Letter to my 18-Year-Old Self from my 37-Year-Old Self

Dear Self,

Cherub tattoo image via www.vanishingtattoo.com.
Cherub tattoo image via www.vanishingtattoo.com.

First of all, don’t get that tattoo. Just don’t. Right now your stomach is all cute and flat. But you’ll have babies … big, beautiful 9 pound babies. That cute little cherub angel tattoo on your bikini line will get big … REAL big. Like basketball-sized big. Nobody tells you this when you’re 18 and you’re certainly not thinking this far ahead. There will be a stretch mark through the wing. It’s not cute. Truly. Having babies will wreck your tattoo. It now looks like a drunken troll. You will pay a lot of money to get it removed.

You’re about to start that process. Don’t do it. I beg you.

You will kiss a lot of frogs. More than you really want to know. I’m sorry about this. You will date some real asses. You will get cheated on. You will learn hard lessons. This will make it easier to identify Mr. Right when he comes along. You don’t meet him until you’re 26. Again, sorry. You’re kind of an idiot when it comes to choosing men. I blame losing your dad at 18 and the “daddy issues” that loss produced. I also blame spending many of your Continue reading

With a spoon: The Fire Extinguisher Grill

Here is one of the uniform options we considered for the master chefs. We ultimately chose the yellow turnout pants with red suspenders.
Here is one of the uniform options we considered for the master chefs. We ultimately chose the yellow turnout pants with red suspenders. HOT, right?

My home town of Midland, Texas, is getting in on the trend of breastaraunts! So, I am currently seeking investors for a new restaurant venture there, The Fire Extinguisher Bar & Grill. The motto will be, “If you can take the heat, it’s time to get into our kitchen!”

Not to be undone, I mean outdone by other themed restaurants, this unique spot will also embrace a concept. Our theme is HEAT, literally, with a special focus on public servants and fire safety.

Many of fire fighters, EMT’s and police personnel must work two jobs to afford living in the Permian Basin. As Midland’s newest restaurant, The Fire Extinguisher will give these able-bodied men a chance to have a fulfilling and fun way to earn that second income. The flexible hours and exciting atmosphere will also attract many young, tender-hearted – but hard-bodied — and impressionable college students. Imagine your sons, brothers and young hottie dad friends working in such a cool, action-packed hangout! Getting paid to have so much fun? Well, you can hardly even call this work people!

Image courtesy of dallasnews.com.
Image courtesy of dallasnews.com.

I am looking for fun people to fill positions.  I will focus on enthusiasm, personal appearance, grooming and personality. Personality is essential to The Fire Extinguisher. Because it takes a certain kind of errr… personality … to wear one of the uniforms!

The Fire Extinguisher embraces the personal chef experience, because I know patrons are looking for that one-on-one contact. Diners will be seated around a number of individual grilling stations, or “Hot Spots,” in the Grill’s lingo. Our master chefs will prepare succulent steaks, moist chicken and tender grilled organic local veggies cooked to order. Special attention has been paid to the chef uniforms for maximum interaction and fire protection. All chefs will wear traditional fire helmets, yellow “turnout” pants with red trim, and the Hellfire Lug Boot in black, yellow and white. Safety on wet and slick kitchen floors is paramount, and these boots take safety to a new level! To tie the ensemble together, our chefs will wear bright red suspenders in support of their turnout pants. Not only does the color red signal “safety” and that something is HOT, the vibrant color will really make their bare midriffs snap, crackle and pop!

Fire Me Up brief by Candyman
Fire Me Up brief by Candyman

Each Hot Spot also has a server to assist the chef with orders and drinks. In keeping with the fire safety theme, server costumes are flame retardant briefs. With flames. And the Hellfire boots, of course.

There are plenty of positions for HOT women as well. If you know a woman who has excellent people skills, understands inventory, money, and the rules of supply and demand, there are several key management positions open now!

One of the things I am most proud of is The Fire Extinguisher menu – this is NOT just another wiener joint or beef cake bakery. We have polled extensively and conducted tons of market research and know our customers want prime beef, rich desserts and top quality drinks! It’s not just about the costumes here. Our appetizer menu is extensive and includes tapas, philo dough wrapped brie with fig compote, fried goat cheese with sautéed Pecos onions and local honey, a decadent white queso, and a luxurious fruit and hard cheese platter.

Entrees will include steaks topped with blue cheese, grilled lobster and salmon and of course, chicken. Desserts are also sizzling at The Fire Extinguisher – our servers have mastered the art of flambés and caramelized crème Brule. Our Brown Sugar Bourbon ice cream is handcrafted with Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon and the most authentic tiramisu in all of West Texas rounds out the sweetest fare. Plus my personal favorite, chocolate icing cups.

