Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gypsies in the Palace

There's really no good excuse. My sincere apologies for not posting. Being a vagabond with a baby is a lot more stressful than I thought. We are living with a friend's mother. Oh yes, you read right. Not even our parents, nope. We are living with someone else's parents. Awkward, is an understatement. Yet, in this age of instability and uncertainty, humanity has a way of surprising us. Basic human kindnesses are a rarity in this life, therefore to find a family willing to house another (with a baby) that they barely know transcends to near sainthood in my book.

So, while we've been scrambling to find a house and not overstay our welcome, I'm STILL trying to secure a job in one of the so-called 'hottest job markets' in the country.  I think the hype here is highly over-rated. Jobs are scarce wherever you go. The odds are against me, even with a Masters degree and international experience. But, I digress. What is really irking me right now is the Home Loan Process. Foreclosures are decreasing. This is a good thing. Yes, trends show a slow, sluggish shift. Nonetheless, it's a shift towards the housing market pulling itself up.  And, I understand-truly I do-the need for banks not to repeat their mistakes and make sure that buyers can afford a home loan. However, banks and FHA have been hyping up their eagerness to sell homes and help get families back into homes but, that's not the feeling I'm getting. In fact, I have never had such a difficult time buying a home nor had to jump through so many ridiculous hoops just to have a roof over my head. Their actions speak for themselves, which say, "We don't care that you have excellent credit or never missed a payment. We REALLY don't want to sell you this house or give you any money and we will find every reason to deny you. Go away."  Their treatment of us has left me feeling like Dennis the Menace knocking on Mr. Wilson's door. Seriously?! Is it so ANNOYING to you that I might actually want to buy your HUD home? A home YOU can't get off your books and are losing money.

So, to sum up, I apologize for my absence but I've been fighting with Big Money and Uncle Sam. On a different note, does anyone have suggestions on companies or employers that might be hiring in the Greater Houston Area? If so, please forward my profile to them (

Okay, enough plugging and onto more exciting prospects. I have to get a Houston Citypass. Instead of paying the full fee to see any of the places listed below, you can get a Citypass and save up to 50% on e-tickets for them.  It's really the only economical and logical way to see Houston on a budget.

Houston Attractions:
Space Center HoustonDowntown AquariumHouston Museum of Natural ScienceHouston ZooMuseum of Fine Arts, HoustonThe Children's Museum of HoustonGeorge Ranch Historical Park, The Health Museum 

Looking for farm-fresh, locally grown foods? Check out Canino's Farmer's Market for amazing deals and homemade tortillas that would make your momma cry. No, seriously. She's in tears right now. They're THAT good.

Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reality Bites

Don't get me wrong. I am thrilled to be close to the gulf coast again and closer to family. But, moving is stressful, physically and emotionally exhausting, and the reality of it all (changing addresses, forwarding mail, taking care of bills, finding a new home/selling your old home) just stinks.

And, to top it all off, it is FINALLY hitting home for me! My house is packed up, the movers come tomorrow, and I was doing SO good about moving and uprooting our lives until my awesome neighbor (who has baby-sat Coraline since she was only 2 months old) came over with a beautiful, card (with pictures of her family with Coral and it played her voice singing to Coral) and she and I just cried. It was so simple and sincere a gesture of love and kindness from someone we had only known briefly that it broke my heart. It's bittersweet to realize too late that you are so blessed by the people right in front of you.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cardio Update

