WARNING: Don’t Watch If You Have a Weak Stomach!!!

I haven’t been feeling well today. Dizziness coupled with puking, and then this to finish off the day…

Shin In-House Surgery

This is what the area looked like before the cutting and the digging

SERIOUSLY…don’t watch this if gross things make you queasy!

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Another Red-Headed Stranger

I don’t know if it’s the pain or the pain medicine or not being able to workout or not being able to make any decisions about what’s happening next in my life, but I’ve been somewhat of an emotional wreck as of late.

I’ve felt awful about the burden I’ve placed on my family, so I thought taking them to a Willie Nelson concert in Midland would be a fun change of scenery for all of us. It turned out that my body wasn’t ready for even a short road trip. I got sick, and we had to leave, not even halfway through the concert. I felt like a complete ass and sobbed apologies to my parents and older brother until I finally fell asleep in the back of the car.

I had to call my insurance company to get some clarification on a statement I had received, and I cried over the phone with the sweet agent on the other end of the line. I don’t know why. I just felt overwhelmed and couldn’t hold it in apparently. She obviously didn’t know what to say to the crazy lady crying on the other end of the line (me), but she tried to be positive and reassuring. I completely appreciated her being so nice and not hanging up on me, but all I could think to myself was, “How can I make myself stop crying long enough to just get the answers I need and crawl back under the covers…”

Fast forward a few hours, and the blue ray player that has been my connection to some semblance of sanity through this whole process (it streams Netflix and Hulu and provides hours of documentary, TV show, and movie watching entertainment…seemingly pathetic, but it is what it is), decided to start acting up. I was not feeling great but maybe okay enough for a quick trip to Best Buy to make the exchange.

Did you know that Best Buy has a 15 day return/exchange policy?? I didn’t either! So the first person to “help” me at the customer service desk was clearly a couple ants short of a picnic or just had zero interest of participating in the problem solving exercise in which I was trying to engage her. So I asked for a manager. A guy walked by wearing a Geek Squad tie and badge…yes, badge–like those plastic toy badges 4-year-olds wear on Halloween–and he identified himself as a “supervisor.” I told him that I had recently had surgery and was interested in getting out of there as quickly as possible because I was in quite a bit of pain. I told him I had no idea that they had a 15 day return/exchange policy and wondered if there was any wiggle room, considering that I had only purchased the thing 18 days before (3 days after their policy allows). He was rude and just an all-around jackass. I told him that I wasn’t an expert, but I knew that electronics were not supposed to stop working after less than 3 weeks of having made the purchase. He told me my only option was to have them send it to the manufacturer, which would take at least 2-3 weeks.

Fine…that’s the only option, “So, what do I need to do,” I asked the jerk…let’s call him Biff. “You’ll need to fill out the top three lines of this form,” Biff replied. It literally took me 13 seconds to fill it out, but Biff had vanished. I sat there…and sat there…and sat there. Twenty-five minutes had gone by, and even my sugary sweet mother was annoyed with this guy’s inconsiderate behavior. A nice guy behind the counter asked if there was anything he could do for me. I said, “Yes, please tell that asshole in the Geek Squad tie that he is the absolute worst supervisor I have ever encountered. Please also tell him that I will never be stepping foot in another Best Buy again, and it is his fault. Please understand I’m not mad at you, and none of this is your fault. But I am just completely shocked that this is the kind of person in a leadership position within this company.” The nice guy apologized profusely, and I continued to tell him that it wasn’t his fault as I crutched away from the counter.