Careful attention is also paid to the drinks at The Fire Extinguisher. Only premium spirits, wines and champagnes will grace our delicate stems. Enjoy pomegranate margaritas, Bad Boy Martinis (they’re extra dirty), Veuve Cliquot Demi-Sec White Label NV, Moët Grand Vintage 2004, and a hand-picked selection of the world’s finest craft beers, including Nebraska Brewing Company’s full-bodied Belgian-style golden ale – it’s aged in barrels used to make Chardonnay.  It truly is delicious.

And like all of the best restaurants, The Fire Extinguisher has a premium Bose sound system installed by experts from Los Angeles, and 35 of the best and brightest hi-def big screen televisions you have ever seen. They will air non-stop sports and games, including figure skating, football, ballets with Mikhail Baryshnikov, male body building competitions and UFC cage fighting.

Chocolate frosting shots are on the desert menu a The Fire Extinguisher Grill!
Chocolate frosting shots are on the desert menu a The Fire Extinguisher Grill!

This will be a one-of-a-kind eating experience! Especially for the women of Midland – where else can you eat chicken, drink champers and watch ballet on the big screen? We’ll even have a regular Mother’s Day Out special that begins at 4 p.m. If you’re looking for a spot to meet some really cool new people or have a girls night out, The Fire Extinguisher is the place for you.

And guys, this will be your favorite spot too! The Fire Extinguisher Grill will satiate your inner caveman’s need to protect AND eat a whole lotta meat! Where else can your children, brothers and sisters work in such a safe and exciting environment? Our HOTTIES will discover their full potential in this fun environment of respect and empowerment! All this while they serve you the best steak in town!

So, if you are interested on getting in on the ground floor of my latest investment opportunity, just let me know!

3 sizes too small? Mack Daddy gets a triple bypass

photo(1)Editor’s note: Mack Daddy is off the oxygen and has been moved to a private room! They have a sitter with him during the night. They’re afraid he will get up on his own!

So I started to write about patience and children. I have a sweet friend struggling with teaching her 2-year-old to wait a gosh-darned minute, but instead, my thoughts keep turning to patients. One patient in particular.

Houston, We’ve Had a Problem

I learned Monday that my dad’s bazillionth stent procedure was now escalating into a shave him down like a newborn and crack him open like a walnut triple bypass surgery.

He suffered some pretty traumatic injuries to his heart due to the kickback of constant machine gun fire during Vietnam. All these years later, about half of his heart muscle no longer works. And we learned this week that three of his major arteries are shot, and the rest are blocked between 60 and 80 percent. So a specialist in Houston will harvest three veins from his legs and chest, then clean out and stent the rest.

“The doctor said he will have me feeling like a million bucks!” Mack Daddy was in high spirits that night on the phone, seemingly unconcerned. I squeaked out a complete, “I love you, Pops.”

“I love you, too, Melanie. I would love you more if you brought me a steak though.”

I Came in Peace

After his last “cardiac event” a few years ago, we went fishing. I didn’t want to fish, I wanted to talk. He didn’t want to talk, he wanted to fish.

“I have lived more than most men ever get to. I’ve done every thing I ever wanted to and then some. Every day I’m alive is gravy. Don’t worry, let’s fish!”

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So, I hired a trainer: Or, why I hate Doug

Balls, balls, balls to the wall.
Balls, balls, balls to the wall.

The Hubster and I took a short trip last month to Memphis and Arkansas. Did you know the WHOLE place is covered in trees and water? There are lakes and hiking trails and biking trails! There are places for you to swim with your kids AND your dogs! It was a revelation. Every time Hubs saw something interesting, like a park or nature conservatory, he wanted to stop and get out – to explore.

Forgetting my Boy Scout ways, I was completely unprepared for the change of scenery. Always in a dress, always in my gold sandals. If you have ever spent any time in that part of the country, you know the whole place is uphill. Even if you think you have crested the hill and expect to be headed down hill any moment – nope. You’re mistaken. Still uphill.

And it’s humid people, like sucking water instead of air. Meanwhile, skinnyfit Hubs is sprinting uphill in jeans, dress shoes and a long-sleeved shirt, marveling at the trees and the water and I am panting along doggedly behind him. My feet hurt and my glutes are burning when I say I would prefer the elevator to the flights of stairs looming ahead. Worst is my hair, my vainglorious hair. It is starting to … grow in the humidity. Not in luxurious length but in volume, like some GIANT puffy overgrown junior high perm. I am frantically scanning the ground for a rubber band so I can pull this new-found mane up and off my clammy head.

