“You’re Irish! I love you!”

My grandmother died on Monday.  She was the last living grandparent I had. She was born in 1926, married young, and raised a large family.  Oh, no.  Not large.  I mean, LARGE.  As of today, my grandmother had 11 children, 46 grandchildren, 119 great-grandchildren with 2 more on the way, and 10 great-great-grandchildren.  Of those 46 grandchildren, I am firstborn.

My earliest memories of my grandmother are of her earrings. She had these clip on earrings that were gold colored and had a single white cube with a black horizontal stripe going around it. She wore them with a black and white polyester dress.  She had icy blue eyes that you were just drawn to with her white face surrounded by dark, nearly black hair.  She was a beautiful woman and I called her “Grandma.”

When I was three or four, I attended a German Kindergarten school.  My father was in the military and we were stationed at a small post in northern Germany.  My grandparents came to visit us there when I was almost five.  They came with my mother to pick me up from school.  I had on a pale yellow dress with a sash in the back and tights that had started out white that morning, but by the time we left school, had managed to become the same dingy color as the sand I’d played in on the playground.  I introduced her to my German friends as my “Oma.”  She asked me what that meant.  I told her that it means “Grandma” in German.  From that moment on, she was known as “Oma.”

We were away a lot due to my dad’s career in the Army.  But we spent several summers and Christmases in El Paso at my Oma’s house.  I remember the short counter-bar that seemed to go for miles dividing her kitchen and den.  We somehow managed to cram as many chairs and people around it to eat.  It was so big to my young eyes.  When I went back to visit at nineteen, it looked as though only eight people could sit there comfortably.

Pink aluminum bathroom tiles, green painted cement floors, cherry jello with cottage cheese and pecans in it, that horrible autumn print couch that EVERY family owned in the 1980’s, baby blue Gran Torinos, adobe bricks, and wind-out windows all remind me of her house in El Paso.  After seventh grade, I never went back to El Paso to live.  I flew the coop at 17 and worked on the east coast for a number of years, coming home every couple of years for the holidays.  Christmas at Oma’s house was always hilarious.  When you get that many Irish people into one house with that much alcohol and gifts received the year (or years) before that have been re-wrapped with new paper and ribbons to be re-gifted to someone else, you have a recipe for funny.  There were songs and jokes and laughing and polyester pajamas and kids. Lots and lots of kids.

Oma loved to write poetry and watch game shows.  She loved Texas and the USA and had many pins and sweaters with flags on them.  She liked flowers, red lipstick, and the 4th of July.  She drove like a bat out of Hell to get to mass on time.  And Oma loved to remind us of how Irish our roots are.  Clearly, we inherited that Irish tradition to procreate.  Did I mention 11 children, 46 grandchildren and nearly 121 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren?

Mary Lou Nance Ivey, you will be missed but your legacy lives on.





Choosing My Happy

“Happiness is a choice.”

That’s what the sign says on my sister’s kitchen counter.  My eyes are drawn to it every time I climb up on one of her tall kitchen bar stools when I visit.  It’s placement is perfect.  It’s right next to the coffee pot, just seemingly taunting me and asking me if I’ve made the right choice today.  Well, duh.  Of course, I have.  I see the sign in my sister’s kitchen next to the coffee pot.  Obviously, I chose to come see her AND have a cup of coffee; two things that really get my happy on.

But there are days when I don’t.  There are days– okay, EVERY day– when my neighbor opens her front door to let her dog “walk” himself down to poop in front of my mailbox that I really want to choose rage and cursing.  And this is usually the same day that I find an empty fast food drink cup that my son’s best friend tossed out of his car window the night before in front of my house while he was waiting to pick him up.  And this is after I realize that the kids have drunk up the last of the coffee before I have a second cup.  And all I see is red.

And I remember to breathe in and out.  And I imagine that sign in my sister’s kitchen.  And I remember that it speaks truth.  “Happiness is a choice.”  And I breathe in and out again.  And I relax my throwing arm and put my favorite coffee cup in the sink.  I put on my hijab and grab my purse and car keys and head out to put my things in my car.  I walk down to the curb in front of my house and pick up the empty cup from the gutter. I walk over to the mailbox and scoop up the neighbor’s misplaced dog poop and walk two doors up and return it to its rightful place:  In front of HER mailbox.  Then I toss the empty cup over the fence to my backyard for proper disposal later.  And I realize that I AM happy.  I have chosen my happy.  I reach into my glove box and pull out my hand sanitizer and clean any garbage/fecal germs from my hands.  Then I start my car and head happily to the supermarket to buy more coffee.