The surgery was a success as far as I can tell. It usually takes 4-6 hours for a cardiac ablation and it actually only took 3 hours for me. We were rocking out to awesome music in the operation room and the amnesic-like state that I was in made the time pass extremely quickly. As most patients will attest, there were moments of being uncomfortable as they DO have to stimulate your heart into tachycardia in order to isolate the 'bad' area that they will be ablating. I got lucky. Within a second (literally) of them hitting the electrodes my heart was off to the races. They clocked me going 300 beats a minute. I'm not really sure how my heart didn't just explode. Human anatomy is a wonder!  So, they were able to identify the faulty wiring, which happened to be far enough from my AV node to allow for heat ablation rather than freezing. Apparently, freezing the area has a significantly decreased chance of success. So, lucky for me they were able to use heat and take care of the problem. I also took some advice from EMT friends and requested pillows under my knees and behind my lumbar to decrease the soreness that always follows after this type of procedure. Lo' and behold, my friends were right and I had no body soreness the following day - only tenderness around the catheter wounds. I didn't even need to use Tylenol for my pain. I was treated really well by a great staff of nurses at Exempla Saint Joseph's Hospital in downtown Denver and my Cardiologist Dr. Ngo was fantastic. I'm healing well, and back to my usual zippy self. Thanks for all the posts, calls, emails and people that dropped by the house. All the well-wishes were deeply appreciated.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A. 31 yrs old., B. Healthy, C. Heart surgery: Which one of these does not belong?

You read right. I've been pretty quiet about this to most people except close family and friends but I am scheduled for a cardiac ablation at the end of this month. Only one week before our move. I feel like telling the cosmos..."Go ahead. No really, throw a little more stress on there. I can take it."

At least I have to be thankful that it is a relatively common procedure with only a 1% risk of complications for someone of my age (though the complications are pretty severe). I can't really complain though. There are so many others in the world that have it much worse than I do, but I'm not ready to put on my 'big girl panties' and deal with this just yet. As a family friend and RN told my mother-in-law, "they do this procedure all the time but, it's nothing to sneeze at."

I'm only 31, I'm the picture of health. So, why do I need to have surgery? I was diagnosed (after 10 yrs. of misdiagnosis, by the way) with Supraventricular Tachycardia. What the heck is that, I asked. Basically, I've got a super-enthusiastic heart that has a short-circuit and gets so excited that it misfires by accident sending my heartbeat racing from 60 beats a minute to 220 beats a minute. Yipee!  It's a heart arrhythmia and it's one of the few (if only) heart disorders with an approximately 97% cure rate. Lucky me.

The plus side, I finally have an explanation for why I've passed out twice for no explainable reason - ending up being medically evacuated from Peace Corps back to the states for the first episode and scaring a bus-load of passengers on their way to work from Union Station in Denver and freaking out my doctor  (and myself) who thought I was having a heart-attack for the second episode.  And, it explains why my heart suddenly races for no reason like getting up from a chair or picking up a box and just as quickly as it comes on... it stops! 

The down-side, I really REALLY don't want surgery. The idea of any surgery especially one that messes with my heart is particularly unnerving, even if it is 'common'. So, my request to you: well-wishes for me and my family who are just as nervous about this as I am.  Thanks!

Selling versus Renting

The time is fast approaching and we are counting down the days till our move. Our ultimatum is out there.  If it doesn't sell by the end of the month we will be renting it out to two very good friends of ours who are looking to buy it after the end of the year.(  That at least provides me with some peace of mind. I know it will be in good hands, I know the people that would be its future tenants and hopefully, its future owners. It makes me happy to know who will be in there. And, if they can't buy it we'll just put it back on the market in the Spring during prime selling time and see who is interested then. No hard feelings. That's good too.

This has definitely been a lesson in patience and appreciation of others. Never take those you love for granted. I know I have and this is especially true with friends. I have been of the mind that my friends were only being kind in saying they loved our house and trying to reassure us that it would sell. It never crossed my mind that they might actually be interested. How rude is that of me?! This has also been a great lesson in marketing. NEVER assume that friends, family or acquaintances might not be interested in what you're selling. Yes, invariably there are those situations where it doesn't pan out or relationships go sour due to a bad transaction. However, most often than not, your friends and family also are the first to know how much time, effort and money you've put into something to make it shine. And, no random buyer or agent is going to understand or appreciate what you've really done to a place to make it not just livable but a 'home'.

To all my friends and family, readers and fans: THANK YOU!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Holyoke Home: Let's Start At The Very Beginning

I just LOVED the idea of this blog "The Holyoke Home" and it makes me want to start WAY too many home improvement projects. The photos alone are inspirational and definitely make me consider moving to Massachusetts someday.

