Cajun, concepts, Epiphanies, experience, Faith, family, Liver, philosophy, relationships

“You’re pregnant, again?!”

“You two need to get cable.”

“You know what causes that, right?”

“What are you going to do?!”

And then sometimes you really do get the sincerely genuine, “Congratulations! Children are such a blessing!”

But most of the time it’s a comment accompanied with a look of pity. It probably has to do with the look of exhaustion I wear daily—it doesn’t really blend well with the Mac concealer.

Yes. I am pregnant with baby number four. Now that I’m etching past the 12 week mark and the first trimester of exhaustion and nausea, the reality of what I am about to embark upon is overwhelming. It wasn’t “supposed” to happen for another year. I needed to finish grad school. My oldest is just entering pre-k and is not even four years old yet. I thought I’d have more time to prepare…as best as one prepares for four small children.

It seems like the female reproductive system is such a commonly discussed topic among media outlets and politicians. I’ve read so many blogs that talk about what we should and should not talk about with one another. But as more people discover our news, I feel like I have to have some type of stance as to why I am choosing to be so open to life. I may not seem very convincing in person because I am just so tired. 

This week I had my new students read my short story, “The Liver Philosophy”. The moral of the story is to do what is right for you, even if no one else gets it. I had my students write a summary of what they felt it meant and quite a few of them wrote about some of their own choices that they are willing to be a “Liver” for. It was both insightful and inspiring. What moved me more is that I had forgotten to live out the very words I had once wrote!

I know that having a large family is not what everyone desires. I know that being open to “God’s will” is very open to interpretation. I also know that I am not one to judge other people’s choices, as long as they can respect mine.

I don’t know what I am going to do. My motto is that I tend to take life 50 minutes at a time. It’s the teacher in me. Every time the bell rings, a new class begins and anything and everything can change. It carries over into my home life. A meltdown one moment can lead to giggles the next.

Having my children so close together is hard. I’m really finally admitting it out loud. Maybe that’s one of the reasons you have to be open to God to have bigger families. You have to pray a lot for your sanity and you also have to admit that you need other people. It’s a hard thing to do when you have a lot of pride and you were once so independent, but then you look around and you see that you have a real family and real friends who live and celebrate this one life with you.

I sometimes question if I’m making the right choice, but then today happens. After a chaotic day, my three boys will be so sweet. And we do something random like “chase the sun”, which involves driving down an open highway to watch the gorgeous sunset while listening to The Postal Service. And they talk to one another like brothers do and say in an almost synchronized, rehearsed manner, “Good night, Sun,” to the melody of how we read, “Good Night Moon.” And I think, Yes. I can have another. I will survive thrive.

See you in February Baby Bou:)

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Cajun, concepts, connections, Epiphanies, experience, Faith, family, Liver, personal, relationships, writing

The preamble to proposal

This was something I wrote a few months ago when Jon and I first returned from Oregon. It’s remarkable how things grow:)

MARRIAGE TALK

We have now talked about marrying one another more so than I have with any other suiter….combined.

This morning we discussed what weddings meant to both of us while nibbling on an egg and cheese omelet that he overcooked in one of my great grandma’s thirty-year-old pots. The subject first came up during our drive back from Oregon. We were rounding a curve outside of Astoria when he mentioned that his stepfather asked if I were the last girlfriend he was ever going to bring home. He said he replied that he, “hoped so.”

That was an emotional first for me. I respected the fact that he pointed out that we don’t know what the future brings, but that it would be a cruel joke of the universe if we weren’t to work out. However, I’ve never really had anyone say that they wanted to spend their life with me. Any doubt I had prior to that moment seemed to disappear and the hopefulness has yet to wear off.

Most of my doubts were caused by initial fear of our differences. But as I allowed myself to not necessarily be “right” and I remained as nonjudgmental as possible, he grew to be something I never expected.

Both of us have been exposed to  fast-paced marriage traditions. His mother met his stepfather online and then he moved from Germany after several meetings to marry her. Not only did I just witness the whirl wind romance with my sister Meggan, but it turns out my father’s parents met and wed fairly quick as well.