I was visibly pissed and holding it together by a thread when this lovely angel with red hair walked by and asked if there was anything she could do for me. “Yes. Can you tell me if you guys have a comment box or there’s someone higher up than the jerk who just vanished after I told him that I just had surgery and wanted to get this taken care of quickly,” I asked her. She looked at me with a bit of shock on her face, and as she literally shook it off, she said “Absolutely, but can I maybe try to help you?” I told her that I would love it if she could. Her name was Amanda, and she was the manager. She walked us over to her register and even brought over a chair, so I wouldn’t have to stand any longer. I explained the situation to her, and she said it would be no problem to exchange the player. Within seconds, she was able to make that determination and change the entire dynamic of the trip to Best Buy. She worked quickly and efficiently but still managed to show more than a modicum of humanity and asked what kind of surgery I had. She was so sweet and so caring, and as I explained to her how they cut my shin bone and moved it over, then moved over my knee cap, cut the tendon on the outside of my knee to release my knee cap into the proper position, and reattached all my ligaments and tendons with a plate and two screws, I started crying. In the middle of Best Buy, for seemingly no reason at all, the water works started. Amanda put her hand on my shoulder and told me how sorry she was, and then she handed me her card and said if I ever needed anything I should contact her directly. I thanked her and told her that I just wanted to give her a hug for being so kind. When she walked away, I looked up at my mom and said, “What the hell is wrong with me?? I cried on the phone with the insurance lady this morning too!”
“Why did you cry on the phone with the insurance lady,” Mom asked me. “I have no idea. I was just asking her questions about the statement, and I was so confused, and I just started crying.”
She just looked at me and said, “It’s been a rough couple of days. Sometimes it’s okay to cry.”

I don’t like crying. I especially don’t like crying in public because stress or emotions or whatever have gotten the best of me. I don’t like not having the answers. As adventurous and “fly by the seat of my pants” as I can be, I don’t like not knowing. But maybe, just maybe, it’s okay to not have the answers. Maybe Mom is right–as unnatural and awful as it feels, sometimes, it’s just okay to cry…even if it’s in the middle of Best Buy or on the phone with the customer service representative at my insurance agency.

Batkid and Mankind

batkidI was going to write about the great time I had speaking to the amazing group of women (and men) of the Texas Democratic Women (TDW) group, and I will definitely do that soon. But something else has truly inspired and excited me today.

I understand how easy it is to feel jaded and lose hope in humanity. Every day there is some new reason to feel hopeless, alone, and like there’s no reason to have faith in humanity. But today, we were reminded that people are really not as depraved and heartless as it might otherwise seem. Through the efforts and orchestration of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the kindness of thousands of San Francisco volunteers, including local police and elected officials, a little boy got to play “Batkid” and save “Gotham City.” In what is being called one of the most elaborate Make-A-Wish events ever seen, sweet little 5-year-old Miles got to play Batman with his little brother playing his sidekick, Robin. The day was complete with a Batmobile, villains, damsels in distress, and thousands of fans cheering this little man on along the way…oh yes, and let’s not forget the shout out “Batkid” got from the President! The story of the San Francisco Batkid is one that will hopefully be remembered for years to come.

Yes, this was exciting and sweet and gave everyone watching that warm, fuzzy feeling. It was amazing, and batkid GC Chroniclein a lot of ways, it reassured me. It would have been just as easy for all of those people who volunteered to stay home. It would have been more convenient for them to make an excuse about being too busy. There are a million and one reasons those thousands of people could have created to stay home…but they didn’t.

I have believed for a long time that people really are inherently good. I believe that faced with helping someone at your doorstep in need or closing the door in their face, the vast majority of people will choose the former. But I also believe it has become increasingly easy to dehumanize people–this includes our brothers and sisters on the other side of the planet and our next-door neighbors. As long as it’s not our child, our father or cousin or sister or best friend, we can very easily dismiss other human beings as faceless, nameless people who aren’t deserving of our time and attention. But this isn’t who we are. This is not the real driving force behind what connects all of us. And Things like the San Francisco Batkid and all the people who didn’t make excuses, helps me to continue believing in the greater good of humanity.

Extended Family

If you know me or have read my blog, you know that there are things that I’ve never and will never get on board with as far as my Middle Eastern culture is concerned. But one of the things I’ve always appreciated about my culture and heritage is the importance of family. I have “aunts” and “uncles” who actually have no blood relation at all but that would absolutely walk into oncoming traffic for my family and me, and we would do the same for them. Some have been in our lives since before I was born, like my Tetha Soad (tetha is grandmother in Arabic). I lost all of my grandparents by the time I was 8 years old, and Tetha Soad has not been “like” my grandmother; she IS my grandmother. Others have entered into our lives more recently. But the thing every one of those people have in common is that they are family.