Holyoke Home: Let's Start At The Very Beginning: "After many tours of many Holyoke row houses (basically every one that has come on the market in the past three years), we found the one. ..."

The Fam:

Onward to Revelry at the Colorado Renaissance Festival

We were eager to enjoy some merry-making, ale-drinking, and many 'huzzahs'. We are 'those' people. You know the ones that come fully dressed in garb and elaborate costumes festooned with accessories. We are willing to suffer for our art and we certainly did. Ninety degree weather in July will definitely make anyone irritable.  Now add several pounds of fabric, layered skirts, bodices, piraty-hats, swords, flint-lock pistols, leather boots and an array of other trinkets and, well, get the picture. It was HOT.

Regardless, we had a blast and with shows like the Washing Well Wenches to cool us down and keep us laughing till it hurt, we barely noticed the heat. One of the things I like best about this Faire is the array of yummy goodies too. There's something for everyone. It's no longer the place where one can only find turkey legs and beer. If you're a vegetarian they have delicious portabello mushroom sandwiches. If you're a more picky eater there's chicken chipotle empanadas among a feast of other goodies that the Faire has to offer.

And, the shows. Well, the shows really DO make the Faire. Yes, there are a ton of amazing vendors and colorful things to buy but the shows are what we come back for, year after year. New shows like Charming and Dashing, Hey, Nunnie, Nunnie,  and old favorites like The Ded Bob Show, The King's Piper Extraordinare, and Cast in Bronze, are what really make reinassance festivals so entertaining and worth coming back to every year.(Check it out:

One more reason we're so excited to move to Houston is its proximity to one of the nation's largest Rein Faires: The Texas Renaissance Festival (for details: And, we will certainly be there too this year, all decked out in full pirate regalia. No, we were doing this LONG before stupid Jack Sparrow came on the scene (around 12 years). We take much pride in making our 'fleet' unique and avoiding as many Jack Sparrow wanna-be's as possible. If you happen to be there you can't miss us- we're the gi-normous band of pirates numbering around 60-70 pirates total that camp out every single year. Come by our camp, introduce yourself to Admiral Cricket and Firstmate Casey Longknickers (don't ask) and join in the fun!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Random Fun Facts: Colorado's Own Version of 'Jaynestown'

For all you "Firefly" fans that's a shout-out to you. If you're not familiar with the 'Jaynestown' episode, it's a humorous story of how a little one-horse town gets its name from a so-called 'hero' who turns out to have had less than honorable intentions at the time.

In my line of work I review all kinds of random information on local governments throughout Colorado and gleen what is important for financial analysis but, I digress. In my search for more facts on the Town of Swink I came across a random fact about how the Town got its name and couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity and simplicity of it. So enjoy:

On January 17, 1900, the people at Fairmont made an application for the establishment of a post office in their community. The reply from Washington came, and with it the information that they would have to change the name of their town as there were already too many Fairmonts in the country and another would complicate the distribution of mail.

The people called a meeting to decide a new name for their town. George Swink was late in arriving, and as he entered the room the idea of Swink for the name of their settlement swept the audience. The name was approved in Washington, and thus George W. Swink was honored as the leading benefactor of the town.

Now, imagine you're in the early 1900s. It's bitterly cold outside. You're a simple rancher and you're LATE to a Town Hall meeting when this is really the only important thing to do in town.  You walk in from the cold and all the heads of everyone you know turn in unison toward you, acknowledging how rude you are for being late and suddenly, someone calls out from the front...."THAT'S IT! We'll call ourselves SWINK!"