The kicker: the couple who introduced us only dated for a few months and then were married. Seven years later, they are still such a strong model of love that lasts. I know that he and I both take the commitment pretty seriously and I can’t even believe that the discussion resurfaced again as we cooked for the first time in my home.

While cooking turkey fajitas, he told me that my father had stopped by the shop that afternoon to pick something up. Ronnie, his uncle,  told him later that his “father-in-law” had stopped by. At first Jon was confused, but then once the connection was made, he laughed.

I reveled silently, as to not make any assumptions. Hmmm. Most guys would not even retell that story due to it’s nature. He could easily have not told me at all, but part of him wanted me to know that they joke on that level. I was about to tip my head to overanalyzation, when he made the comment that the thought of marrying me wasn’t scary.

What?

I knew the thought was mutual for me. I mean who wouldn’t want to marry me? Turns out, quite a few. But could it be that there is someone actually really right for me? Or was I just starting to like the idea that he felt that way?

Stop overanalyzing.

When I listen to my heart, and more than just the accelerated beating pace when he touches me with his any part of his being, I feel a sense of security that I have longed for. He has seen my whole family, my whole history, my whole self, and yet he embraces the future.

Maybe we just both wanted to find one another. He had once said over the phone, “could this be it?”.

I was starting to reflect the possibility with each passing day. I felt more vibrant, yet I no longer had this drive. Most people would say the drive is what was to make me. But what they never saw behind closed doors was that same force drove me to self destruction.

With him, I face my insecurities and welcome the challenges in a much more peaceful manner. And I say to myself that as long as we can move forward through a few phases of our life, then maybe this can lead to our mystery ceremony.

Tradition versus Elise.

I am open-minded and accepting, but I am still a Cajun. And a Cancer at that! Home and family is a big part of me. So when it comes to ceremonies, I still want to be a part of what everyone else has done. But then there is a part of me that says “Change it up!”

While I sat in St. Joseph’s church (which is now just two blocks away from my house) for Meggan’s wedding rehearsal, my father made the comment that he wouldn’t have to worry about this hoo-rah for me, because I would probably have everyone outside, barefoot in a field somewhere.

I laughed because I saw its plausibility, but then told him I couldn’t specifically say because I did not know who my groom would be. He replied that he would, “probably be some moon martian just like you.”

Moon martian. Great.

So maybe I should embark upon something out of this world. It’s funny that finding something steadily comfortable is what will take me to such great heights.

But I wouldn’t make any bets yet. It’s still the honeymoon. And we’re still just talking jibberish over omelets. I would be lying though, if I said I wouldn’t be terribly hurt if these thoughts ever got scrambled.

Faith, my dear. Faith.

concepts, Epiphanies, experience, Faith, ideas, learning, personal, philosophy, sharing, stories

God speaks through a wasp

I sat on this random pew in the hallway near the receptionist’s office at the Jesuit Spirituality Center. I was here on a women’s day retreat with my mother and aunt. The first lecture talked about acceptance and how to cultivate happiness. I had just finished my first week of teaching curriculum and some of the presenter’s questions were really hitting home.

Do I let other people take away my happiness? Because I think happiness comes from outside situations based on my own agenda? Do I react with anger based on my own  fear and insecurity?

Hmmmm. When I yelled at my kids this week because they weren’t paying attention, was it really because I was scared shitless that I would not be able to teach them the material?

YES!

So after the first presentation, we were instructed to walk throughout the campus grounds silently. No talking to Mom or Carla. I walked to the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee then I strolled through the library. Out of all of the literature there, I was attracted to “Living Catholic, the Catechism.” For 10 years I have studies almost every other religion except for the one I lived the first 18 years of my life. Based upon my current set of situations, now more than ever I felt I had to explore this religion through a matured pair of eyes.