Of course, when I was a kid, I found the constant get-togethers and dinners and luncheons tedious when I was younger. When I was younger, we would all get together once a month at least for a dinner. There was a rotation in place, and each family would get to choose the restaurant when it was their turn…I called it the monthly meeting of Arabs-Americans Unite. I don’t know where that came from or why, except for I’m pretty certain I thought I was being awfully clever.

I understand that I have gifts and reminders and blessings all around me. And I get that I am fortunate to have the love and support that I do. But this whole thing is still not easy–not leaving the house because it hurts too much, not being able to wear anything that doesn’t resemble maternity clothes, not being able to work out, gaining weight, looking down in the shower and seeing that my leg muscles are almost completely atrophied, not being able to work full time, missing my cousin’s surprise 40th birthday party in Mexico, not having a functioning phone because I dropped it in the toilet because my knee gave out, not being able to walk or run my dogs or even cuddle with them…just some of the things that are difficult to deal with.

But last night, after having not left my parents’ house in days and not really feeling up to even leaving then, I received a reminder of just how amazing and special my extended family really is. This beautiful group and diverse group are from Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, and everywhere in between. No family has the same story or has walked the same path, yet there is such a deep and sincere understanding of each other and so much unconditional love.

Everyone was invited over to my aunt and uncle’s lake house for dinner. I wasn’t feeling well most of the day, but I knew that if I didn’t go, my mom wouldn’t to leave me home by myself. So mom helped me into the shower, I got dressed, and even put on makeup (begrudgingly of course, but when your mom says “Why don’t you put on a little makeup. You’ll feel better if you look alive,” somehow you suddenly feel compelled to do so). This was my first outing that didn’t include a doctor, wheelchair rental, or quick Christmas fix at the local holiday store since the big surgery, and I was feeling a little bit nervous. The nerves came partly because the pain had been so intense and partly because I knew that everyone would look so nice and put together, and I would look like a grade-A bum in my over-sized yoga pants and long-sleeved t-shirt. My parents helped load me into the car. My brother drove, dad sat in the front seat, and my mom sat in the back with me so that I could stretch my leg over her lap. And even as my brother was pulling the car out of the garage, I was thinking “I don’t feel good. I don’t want to go. I should just tell them to go and just let me stay home.” I didn’t say anything though. This meant so much to my parents, and I didn’t want to ruin their night because I didn’t feel well and was sad I couldn’t wear real clothes.

I should have known better. I should have remembered that they have seen me at my very worst and my very best. They’ve seen me decked out in formal dresses, and they’ve seen me as a sweaty, nasty mess right after a game. They could have cared less what I was wearing or what I looked like. They cared about how I was feeling and if I needed anything more than anything else.

Middle Eastern tradition says that whenever you walk into the house, you greet every single person with a hug and the double cheek kiss. But one of my uncles immediately pulled up a chair and said, “Sit down, sit down! Everyone can come say hi to you!!” Shortly after that one of my aunts suggested that I go to the back living room area where the sectional was, so that I could prop up my legs and be more comfortable. We laughed and talked and told stories for hours. They asked me how I was feeling and were actually interested when I explained how some days are better than others, and how the bad days just suck the life right out of me. When they asked me what I’ve been up to or how I was doing, they were genuinely interested in my answers and not just filling time or regurgitating pleasantries. Before dinner started I listened as our Syrian family openly shared their fear and grief over lost loved ones or the potential of losing loved ones because of all of the turmoil and bombings, and then observed as everyone rallied around them with prayers and words of comfort. There was such honesty and transparency, which is not a new phenomenon, but for some reason, last night, I saw it and absorbed it. And it meant the world to me.

After dinner, several aunts and cousins rotated sitting by me on the couch–some wanted to catch up, some wanted to hear about the surgery, and some wanted business/marketing advice. One of my cousins even made me a plate of dessert and brought me coffee. When I started telling her I couldn’t eat dessert because I can’t workout, and I’ve already gained enough weight as it is, she just said, “No, no. You have to eat at least some of it because if you have dessert and I have dessert, that cancels out our calorie intake!” Ohhhh if wishing made it so…but wishing or not, you better believe I enjoyed that dessert!