The Little Things

He wakes me gently to let me know he’s leaving for work, because he knows that I have a little panic attack when I wake up and he’s not there.  He covers me up with the crocheted afghan, because he knows that I get cold even though I insist on sleeping with one foot poking out from under the covers to regulate my body temperature.  He leaves my coffee cup on the counter next to the pot, because he knows that while I can function in the morning without coffee, that I do so with only one eye open and it sometimes scares the kids when their mother looks like Popeye.  He calls me around lunch time, because he wants to check in and see how my day is going.  He always laughs and says “too much” when I ask him how much he loves me on the phone, and I know it’s true.  And when I teased him last night at dinner about how lucky he is that his wife is such a fabulous cook and gorgeous to boot, he laughed and agreed.  And today I will go about my regular errands to the bank and the grocery store and I will drive to west Dallas to the junk yard to pull a seat belt fastener from a van like his and surprise him with it, because I know he needs one as his doesn’t work properly.  And I’ll probably make lentils tonight because I know how much he loves them.

It really is the little things that make us happy.  And that’s a big thing.

I’m a Genius

Deep inside my head must look like one of those synapses images of the neurotransmitters.  You know the ones.  With the pale outline of the head on a black background with exploding white and blue lights all over where the brain is located.  At least in my mind, it looks like that.  (Probably a single flash cube on a Kodak Instamatic camera going off in 1973 is more accurate an image.  I digress.)

I think that my husband thinks that I am crazy.  Perhaps he is right.  We had so many arguments in the first few years of our marriage.  He would ask me a question and I’d answer it, but not before going around in a circle.  He would lose his cool and be shouting at me, “But what does any of that have to do with my question?!  I ask you for the time and you give me directions on how to build a clock!!”  Well, not true.  If he’d have waited and heard the last sentence, instead of interrupting me with that clock crap, he would have understood my Grasshopper wisdom and seen how amazingly bright I am.  But this kind of thing continued to happen until he finally got too old to argue and then listened one day.  Granted, we’d already been together 15 years by then.  But you know.  Welcome to the party.  Your wife’s a fucking genius.  She just talks circularly.

So, what kind of wisdom is going on in this big, honking brain of mine?  Not much.  It’s mostly filled with questions.  Occasionally, I discover answers and then file them away in my brain rolodex to be called upon when I need them for important events, such as, proving one of my teenagers is wrong or during a hot game of Trivial Pursuit.  But mostly, it’s just questions.  Here are some examples:

  1.  Am I ever going to finish this freaking novel that I started writing in 2010?
  2.  Is Rhythm really a dancer?
  3.  What am I going to make for dinner tonight?
  4.  Did I remember to hide my personal calendar on my phone before letting Randa play on it?  Oh shit!  I didn’t.  Too late.  She deleted all her doctors and dentist appointments. Crap.
  5.  Does Adam Levine REALLY have the moves like Jagger?
  6.  Will anyone notice that dust buffalo rolling under the rocking chair if I keep directing their attention to the new curtains?
  7.  No, really.  Will I get this novel published before I turn 60?
  8.  Why do I have so few followers on my blog? I’m friggin’ hilarious. Why don’t they like me?
  9.  I wonder if Ozzy really thought that Sharon was just going to keep taking his crap after all he’s done over the years. Huh. I guess she is…they’ve renewed their vows. 

I don’t know that I will ever know the answers to these questions.  But I do know that all 9 of those questions popped in and out of my head within a 4 second time period.  That’s not over the course of a whole week.  And I did manage to answer question 3.  I’m making chili because it’s flipping cold outside and I have most of the ingredients on hand.

I know that I will publish this novel one day.  I know that whether or not people comment on my blog posts or “like” them that they like them.  I like to think that Rhythm IS a dancer and that Adam Levine does have the moves like Jagger and that if I talk fast enough and keep everyone with access to the amazing food that I make and serve them, that no one will notice that dust buffalo under my rocking chair and they will ooh and aah over my new curtains.  I keep a list of Randa’s appointments in the roll top desk so I can always add them back into my calendar and hide it from the phone calendar.  And I give Sharon loyalty points for trying to stick with her marriage, even if Ozzy is, though musically brilliant, a giant dumb ass for not kissing her feet every day that she has tolerated his bullshit.

I told you I think circularly.



2017…Weirdly Wonderful; Sadly Joyful

This is the time that most writers (and you know, us wannabe-writers) sit back and reflect on the year as it winds down. So, in an effort to continue my aspiring writer efforts, I’ll do that today.  No, you don’t need to go get another coffee, sandwich or bottle of booze.  My life is pretty wrapped up  in what goes on in my house, so this won’t take long.  *Deep breath*  Here goes:

While 2017 ushered in the most inexperienced, narcissistic, and immature President in American history, it said goodbye to the best President and First Lady that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.  I guess the stand-up comics and late night television hosts are happy that their 8-year hiatus has ended and they once again have gainful employment.