“We have got to get you moving, Melanie” the Hubs says, big stupid encouraging smile on his face. I am now actually starting to sweat, which I hate, and I have to fight the urge to shove him off the side of the trail bridge. As I fantasize about an alligator looming up out of the water and snapping him right up, I think, “Oh, I can move buddy, move that smile right off your only-one-chinned face.”

But I don’t. He’s got the car keys to the rental car in his pocket and I really don’t need that kind of hassle.

Inside though, I am feeling more than a little annoyed. I have been going to the gym regularly for the first time in my life and the elliptical and I are big buddies. Heck, I even do circuit training. I eat smoothies with coconut oil and flax and chia seeds. But there is no denying, I might be a little more out of shape than I thought I was.

So when we get back to the car, that sweet, soft, airconditioned refuge, I bit the bullet and sent an SOS message to Doug Seawright, the trainer I know from church. My investment, he said, would be minimal. All I needed were dumb bells and an exercise ball. Now, if you are thinking of purchasing one of these torture balls, be aware that they are sized by height. The shorter you are, the smaller the ball you need. If you are vertically challenged, the last thing you need to do is the spread-eagle-teeter atop a giant, rolling ball in your living room, helplessly careening toward the fireplace ledge, and your feet can’t reach the floor to stop you. Trust me on this.

Having a trainer has been dreadful and wonderful. I love Doug, I hate Doug, and I resent his interference – all at the same time. So it’s a lot like having parents again! We have been working on sets of exercises to develop my own personal five-day training regimen. The exercises have real names, like Shoulder 21’s, and standing wall push-ups, bent-over rows, leg extensions, chest press with weights, Swiss squats. I prefer my naming system, though, I use numbers instead. For example, there’s the I Hate Doug No. 1, I Hate Doug No. 2 with ball, I Hate Doug No. 3, I Hate Doug No. 4, and I Really Hate Doug No. 5 with ball.

Seriously though, Doug is super encouraging, which I need. He even sends me the occasional cheerleader text. I try to distract him during our sessions with chatter about wine or his education, even our mutual love for banana pudding. I do all this to try to get him to lose count of my squats so I can be done sooner. But he is wise to me. He made me repeat a whole set just so I will learn my lesson. I Hate Doug No. 6, with and without ball.

Did you know that if you do 30 Swiss squats and 30 regular squats, without ever having done a single squat before in your entire life, you cannot walk like a normal person for three days? You will have to go down stairs sideways, holding on for dear life. Your children will laugh at you when you hobble in a maxi dress. You will moan in pain every time you try to go to the bathroom. Which is a lot when you are 38 again, have given birth twice, and are trying to drink at least a half gallon of water a day.

Did you also know that if you work out regularly for just two weeks, you will have more energy? And that if you use a trainer that comes to your house, you will also be forced to keep your house clean? You never know where that ball will roll with a stranger chasing after you … .

What has been really great though is the sense of accomplishment I have felt. When it gets really, really hard and I am sweating and swearing, Doug will remind me to concentrate on those muscles, tell me that I really can do it. More importantly, that I really need to do it for myself, and that I need to change my mindset about exercise.

‘You have to remind yourself that this is your time, your time for recreation. An hour that you take, just for you, so that you will feel good and you will feel strong.’ Him calling exercise “recreation” might be I Hate Doug No. 7. So, yeah, I am not there yet, but there’s always tomorrow! And tomorrow is cardio day, so no squats!

 

 

 

 

 

Take that, fat pincher!!

new sarahSo it’s been three weeks and I’ve had yet another horrifying date with Mr. Fat Pincher. Or was it? Not this time, folks!

You see… two weeks ago I decided to take the bull by the horns and get my diet under control. Really it was more like get my love of carbs under control. Yes, I cut carbs … and it about broke my heart. At first. Now, not so much. I’ve talked before about how I am an “all or nothing” girl. Food restrictions tend to be this way for me too. If you give me an inch I will take a mile. So, when I cut out carbs, I just know that I can’t have them. Chips and queso? Not for me! Margarita? Absolutely not! (Tito’s and soda? Um, yes please!) Mommy has her limits, let’s be realistic here. Adrienne (my fantastic trainer) was skeptical about this plan because with my five-day-a-week workouts, I pretty much needs carbs as my fuel to train.

I decided I would simply suck it up and plow through. I am not going to lie – there were a few days I struggled. There were days I felt really weak. I realized that carbs really are fuel for the amount of strength training and cardio I am doing. But now things have evened out a bit and my body has adjusted. I’m learning to live with fewer carbs … WAY fewer. I won’t be doing this forever and pretty soon I will start introducing healthy carbs back into my diet, but for now I’m feeling strong and great.