Eventually the pain in my leg got to be too much, and I needed to get home. Every aunt, every uncle, every cousin came to me to say goodbye and give me their final prayers and well-wishes for the night. And as much pain as I was in, I got that warm, fuzzy feeling inside. I couldn’t help but pause for a moment and be so grateful for the series of events that had to happen to bring us all to that very place during that very time.

There are so many stories, so many incredible turns and twists of fate that made these relationships possible. They are stories that need to be told, and I promise that I will tell them–but not just yet. For now, I just want to thank my mom for helping me get out of the house, and that quirky, hilarious, concerned, and considerate adopted family of mine for being so genuine and amazing.

iPhones and Toilets

iphone in rice

Judge if you must, but I indiscriminately talk to my close friends and certain family members while in the bathroom. Seeing as how my balance is currently shot, and I have to crutch my way everywhere, I have been careful to use my headphones and put my phone in my pocket when having this special bathroom phone conversations–That way I wouldn’t drop my phone on the floor or in the toilet while trying to balance myself on one leg and balance my phone using my neck and shoulder. It seemed to be a method that worked just fine until Saturday night.

Saturday was somewhat mild as far as the pain was concerned. Mornings have consistently been the worst, and Saturday was no different. But going into the afternoon and evening, I actually felt pretty good. That was until I went to the bathroom, and placed my phone (attached to my headphones) on the counter right next to the toilet. I lost my balance and flailed my arms in just a perfect way that my hand got stuck in the headphones and sent the phone flying directly into the toilet. If there is a silver lining, it is that I had not actually gone to the restroom yet, and I was able to get it out fairly quickly. The bad news, it immediately stopped working, AND I tweaked my right leg and knee in a way that had me in more pain than I’d been all day…it sucked, a lot, but instead of pretending like I’m not a grade-A cluts, I’m choosing to share it.

I did the things they tell you to do…shut off the phone right away and shake out and soak up as much of the water as you can. Years ago, I dropped my phone in my dogs’ water bowl. It was completely kaput, and even though I had three phones at that time in my life, I was still certain the world was going to stop spinning on its axis. My little brother told me of a method he had used before–wrap the phone in a large towel, and secure it with rubber bands, then put it in the clothes dryer. So this is where I started last night. With the help of my mother of course, I wrapped up the phone and stuck it in the dryer. A while later, the thing turned on, but it only worked and stayed on when plugged in. I figured that at least it turned on, and I could figure out what to about it the next morning.

The next morning came, and now my phone no longer worked and was instead flashing the Apple logo at me. I tried to turn it on and off, plug it in, unplug it, plug it into the external battery pack, and basically everything else I could think of….no dice. I’ve never tried the rice method (fill a ziploc bag with rice and submerge your iPhone in it for at least 24 hours), but I was and am desperate and willing to try anything. So, as it stands, a $3 bag of brown rice stands between me and having to drop a stupid amount of money on a new phone.

The good news is that it seems everything has been backed up properly, and earlier Saturday, I got all of my music and pictures onto my laptop. That’s definitely good news, and the opposite happening could have made this situation even worse. And while I would like to pretend that I’m feeling liberated or something wonderful because I don’t have my phone attached to my every movement, I don’t. I hate it. All day today I wanted to reach for my phone to do things and couldn’t–check the weather? Nope. Check the scores of all the games on my lovely ESPN app? Not a chance. Look up news stories pertaining to the conversations we were having at our family Sunday brunch? No can do. Oh, and then of course there’s making phone calls to friends and family like I usually do on Sundays–that didn’t happen either.

I know there are unbelievably horrible things happening all across our country and around the world. I understand that in the grand scheme of things, a non-functioning cell phone isn’t that big of a deal. But I’m in pain, can’t move or walk very well or drive or travel in any way, and right now, my lifeless cell phone is stressful and frustrating, and one more potential financial burden that I could do without right now.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow when I pull my phone out of the rice…in the meantime, fingers are crossed and prayers going up.

*Please note that none of the things I’ve mentioned are based on any sort of scientific fact or research, so try at your own risk!!

When My Mom Saw the Tattoo on My Ass

If you have kids who say they want tattoos, let me talk to them…it turns out those things don’t ever go away!!