I can imagine the dumb-founded look on this poor guys face. He's thinking, man I hope they don't make a big fuss about me being late. And, suddenly you're now the Town hero?! And, the future Postmaster of the town?! Wow. I couldn't help but laugh. Some stories are just worth sharing. I wanna go to the town where I'm a hero!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Baby Steps

Besides our transition to 'short-timers' at work- which everyone loves to call us- and planning, getting bids on moving companies, and getting a new roof on our house we're slowly looking at our options in Houston. While I continue to reestablish my career in Houston and look at all the fun things we can do there (check out Houston CityPass, what an awesome deal) our little girl is deciding to be independent. On the exact day she turned 9 months old, she decided to crawl all the way into the kitchen and open a pantry door to my utter amazement and immediate mommy-horror. So, everything has been baby-proofed without going too crazy since we're having to live in a 'staged' house. By the way, living in a staged house with a baby and a dog is extremely difficult even if you're Martha Stewart. I wouldn't recommend it. And, just today, she's decided that she wants to try to walk. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down, sweetie. I know where she gets this independence and stubborn streak from (ahem...chris. Well, okay, maaaaybe a little bit of it is from me as well). What happened to the days when I could plop her down and she'd stay in one place - just staring in amazement at all the things she could see. Not to mention the fact, that it didn't matter how homely I looked that her, I was a ROCK STAR! Now, I'm just an exciting novelty to play with and move on to the next toy. Get out of the way mom. I gotta get to those building blocks. sigh. c'est la vie. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Houston or Bust.

You probably have already heard the news but if not, we are moving yet again. This time back to the Texas Gulf Coast.  It's a bittersweet moment. We've only been in our new home in Colorado for a little over a year.  We've put a considerable amount of 'sweat equity' into it and we hope that we will be able to afford another home in Houston.  Foreclosures are rampant here in Colorado, thus our first true home was a foreclosure as was the condo just before that.  But, we like it that way.  We love projects (yes, we're sick in that way).  What's so disheartening is that we're just beginning to see the fruits of our labor and the house really shines (even though it still needs some loving here and there) but now we won't be able to really enjoy it.  Thus, I've immersed myself in what to look forward to in Houston. 

I've never really lived in Houston, just the outskirts.  Chris and I did live close to NASA at one point in a run-down apartment building that was lovingly called Casa Bonita (though there was nothing bonita about our little casa).  We just liked the vague connection to a happy childhood memory of the famed Casa Bonita Restaurant in Colorado (termed by a local Austin writer as Casa-Oh My God, I'm in Valhalla- Bonita").  From there, we lived in Bulgaria for two years on the Black Sea Coast as Peace Corps Volunteers before returning to the States and eventually moving to Denver, Colorado.  Several of our friends are happy that we're moving closer to them and several are sad that we're leaving them.  I will miss the lovely mountain vistas and amazing sunsets over the Rockies.  I will miss cool summers (seriously, I'm wearing a turtleneck for Pete's sake and it's July) and gorgeous alpine flowers.  I'll miss the eclectic, hippy mountain towns filled with gentle mountain folk and excellent breweries.  Things I won't miss: income tax, dryness, cracked lips, blizzards, and nosebleeds.

And, so the adventure begins.  Our house is on the market and showings are already rolling in (which is a good sign but not a sure thing).  We're already looking at new homes in Houston and slowly saying goodbye to coworkers and friends and our lovely home.  My new goal: to find out all I can about every corner of Houston that I didn't know before.  First things first, Houston Theatre District, here I come!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

I know that I should be focusing on all the positives in life (and I do) but I realize that so many of my friends and myself have grappled at least once in our lives with understanding ‘God’s Will’. In some form or fashion we have been mad, upset with or struggled with our faith, this is especially the case with the loss of a loved one and even more so when it’s the loss of a child. In a recent discussion by our beloved pastor, we addressed this concern. We all wanted to know…What IS God’s will? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why would God allow this to happen? Why would he take my child or loved one away so prematurely? It was quite the daunting task for any minister to provide an answer that could satisfy such a needy congregation. It is the Ultimate question. One which we will never understand,… or so we’re always told. But, he instead, with courage and empathy began to offer a simple answer. One which I’ll never forget, for it was the first time that someone has addressed my own personal pain, loss and anger with so simple and comforting of an answer.