I got to continue my participation in hosting the Starry Night Prom. 2017 was our Tenth Anniversary Prom and it was a smash hit!  I will always love this program, as it levels the social playing field for kids who tend to miss out on a lot of the high school experiences. We have already started fundraising for next year’s Starry Night Prom and are hoping to make it even better.

We lost several family members this year, including my favorite uncle and newborn nephew.  We mourned their leaving us and embraced our opportunities to practice the patience that God blessed us with during these difficult times. Their memories live on in our hearts.

My second and third children graduated from high school this year.  I cried doubly hard after I escorted my special needs daughter across the stage to receive her diploma.  Mostly, I cried tears of pride and joy.  But a few relief tears were flowing, that she didn’t cuss out the principal or yell at (too many) of those in the front row applauding.  She doesn’t like noise, so this was really hard for her.  My son, who walked across the stage just before his sister, was also grateful that she did well and didn’t embarrass him.

I lost my “eggplant”- my little 3-cylinder car.  But my sweet brother drove up from Austin and gave me a Mazda SUV.  What a guy! That car was the reliable transportation for nearly a year, in this family.   But with the number of errands/carpools I have to do with all of the kids in all of the places, I was beginning to sweat from spending more time at the gas station than in my kitchen.  Then my husband bought me a Hyundai.  The men in my life are (and always have been) such a blessing to me. From my dad and my brother, to my husband and my three amazing sons, I know that I am loved.

My younger daughter was accepted to several fantastic colleges, complete with dean’s scholarships.  She got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Texas Rangers baseball game in September and to meet Matthew McConaughey.  She also started a new job this year at a fast-food restaurant and her brother got a job at another restaurant.  My oldest son made some hard choices about his health this year and is hopefully on his way to becoming healthier.  My youngest son has come to some realizations about his future and is now considering more than just “gaming” as a career choice.

We have had some ups and downs, but we are grateful for all of them. Without one, we wouldn’t recognize the other.  We need them both to give us hope and to keep us grounded.  We’re overall happy.  And for all of it, I am grateful.  May your New Year be full of opportunities and good choices.


A Starry Night Setback

I was saddened just now to read on our Starry Night Prom fundraiser page the following message from #GivingTuesday:

” #GivingTuesday Match Report

On Nov 28, we raised $45 million for causes around the world. Unfortunately, your fundraiser didn’t receive a match this year, but from all of us at Facebook, thank you for being part of our fundraising community.”
We were really hoping that the matching would kick start our fundraising efforts to alleviate the usual last minute scramble that we do each year.  But that didn’t happen.
The good news is, I am an optimist.  This is part of the uniform we Vice-Presidents of Donations wear.  And so, I will polish my Donations Star, put it back on my chest, and continue to raise money for this truly amazing cause for an even more amazing group of kids.  Our silver lining is that we have raised $869, so far, toward the 2018 Starry Night Prom.  And that is $869 that we did not have on Cyber Monday.
That said, good donors and potential donors, we still have until December 5, 2017 to raise more money for this fundraiser.  Please give.  We truly appreciate your support.  Please share these posts, even if you have already donated or are not in a position to do so at this time.  Perhaps someone on your friends list will be able.  Thank you.

Set Your Alarms for 8 O’Clock Tuesday Morning, Y’all


We are so excited! Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday.  We are so stoked to be participating in the fundraising again this year.  You know what is so cool about giving on the 28th of November, though?  Facebook AND the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be matching all nonprofits donations after 8 a.m. on Tuesday, 28 November 2017, up to $50,000 until 11:59 p.m.!  Yes, that’s right.  That means that if you donate $20 to us tomorrow, Starry Night Prom will receive $60.  Isn’t that the coolest?!

So, please, anytime after 8 a.m. EST tomorrow, please click on THIS SECURE FUNDRAISER LINK and donate whatever you feel comfortable giving to help our cause, and those funds will be matched.  We appreciate your help.  Your generous donations are how we are able to provide an all expenses paid prom for the Arlington ISD high school students with significant disabilities each year.

Starry Night Prom is a registered 501 (c)(3) Non-Profit Organization.

Starry Night Prom 2018 Fundraiser Kickoff!

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Starry Night Prom is about to kick off its 2018 Fundraising efforts by participating in the #GivingTuesday fundraiser.  We have updated our own fundraiser on the YouCaring website and we’ve set up our #GivingTuesday fundraiser on Facebook. And guess what!  Once again, Facebook is waiving their usual fees for all donations made from 12:00am EST on November 28, 2017 to 11:59pm HST on November 28, 2017.  Isn’t that awesome?  But wait!  That’s not all!

On #GivingTuesday, Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be matching up to $2 million of funds raised on Facebook for US nonprofits.  For more information about the matching, please click RIGHT HERE TO THE GivingTuesday Information on Facebook.   

Please donate to this magical cause and level the social playing field for some of Arlington’s most amazing students.  Support the Starry Night Prom! Thank you.