Saying I was rebellious when I was young is quite an understatement. While I know that part of it was just the way I was and still am wired, there were also very specific situations that carried me over the line from rebellious to whatever the word is when ‘rebellious’ is no longer sufficient. I won’t go through each of these events now, but one of the big things that shaped who I am is my culture and heritage. I am a first generation, Palestinian-American, raised Catholic, and born to two very conservative, very traditional parents. I learned from a very early age that what I was expected to want out of life, according to my culture, and what I actually wanted out of life, were completely different. The expectation was that I would get married, make babies, and be a good wife and mother. SIDE NOTE: My parents and I grew out of the phase of hating each other around the time I went to college, and we are still extremely close…back to naughty Rania.

At the ripe old age of 15, I decided I was going to get a tattoo, and so I did–a classy, psychedelic-looking sunflower with a basketball in the middle that I had placed on my lower, right hip. I was so proud of it and feeling even more ballsy than usual, so I decided to get yet another tattoo. Because, you know, what 15-year-old doesn’t need a two tattoos?? About two weeks after my first, I got a tattoo of a bright green frog, holding a basketball of course, directly in the middle of my right ass cheek.

For months I was looking over my shoulder, making sure every door was locked. Gone were the days of running around the house in a sports bra and sweat pants. I was completely paranoid that my mom was going to catch me changing, and the cat would be out of the bag. So I did what any teenage kid would do…I told her the truth and swore her to secrecy. I made her promise she wouldn’t yell at me, ground me, and especially, that she would not tell my dad. It was such an unfair ask, but after she had sufficiently tried to scrub the tattoo off my hip, she kept my secret. For months and months, whenever my dad was around, she would hide her anger and frustration and disappointment, at least until he left the room.

But then one day, God got bored and wanted a laugh at my expense. We found out during my sophomore year of high school that I had a heart condition that would cause me to pass out. The three times I did pass out were during or immediately after a game. The doctors and specialists ran tests and drew blood, and eventually, through the miracle of medicine, everything was under control. That was all until I came down with an sinus infection and had to take antibiotics that counteracted with my heart medication. I passed out in the hallway of my high school, and as luck would have it, the school nurse on duty that day knew my dad, so after calling 911, she called my dad to come to the school–this is particularly interesting because from grade school through high school, if there was ever a parent called, it was always my mom. Here’s where God’s sense of humor reaches epic proportion…the ambulance arrived, and as they were lifting me from the wheelchair to the stretcher my sweater came up just enough to expose my lovely body art to my dad. I was passed out, so I had no idea that had happened. But when I woke up in the hospital and saw my dad’s face, I immediately knew that he knew…and I was in trouble. As certain as I was that my dad was going to kill me, he didn’t. He did, however, let me test drive my dream car just before my 16th birthday and then let me know I wasn’t getting it because of the tattoo…that fun little game continued for months. But I did survive, and I made it all the way to my 20s without my parents knowing about the frog tattoo.

How, you may wonder, would my mom ever see the frog on my butt?? Funny story…I was married once. I’m now happily divorced, but there leading up to the wedding, the Middle Eastern culture dictates a big fancy engagement party must take place. I pretty much came out of the womb a tomboy, wearing basketball shorts. I’m the only girl my parents have, and all my mom has ever wanted was a pink loving, pearl wearing, frills and lace embracing, girly girl, but instead, she got stuck with me. So you can imagine her excitement at her getting to put me in a dress, and I wasn’t going to fight her on it–well not much anyway. She came home with at least 15 dresses, and I swear if I could have worn all of them in the same night she would have been in heaven. I couldn’t of course, so we started a marathon session of trying on dresses. Dress 11 was this skin tight, spaghetti strap dress that looked like a mix of a sunset and someone had spilled rainbow sherbet all over it. The whole damn thing was pretty much different shades of pink (to this day, I don’t do pink unless I’m tricked into it), and I knew that there was not a chance that I would wear it in public. But to humor my mom and see her smile, I put the thing on. I walked out of her bedroom, and while she may have had tears in her eyes, they didn’t last long. My mom said “Oh Rania, you look so beautiful…why can’t you just look like a lady this one night??” And then she asked me to do a little turn. “Wait…turn around again…” and all of a sudden my mom’s face was just inches from my ass, “You have a tattoo on your butt??!! Oh my gosh!! What is wrong with you??!! You let some tattoo man look at your butt??!!!” It took me the better part of the next 3 years to convince her that I did not decide to get tattoo on my rear end as an adult, and certainly would not have chosen a frog holding a basketball at that point in my life. I had to walk her through it no fewer than 100 times before she finally believed me. Regardless, she was mortified and also just couldn’t believe that she was so oblivious for so many years.