Many parents of a deceased child, stillbirth or miscarriage hear the well-meaning but hurtful words from sympathetic persons, “God sometimes picks the brightest flowers for his bouquet,” or “He just loved your baby so much he wanted to keep her with him.” These are meant to provide comfort but instead they only fill us with hurt and anger. Why on Earth would God take my child from me? Why give me temporary joy only to rip it away and leave me and my family broken, alone and hurting? How can my God be a ‘loving’ God if he chooses to hurt me this way? When we watch our loved ones suffer or experience the loss of a wife or husband, mother or father, we ask…Why me, Why her? Why him? Why now? These are all questions we’ve grappled with in our own painful, private way. And, here below are the very poignant and illuminating words of Pastor Michael Dent:

“We ask why because we want some logical explanation, reason, or greater cause to be in play. So someone says, “Everything happens for a reason” or “It was God’s will” or “It was meant to be" or ""It was her time to die; his time was up.” Such well-intended statements may comfort our heads in some way, but hurt the hearts of others. I do not find them comforting at all and believe they are unsustainable, unhelpful, and unbiblical.

Some suffering we bring on ourselves by our behaviors – our use or abuse of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs; our reckless driving; and or careless relationship choices. Some suffering is random – rockslides, earthquakes, and tornadoes.

If we want to say that it is God’s will in some way, perhaps we are connecting that pious proclamation to the wisdom of systematic theologian Paul Tillich’s explanation of the presence of evil and suffering in creation. Tillich said,

God made the world finite and free.

Physical evil – such as earthquakes and cancer – is the natural implication of a finite world.

Moral evil – such as murder and child abuse – is the tragic implication of a free world.

It is not the intentional will of God that 230,000 people die in an earthquake, or that our loved one dies of cancer or AIDS, that our best friend was killed in car crash. Pastor James Howell strongly expresses in his chapter on When Bad Things Happen, “God hates, God despises every act of evil, all human suffering. God will lead the celebration when cancer is finally cured. God champions car safety. God wants us to get away from storms. God does good and only good.”

What does Jesus have to say about the will of God and suffering? Here again his summary of the parable of the lost sheep from today’s reading, “So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”

Suffering is a part of life. Bad things happen. Evil is real. Sin is real. C.S. Lewis once estimated that 80% of humanity’s suffering is inflicted by our fellow human beings. That may be a little high, but wars, crime, drug abuse, pollution, family violence, and addictions are global self-inflicted behaviors that bring untold suffering and death to the human family.

This world is God’s creation – diverse, spectacular, and breath-taking in beauty. Last Saturday I stood with some of our youth and their adult leaders at the top of the world. We were at 13,000 feet on the Continental Divide at Loveland Ski Basin. You could literally see for scores of miles in all directions ski runs, snow-covered Rocky Mountains and treetops, and magnificent clear-blue skies.

But this world – so bathed in beauty – also dances with danger. Coming down the ski runs from top of the mountain can be hazardous to one’s health – even as getting off the lift at the top of the mountain can be, as one of your pastors discovered 8 days ago!

Accidents, diseases, and natural catastrophes, war, IEDs and terrorism are all a part of our fallen world. Suffering will touch us all.

Novelist Reynolds Price says he never asked, in his terrible sickness and pain, “Why did this happen to me?” He is a brilliant observer of the human condition and knew what the answer would be, “Well, why not you?”

To be human is to suffer from time to time, deserved or not. Pain is a part of the package. Death is a part of the deal. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

One critical question remains as we wrestle with the reality of suffering in our human lives. Where is God in our suffering? Does God care that we hurt? Some of you have lost children. You know the incredibly deep pain, as well as the intense desire of friends to comfort. Sometimes we have said things to grieving parents that we should not have said: “God needed one more flower for his bouquet…God needed her more than you...”

In a sermon preached after his 19-year-old son Alex died when his car plummeted into the Boston Harbor in 1983, Rev. William Sloan Coffin Jr. shared such an experience with the worshipers at Riverside Church in New York City. He said in that message:

The night after Alex died, a woman came by carrying quiches. She shook her head, saying sadly, “I just don’t understand the will of God.”