I carried the book to that pew. I read through the first few chapters, when suddenly I heard this loud buzzing sound. I looked up to the front door, which was surrounded by large, uncovered windows, to see see a huge yellow jacket wasp flying repeatedly into the window. I thought it was on the outside of the window and was just a distraction from the moment, so I started to read again.

A few sentences later and the buzzing seemed to get louder and louder–demanding my attention. So I started to watch the wasp and realized he was actually on the inside of the window and he was trying to escape I watched him jump from pane to pane. Scratching. Buzzing. Trying to escape.

I felt I could do something to help out this little fellow. I got up and opened the door. I thought maybe he would feel the breeze and follow the wind to his escape. But he just kept flying into the glass.

Other retreaters were entering the door I was holding open-they just thought I was being nice. I was just patiently waiting to see if the wasp would get my gesture. He didn’t.

I went back to my pew while the wasp stayed in the same place. It made me wonder, how often when I wanted to escape was God holding the door open and I refused to follow the breeze? How often did I just bang myself against the glass? Like the wasp, maybe I just wasn’t ready for the escape at the moment.

I walked back to the retreat room with the sound of the buzzing in my ear. He may not be ready for the wind, but I think I’m ready for the current.

Creativity, driving, experience, Liver, memories, Music, Path Unknown, philosophy, sharing, stories, Travel, writing

Through the Redwoods to Eureka!

The Redwoods are big. It’s almost a redundant statement because anyone who has been there knows it’s an understatement…just like the Grand Canyon.

My friend Sarah had written on my Facebook page that driving through the Redwoods Forest is a humbling experience. She was right on several levels.

To witness vast, living nature makes you feel like a single spec of existence. You realize how tiny you are in an infinite universe. Plus, it feels so still and all-knowing. It made me realize how often I run in unnecessary circles and waste potential energy by replacing productivity with worry.

We drove through scenic California mountains and ventured through one of the tackiest, yet must-see, tourist spots: a Redwood tree you can drive through. It’s $5 to go through the park, which is located in a 700 population village.

I bought some Redwood incense from the gift shop, along with a Viewfinder for my godchild Ellah. It had pictures from major American signature spots, most of which I saw on this trip. Plus, I had one of those small, blue, optical gadgets as a child and I used to look at Disney stories on it. Who needs modern HD, when an imagination and still frames can get you that simply excited?

Nick had the idea to set up Louis with the doors open and us jam out Remy’s song. After a short debate, we decided to film it as well. He grabbed his djembe and I played guitar and sang. Random cars drove by and waved as if we were rock stars. Or maybe they just admired that we were living life.

We drove through more terrain for hours until we reached Eureka. It was one of the last cities in California. We ate at Hana’s sushi restaurant. I cannot even describe how fresh the fish was. I know I live on the Gulf Coast, but I feel like I’ve been lied to. The Rainbow Roll had the most delicious salmon and tuna. I washed it down with Happy Hour saki and then we hit the road again.

We didn’t realize we still had another six or so hours to Portland.

We were slightly discouraged until we saw the Pacific Ocean. Nick was driving at the moment and pulled off the exit. My nerves started to intensify as we parked. At first I walked slowly onto the sand to take in the open view. The sun was starting to set, there were people tossing frisbees to their dogs, and a few couples were snuggling on the sand.

I inhaled the salty, fresh air and was about to sigh a refreshing exhale when Nick took off running and said “Beat ya to the ocean.”

We were a half mile away from water and I took off in a sprint. The young chap didn’t stand a chance.

The water was colder than a snow-cone on a hot summer’s day. I’ve heard the Pacific was cold, but compared to the Gulf it’s Arctic.

I waded in the water, reveling in my small victory, searching for stones to take back to my other godchild Malorie. I triumphed in my search and even discovered a crab claw to bring back for my fellow Cancer, Aaron.

For a split second, we thought about camping out on the beach, but my buddy Ben had scored us a room at the Ace Hotel in Portland and I didn’t want his ambition to be a waste.

So on we drove through windy roads. I have to admit, I did get queesy quite often. I had to lay back in the passenger seat and close my eyes in order to deter the puking sensation.