Now let’s fast forward about 9 years from that little incident to present day. In my current state, my mom has to help me do everything–go to the bathroom, bedroom, or anywhere else I need to go. She has to help me stand up, sit down, prop my legs up…you get the picture. The day before yesterday, I finally got so sick of being a greasy mess and decided that somehow, I was going to take a shower. My mom and dad’s good friends brought over a shower seat for me to use, which was very helpful. But my mom still had to get my undressed and situated in said shower seat. My mom hasn’t seen me naked since I was a kid, and she has never seen the frog outside of that day she saw it through that monstrosity of a dress. I was in so much pain during the whole ordeal of preparing to take a shower that none of this even crossed my mind. I finally got out of the shower, dressed, and back to my horizontal position on the couch when it occurred to me that my mom had just seen me completely naked! “Did she see the tattoo? Is she upset all over again because she’s just been reminded what an awful kid I was?? Is she feeling that deep-rooted disappointment that she always felt when I was a kid? Oh poor mom!!” All things that cross the mind of someone who is not only incapable of releasing that proverbial Catholic guilt, but is also on pain meds. After going back and forth with myself for a couple of hours, I decided the best thing I could do would be to just ask her, so I did…she didn’t even notice it and had forgotten about it!

The moral of this story…don’t get tattoos of amphibians on your butt or anywhere else for that matter. Don’t forget that you won’t play sports your entire life, so maybe it’s not a great idea to get your sport permanently tattooed on your body. And there’s a reason 15-year-olds should not get anything permanently placed on their body!! Lesson learned, and in case I ever forget it, I have my darling parents who say things like, “I can’t wait until you have kids! And when YOUR daughter says she wants a tattoo, I’m going to make sure she sees your first two!”

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends…and Family

pity party instrumentYesterday had the potential to be so unbelievably miserable. I woke up in worse pain than I was having even when it was really awful in the hospital…you know when they ask you, “on a scale from 1-10, where is your pain?” Well mine was at 15, and it seems my body wasn’t really digging it either because I couldn’t stop puking for most of the day. I’m not much of a crier, but I had huge, baby girl tears running down my face. And of course, my amazing mother who wants nothing more than for me to feel okay, was just beside herself because she didn’t know how to help me. Between the pain and the puking and reality of not being able to move a whole lot, I was starting to lose it. And as mentally tough as I can be, I can also be the grand master of the pity parties. I was headed in that pity party direction–I was feeling miserable and worthless, and the questions started in my head…What if it takes longer than expected to recover? What if I never do anything meaningful with my life ever again? What if I can never run again? What if the pain never goes away? Are the “random security searches” I’m always subjected to when I travel by plane going to get worse because I now have a plate and two screws in my right leg? Will the sky fall? Will I be in such bad shape that I won’t be able to watch the Dr. Who Anniversary Special? Okay, so maybe no so much the last couple…but you get the picture.

The doctor made me change all of my medications, which sent my mom and dad all over town trying to get that done as efficiently as possible–thank you Mom and Dad for running around town and helping to make me feel better!!! And just as I was rounding the corner into the land of Irrationalville, the messages and calls started.

Best Friend TherapyMy fairy godmother called and talked to me until my parents got back from their multiple pharmacy trips. She stayed on the phone and distracted me from the pain and sadness I was feeling. She and I don’t get to talk as much anymore because our schedules have been crazy over the past year, so getting that much time was a small miracle in and of itself. My fairy godmother, who will come up often, saved me from the abusive relationship I was in, and then she helped me find myself again. And talking to her reminds me that not only do I have the strength to overcome just about anything, I have the support and love around me to help me along the way…she also turned me into a girl, which of course, formed an instant love connection between she and my mother, but that’s another story for another time.