Instantly I swarmed all over her. “I’ll say you don’t, lady! Do you think it was the will of God that Alex never fixed that lousy windshield wiper, that he was probably driving too fast in a storm? Do you think it was God’s will that there are no streetlights along that stretch of road?”

Nothing so infuriates me as the incapacity of intelligent people to get it through their heads that God doesn’t go around with his finger on triggers, his fist around knives, his hands on steering wheels. God is dead set against all unnatural deaths.

The one thing that should never be said when someone dies is, “It is the will of God.” My own consolation lies in knowing that it was NOT the will of God that Alex die; that when the waves closed over the sinking car, God’s heart was the first of all our hearts to break.”

Monday, March 8, 2010

Teething is awful!

First off, I can't believe Coraline is already 5 months old! Where did the time go? Second, she's been teething for about 2 weeks now and it's been rough. Poor thing is constantly irritable and wakeful at night. We were finally enjoying her sleeping through the night and now we're back to square one again. She sobs her heart out at night when the pain is the worst and sometimes clenches her mouth shut which is frustrating because I can't give her Baby Orajel or tylenol until she opens up. It's heart-breaking to watch her suffer. I know it's only temporary and she'll get through it just fine but it's hard on me and Chris when all we want to do is make her feel better. So far, the result of so much pain has been the emergence of two, sharp, little, bottom teeth.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Confessions: Loss of a Pregnancy

There is something so surreal about the loss of a pregnancy. People, well-meaning people that have not been through it cannot comprehend though they try. They may say things like, “well it’s good that you didn’t have time to get too attached” or “don’t worry you can try again.” As, if you never had the chance to become attached to the little miracle inside you. And, of course you can “try again” but it doesn’t make up for the fact that there was a little life in you that you’ll never get to know. Never meet. And, you ache at the thought that you’ll never meet them. It hurts. There’s no way around it.

I remember thinking, how surreal it was to be sitting on the doctor’s cold table as the doctor’s words “possible miscarriage” echoed in my head. I was numb. But, I kept foolishly clinging to hope. I don’t know why. If nothing progressed in the following weeks then we’d know it was real.

I remember the hollowness, emptiness that followed as the next visit only confirmed my fears.

I remember my body refusing to give up the pregnancy as if my brain just couldn’t convince my body that the baby was gone…let go. So, they had to perform a D&C in the doctor’s office.

I remember thinking, how surreal it was to watch my own tears falling in slow motion, beautiful little drops splashing onto the cold, sterile, linoleum floor of the doctor’s office after it was all done. The nurses cleaning the table. My head in my hands. Empty, hollow, broken. So many words and none of them truly describe the feelings you have after it happens.

Even if it’s only for a day, you become attached to this person, this miracle inside you. Others think that because you couldn’t see it, then the pain will subside more easily because it was never really there, right?!

The only way I can describe it is like ‘faith’ as ludicrous as that sounds. Being pregnant is like faith itself, in its full embodiment. You can’t see the spiritual deity that you have faith in but you know it’s there. You have faith, which allows you to feel it move through, in and around you. It is the same from the very moment you learn you are pregnant. You cannot see the blessing inside you but you know it’s there. You feel it through other ways, especially during the early months. And, the joy of knowing it and the hope that one day you will meet it, sustains you through the aches, and pains, and trial of pregnancy and labor.

And, to have that hope ripped away leaves a void like nothing you can describe. To lose your faith - that emptiness, confusion, anger, pain, and immense grief- is the only thing I can find akin to such a moment. For those many women who have experienced this, my heart goes out to you. For those women who never have, I pray you never do.

This originally was written as a means to help with healing after the miscarriage of what would have been our first child. It was never meant to be made public but friends encouraged me to post it in the hope that many other women who have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth might find solace or comfort in reading it and knowing that there are several of us out there that understand and empathize.