the shelters or to people you know. Giving gift cards to people you personally know is a great idea and the money will go further because you're giving directly to them.