We finally crossed the Oregon border after darkness prevailed throughout the sky. We pulled up to a gas station in order to fill the tank and were astonished to find a guy walk up to our car and ask how much we wanted to purchase. Nick told him not to worry about it, but then we were told it was illegal to pump your own gas in the state of Oregon.

What?

I thought we had left the weird laws in Oklahoma.

Evidently, it’s supposed to create more jobs and it stops drive-0ffs.

We snacked on popcorn as we made the trek to downtown Portland. We didn’t arrive until 3 a.m. I thought the streets seemed pretty bare considering the size of the city.

We walked into this freshly renovated, rather trendy building. It was classically chic and very purposefully put together. We were handed a real, old-school skeleton key and told our room was on the second floor.

I had so much adrenaline rushing through me as I creaked up the stairs. Ben, one of my dearest friends, works at the Ace in NYC. He was originally supposed to take part of this roadtrip with me. As I peaked around the lounge and hallways, I felt his presence.

It had been months since I had seen my pal, but as I opened the door to my room, I felt like he had set the stage for me. Everything was clean, precise and unique. The detail to how the magazines, brochures, and products were placed made you feel how the staff cared about the experience of this hotel. It had Ben written all over it.

I felt so connected to him at that moment, that while Nick passed out, I stayed up and wrote an email to him. I then began to type uncontrollably. I had only been in Portland for a few hours, but there was an energy here that awakened a part of my soul.

By the time I closed my Mac, the sun was coming up. I nestled myself into a ball and hugged my pillow as I fell asleep with a smile across my face. This wasn’t a sweet dream. This was a sweet reality.

driving, experience, food, friends, Giggles, Liver, memories, Path Unknown, stories, Travel, Wine

Surprise in Sonoma Valley

Driving through California for the first time is a venture just in itself. You could probably ride through the coast and be satisfied with just the view.

We stopped for a restroom/sandwich break and realized we were in the Sonoma Valley. We checked our iPhone’s for local vineyards and saw a handful within a one mile radius. We figured it wouldn’t time wasted to taste some wine.

We tried to follow the maps on the iPhone, but it was of no use. However, we ended up on this highway stretch and out of nowhere vineyard after vineyard appeared like little grape surprises.

It was just about 4:45 p.m. and we prayed the little wooden taste rooms didn’t close.

We made it in the Family Vineyards as the official last tasters of the day. Evidently those winos like to be out by five so they can enjoy the rest of their beautiful afternoons (I can hardly blame them).

We tried a Sirah, Cabernet, and Pinot Noir. I’m a red girl. All of the bottles were way more expensive than I thought. The women behind  counter were very helpful. I wish I could remember her name because she really was a doll. She didn’t charge us for any of the tasting and didn’t force us to buy anything.

What they did do, however, was talk us into staying in Santa Rosa. They told us it wasn’t too far from the Redwoods or the coast. Plus, the vineyards opened relatively early, so we our taste buds could scope out the selection in the morning.

We drove through the quaint downtown and fell in love with its appeal. This was definitely our stop for the night.

We tried to search for reasonable hotels and found a deal on hotels.com for Fountaingrove Inn. It was $99 for a night, but once we walked into the lobby, we knew why.

The structure was built with large stone, so it almost seemed like you were in a castle. The lobby had two long red couches facing one another and the accents had a modern appeal. While we checked in, we noted there was a sale on wine bottles in the adjacent restaurant.

Why not indulge?

We lugged the luggage to our second floor room and were both quite impressed with the style. This was by far the nicest place we stayed the entire trip. It felt like we were little kids that were about to get in trouble for sneaking in or something.

We were ready to drink, so we skipped changing to go to the restaurant. We both felt super underdressed as soon as we walked through the doors. I really thought the music was going to stop.

Eventually we were served, not with the best service because I think this woman thought we were going to stiff her or something. One of the things I learned working in the restaurant business is to never underestimate who you are waiting on. Some people who rarely eat out will tip extra if you give them impeccable service because they are splurging. The ritzier people normally wine and dine often so they keep a standard 18%. And as for young people…you never know who is or has been a server and can empathize with your position, so they tip a lot.