Oh, and about Mr. Fat Pincher. And Mr. Scale. Today I wasn’t scared. I was ready for them. And here’s why … in the last three weeks … ready for it????

-15 lbs

-6 inches

-2% total body fat

BAM! Take that, fat pincher!! Until we meet again…

MS won’t make me give up hope

Zombie_Orange_by_SithgODDessEditor’s note:  Find out more about multiple sclerosis here.

When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004, I thought my life was over. Hubs and I hadn’t been married long, and we didn’t have any babies yet. All I could think was that I would soon be crippled, shriveled, a burden. When I sobbed out the news to my dad, he was pragmatic as always.

“Well, at least it’s not cancer, Melanie. That stuff can kill you.”

My dad, a cancer survivor himself, likes to maintain perspective. My first few years with MS were rough, though. During that time, I experienced lots of “relapses,” bouts of nerve inflammation and interruption that manifest physically. I lost the hearing in one ear, color vision, the ability to walk without assistance or drive a car, strength in my hands, depression, unbearable exhaustion and other bits of personal yuckiness you really don’t want to know about. I was fortunate to have a nurse for a husband, amazing bosses, wonderful friends and a mother who helped care for me when things got really bad. After the birth of Little Son, I lost the use of one of my arms for a while. I was consumed with fear. There was a scary new medicine available for MS, and I was ready to try it if it would allow me to take care of my baby.

I started taking Tysabri by IV infusion five years ago and have not had a single relapse since I started. No new lesions in my brain or on my spine. With the exception of the fatigue, most of the time I can forget I even have the stupid disease. For me, the benefits of taking Tysabri have greatly outweighed the risks.

Call me crazy, but I always look forward to the days I spend at Allison Cancer Center getting my meds. Kicked back in my leather recliner, listening to the gentle snores around the room and the hums and beeps and clicks of the IV pumps, these are hours I really enjoy. I can work on my laptop, watch a movie, shop online, listen to music, visit — and my favorite — read. Mostly uninterrupted. No bottles, no diapers, no phones, no cartoons, no fighting over Spider-Man, no hiding in the bathroom to finish a crucial chapter. It is literally my “me time.”

And a lot of the people here are really great, too. Fabulous nurses, doctors, cookie-wielding volunteers. Every person has a story. There is sadness and strength and faith and laughter in this room. Everyone doing what they have to do to see another day. Mr. F had a stem cell replacement to fight his cancer, and he proudly shows off his peach fuzzy scalp. “I have been reborn. I am literally a brand new man.”

Mr. Handsome, whose wife left him. The gracious Ms. N, whose faith in God has only grown stronger.

Inevitably, someone asks me what kind of cancer I have, or a volunteer tells me how brave I am, and I have to explain to them that I am not fighting for my life. But I am fighting for the ability to have the life I want, to be independent and able to raise my children. And even though I don’t have cancer, these sweet folks have let me in on the camaraderie that is the chemo lab. We all have a sense of being “in it” together, tangled in lines and strangling blood pressure cuffs, beeping machines and needing help to go to the bathroom.

We were all startled out of half-sleep Thursday when the fire alarms started going off. At first, we thought it was a drill. Next thing you know, we’re being ordered up and out. Forty or so tired and confused folks trying to make it out one door at the same time. Shuffling, carrying purses and IV poles and pumps. It’s hard to move quickly or gracefully when you are tethered to a rolling pole and don’t want to rip out your IV! We all slowly milled about in the parking lot, blinking uncomfortably in the midday sun.

“We look like a scene out of ‘Night of the Living Dead,’” said Mr. F.

That cracked me up. I am a big fan of all things zombie, and as I surveyed everyone shambling about, some muttering, others grumbling about being hungry, and generally everybody having no idea about what was going on, I knew he was right.

But another one of the patients didn’t see the humor in his observation. Grimacing and holding onto her IV pole, she reminded the zombie herd around her that no one there was dead yet.

This too, struck me, this being surrounded by people who have not given up hope. And realizing that I really am one of them.

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World MS Day & Maya

tumblr_n4weydVE8e1qc97emo1_500It is fitting for me that on World MS Day, I learned that Maya Angelou died. She has given hope and encouragement to so many.

I think her poem “And Still I Rise” captures the spirit of the thousands and thousands of us suffering with multiple sclerosis. It won’t get us. We will keep fighting to stay on our feet, stay in our offices, stay in the game.

And still we rise.

Thank you Maya. Thank you everyone for supporting us in our search for a cure. To see her beautiful reading of maya_angelou1039d4fc-7555-404d-9226-16034f11513e“And Still I Rise,” click here.

To learn more about the fight against MS, click here.

Read my post about my own experiences with MS, click here.