Shortly after, I found out one of my very best friends was cutting his trip to LA short and coming back through Leo helping me work on my computerLubbock earlier than expected. And his new arrival time just so happened to be the Our Three Little Babiesday that I was on the verge of a meltdown. He and I co-parent three, four-legged furry babies (2 girls and 1 boy…dogs), and this accidental, perfectly timed trip meant I was going to get to see my son too! I have a cousin who swears that I love animals more than humans, and maybe sometimes it’s true. But look at these faces…they just want to love and cuddle and be sweet. Leo even wanted to help me get my work done, and the three of them together is just love and happiness at it’s finest.

A little bit later in the day, I got the most wonderful message from a woman that I have looked up to for a lot of years. When I was in college, I worked as a TA for elementary-aged children with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Up until that point, I never thought I could teach. I thought that my patience was far too thin, and there were entirely too many ways that I could really mess up a kid’s life. Then I met this spectacular teacher and her amazing students. I fell in love with all of them, and they taught me how big of an impact teachers can have on their student’s lives. This experience led me to teaching overseas and helping some of my students seek out the freedom they had only dreamed about before. This experience also led to my teaching teenagers who had been in trouble with the law in Travis County. Some of those kids had never in their lives been told they were smart or capable or special. They had just been passed on from class to class, believing they were “thugs” or they were “bad” because that is all they had every been told. I was able to break through that barrier over and over, and it is in large part because of this person who taught me the importance of teaching so many years before. She changed my life, and she inspired me. And yesterday she told me that I was her hero.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and I received a text message from my older brother. At this point, my mom had told him all about my day, that I was puking, etc. My brother put on adult, pink footy pajamas that were fashioned Ramzi as Ralphieto look like the rabbit PJs Ralphie got in A Christmas Story, complete with the Red Ryder BB Gun. He took a picture and texted it to me just to make me laugh (I will decide by the end of this post whether or not I am going to include that amazing little gem my brother shared with me, or if I’ll save him the humiliation). My brothers and I have always been very close. We’ve had our ups and downs like all sibling, but mostly, people look at us like we’re so weird because we actually love being around each other. My brothers have always been my best friends. They’ve always believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. And while our family is very traditional in so many ways (something I’m sure I will write about in future posts), no one has supported me more than or encouraged me more than my brothers…what a great reminder of how lucky I am to have parents and brothers who don’t find my whining and complaining to be absolutely annoying!

When I was in New York a couple of weeks ago with my cousin (who’s really more like my sister) and her Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 12.18.10 AMamazing  girlfriend, we got a lot done…we celebrated her birthday Texas-style in Brooklyn, went to this oddly wonderful church that was housed in an old theater, did some home improvement projects (where I’m fairly certain her girlfriend thought we were insane and would be headed to the emergency room…but really, who needs a vice grip when using a circular saw??), made a great dinner and watched football, and we somehow got onto the subject of how amazing corn dogs are and that as adults, we should be enjoying them much more…she texted me saying that while she can’t get my favorite New York delicacy, Gray’s Papaya,to me, she could ship me some amazing corn dogs! Seriously…who has family like that?!

Reminder from BarbWhen I arrived in North Dakota in early September of 2012, I was supposed to be there for a few months, and that was it. When it was time to go, the hardest and most shocking thing was just how sad I was to leave. I left North Dakota with a lot of new friends and new family. One of my closest friends was kind enough to share his parents with me while I was there. They invited me in and made me feel at home. When his father passed away earlier this year, we were all devastated. But he, his mom, and I continued to be close, maybe even closer. Today, she sent me the most beautiful card, wishing for me to get well, and reminding me that she loves me and thinks about me all the time. I just love this woman so much, and her kind words were so sweet and so perfectly timed…just another reason to be grateful.

All of this, on top of the countless phone calls, emails, and text messages from friends and family. Then there were visits from friends and family. It’s just nice to see their faces, but they never come empty handed–flowers and cakes and cards, and one of my sweet friends and her husband even brought Chicken Express because she knew how awful the hospital food was! No, things aren’t exactly great or how I pictured they’d be right now. But holy crap that’s a lot of love from so many amazing people. And while pretending that everything is perfect isn’t really my style, I do know I have so much to be grateful for, and that is pretty good inspiration to hold onto a positive attitude and maybe let those rainbows and unicorns stick around for a bit longer.