Life moral story? Never underestimate anyone, because you rarely know a stranger’s background story.

We ended up drinking a bottle and a half of cabernet and decided a trip to the hot tub would be the best compliment. (After we had a chocolate dessert that we shared with the hostess and another server)

We hung out and chatted with people in the hot tub and pool until around 10p.m. There was a young guy who was backpacking his way through all of the National Parks. He worked for Chevron in Baton Rouge, LA for  a while before deciding to go back for medical school in the Caribbean.

Then there was a couple around the age of 30 from California who were touring wine country after a friend’s wedding. We talked for a while about how young people get married these days. That’s one thing I’ve loved about the west and the bigger cities I’ve visited. People my age aren’t married and it’s not because they aren’t ready to stop partying. They are actually working on their life goals and want to have things aligned before they commit to someone else. It is so refreshing to feel young-because I am!

I started to get a little queazy from the mixture of red wine and extreme heat, so I headed back to the room and watched t.v. in my comfy hotel bed.

Ahh the life.

Cajun, connections, driving, experience, food, friends, Liver, memories, Path Unknown, stories, Travel, writing

Randomness at Stanford University

We drove through the California Hills with the intention of  sleeping in Fresno to wake in the morning to visit Yosemite National Park. I’m not sure if it was the natural high from the djembe experience, but when we arrived to Fresno, I was still too charged to stop.

We knew we had a few hours before the sun set and Yosemite was only an hour away. If we just drove through it, we could drive until late night and make it near San Francisco, which would allow us more time to see the Redwoods.

The golden hills illuminated the road as we wound up mountains and inched closer and closer to Yosemite. The speed limits dropped and time trudged on. We were determined.

We passed campsites and called, praying for a miracle that possibly someone did not show up for their reservation and then we could fulfill our Yosemitic-destiny. No such luck. You normally have to reserve spots at least six months in advance and the hotels are ridiculously expensive.

The sun was falling just as fast our spirits.

We found our selves in the Sierra National Forest…a few miles before Yosemite’s entrance. There were a few empty camp spots that were submerged under water, mud and muck. Louis off-roaded well, and we contemplated if we should risk getting caught. The fines are normally $500 and neither of us had that kind of money left at this juncture in the trip.

We decided to turn around and head to Palo Alto to sleep at Nick’s childhood friend’s place at Stanford University.

I was disappointed. Yosemite had been calling my name for a while. But at that moment I realized maybe the yearning was to spark Derek to have his own adventure. When I go to Yosemite, I want to spend at least a week there. I can’t just pass through.

We stopped at a gas station and ended up getting my favorite beef jerky on the journey so far. It was $15, but DELICIOUS. It was made from local cows and was somewhat organic. I’m a fan of softer jerky. This had the texture and thickness of fruit roll-ups. Perfect.

So I drove on for hours under a full moon, which lulled a harmonious vibe through me.

I called my former Rok Haus co-worker Kristin, who had biked the Pacific coast last summer. We talked about all of the outdoor things we will do when I return. It was quite motivating.

We made it to Stanford around 1a.m. Although the campus was dark, it was still gorgeous.

Andrew lived in a co-ed house (they don’t really call them dorms there). He was a kitchen manager and had a private room. We double-checked before we got there to make sure it was cool if a female could sleep over. That was no problem whatsoever.

The scene reminded me of the old Pauly Shore movie, Son-In-Law, where there are both guys and girls walking throughout the halls in towels. Except, these intellectual students were studying for finals, instead of partying their tails off.

We didn’t want to keep Andrew up long, since he had so much studying to do, so we crashed and planned to leave early.

We woke the next morning for breakfast in the downstairs kitchen. On Sundays, there is a gourmet chef who prepares brunch. This was unlike any school cafeteria I visited. The food was exquisite and fresh. The homemade waffles even had a Stanford label grilled into it.

Stanford is a pretty progressive campus and used many green products, such as Tater ware–utensils made from potatoes. I discovered at some point in Portland later on that Whole Foods uses these as well.

Andrew gave us a tour before we left. The first thing I smelt were Eucalyptus trees in the dorm parking lot. I would assume these kids need all of the natural relaxing herbs they can get due to the high-pressure nature of the institution.

I was really taken aback by the structures, monuments and sheer epic feeling of the whole environment. There is a church on campus that was dedicated to the Stanford’s son who had passed away. For a moment I felt I was in Rome. That feeling was intensified too when you saw the statues in front of the university art museum.

As we made our way back to the parking lot, we saw a sidewalk that was chalked with silly faces and flowers. I guess some students were releasing their finals-frustration. We decided Stanford needed to know that some Cajuns were there, so we chalked UL Lafayette with a fleur-de-lis. It was classy.

We wished Andrew well on his finals and thanked him for the hospitality. We set our eyes on driving to the Redwoods and hit the highway.

connections, Creativity, Epiphanies, experience, friends, Giggles, ideas, Liver, Path Unknown, philosophy, relationships, Serendipity, sharing, Travel

My Ben Harper Experience

I couldn’t stop thinking of that djembe. I have wanted a drum for a while. Not because I’m even half decent at keeping a rhythm, but sometimes you just need something productive to bang on.

I found the perfect little companion at the Folk Music store in Claremont. It was only $100, and at that size normally they run for at least $150.

We were headed that direction anyway, so it only made sense to stop and see if it was still at the shop. To my delight, it was.

I call this a serendiptous purchase. It happened once at an Artwalk at home. I saw this turquoise ring that fit perfectly on my ring finger. I wanted it badly, but thought patience was the route to take. So I walked around for hours and went back at the end of the night. It was there waiting for me. I have worn it almost everyday since.

This same feeling arrived to me when I saw the djembe still there. It has this deep soulful sound when you beat the middle of it, yet the “ping” when you hit the side of the rim keeps you yearning for the next strike.

I grabbed a $9 tambourine before I went to the counter and I couldn’t wait to start my Partridge family.

Nick had found a smaller drum and a small Ben Harper pin and as we were both checking out we started small talk with the cashier. The reason the drums were so cheap did have to do with the recession, so I felt better about stimulating the economy.

However, the most interesting point is when the conversation turned to Ben Harper. There was a lot of memorabilia and albums available, even on vinyl. But there really wasn’t any other artists featured there.

Turns out, the store was opened by his grandparents. He grew up in the store. His grandparents passed away (God bless their souls) a few years ago and now he and his family run it.

So I saw my Ben Harper in New Mexico and the first drum I ever buy is from Ben Harper’s store.

It still gets a little weird.

Nick and I left on cloud nine and as we were driving on I-5 North, I asked him to plug in my iphone. Somehow, he managed to accidentally call my friend Val.

I was ecstatic to hear her voice and learn that she was with our friend Beth (or as I like to call her Viv–I’m Liv…come to think of it Val and I are Sly and Slick…I have too many nicknames). We all know one another through weird coincidences, which we don’t believe are coincidences at all. But alas, I digress.

I told them the story and they laughed because they had literally just bought the new Ben Harper c.d. and were listening to it for the first time at that very moment.

Somehow we are all connected through Ben Harper. It’s like 6 degrees of separation. Is Kevin Bacon going to show up?

If I end up meeting Ben on this trip, I would not at all be surprised. I just like how I have followed signs through this whole trip and I’m starting to notice when I am in the right place at the right time. I kind of ignore the rest…so my theory is always right.

I’ll end with a few quotes from some of Ben Harper’s songs. I find them appropriate for what I’ve learned thus far:

“I knew a girl. Her name was truth. She was a horrible liar.” -Diamonds on the Inside

“So before you knock it, try it first. For you’ll see it’s a blessing and it’s not a curse.” – Burn one down

“And it’s so hard to do and so easy to say. But sometimes, sometimes, you just have to walk away.” -Walk Away