Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
|My hunka-hunka Mario Rodriguez|
The night before we left for Los Angeles, where I would begin the first residency of my MFA program at AULA, Mario and I were trying to decide if we should take the wireless keyboard that I am typing on right now. I am not used to writing on an iPad or a laptop, unless they are connected to a standard keyboard or a real mouse.
“It’s no problem to take them,” Mario told me, leaning over me and picking up the mouse. My hand was still on it, and when his hand touched mine, I shivered. He smiled as I looked up at him.
“Thank God we’re married,” I said. “If we weren’t, I’d be in big trouble.”
“Well, we are married,” he said, trying to sound matter-of-fact, but he was still smiling.
Sound corny? It’s true. Mario still gives me goosebumps, even with a simple touch. I normally don’t talk about this, mainly because so many people I know (and love) live with broken hearts or unrequited love, and I feel for them. But today is Mario’s birthday, and this post is meant to bless him.
I started working for Mario in 1986—co-workers first, friends next, and then we hugged –but that’s another story. Mario always recognized me as a diamond in the rough—a princess beneath layers of insecurity and self-doubt. When I started working for him, I was twenty-three, a single mother freshly out of a disastrous relationship. Looking back on that time, I am embarrassed to admit how unbalanced I was - a proverbial catastrophe waiting to happen. Mario’s friendship built me up with encouragement and acceptance without strings attached. After years of being deprived of this, I ate it up. He was handsome, financially stable, loved my son and respected both friends and strangers. Then there was this: Mario loved me. He loved me! I received this love with a mixture of wariness and gratitude, knowing that one day he would probably come to his senses, figure out I was just me, and move on. He stayed. His steadiness made my head spin—and we prepared ourselves for marriage. As parents of young children, we knew the effects of failed relationships and we weren’t interested in failing again. Mario loved me, respected me, and honored me.
|In Mexico 1990|
This thought still brings tears to my eyes. His love for me was the stuff that legends are made of. He didn’t manufacture it – it came naturally. Sometimes I look at him now and remember how I thought of him as a guy light years out of my league, but one who saw into my soul and loved me! I am married to the best guy I know.
When I think of Mario my heart swells. From meeting him, to working for him, to becoming friends, newlyweds, having Alicia and raising a family, working, moving, losing family, and then gaining family through our children, all the way up to now is the sea of life we have built together. In every season, Mario has been faithful, fun, and has never given up. God has mercy on the humble, which is probably why he gave me Mario. I thank God for this mercy – because I know I don’t deserve it.
Today Mario is sixty-four! I can’t believe that my athletic, beautiful husband is sixty-four. Today he will fly back to L.A., after three days with our family in Kansas City, and I will see him again!!
Happy Birthday, babe. You really are the best thing I have in my life – and my life is overflowing with good things! I still need you and will still feed you now that you're sixty-four!
Monday, June 18, 2018
|Joe Cool Rodriguez 1987|
The first time I met him he was wearing a green-striped shirt and following David, his elder brother, into Mario’s office. This is before Mario and I were dating, and our relationship was boss-employee. I loved working for Mario, the most organized boss ever; as a single mother I appreciated his humor and discipline. That day, however, he looked over the counter and smiled at me.
“Boys,” he said in a voice reserved for his children, “this is our new park aid, Janet. She’s brand new so don’t bother her. She’s still trying to learn how to type.”
I rolled my eyes at him, but smiled at the kids. The two boys (David, 7, and Joe, 6) walked over to my desk, and started telling me about their recent airplane voyage from Kansas City.
“That’s where our Mom lives,” Joe said, dreamily. He had sandy, blonde hair and blue eyes, and he looked at me when he spoke. David was brown haired, brown eyed and the talker of the two. He was quick to tell me that he would soon be eight-years-old.
David and Joe drew pictures at my desk as Mario made a few phone calls in his office. They were filled with observations and questions. They wanted to use my new electric typewriter. They told me they had just ridden a horse the day before and Joe actually fell off.
“But I got up and got back on,” he said. It wasn’t hard to tell he was proud of himself for getting back on the horse. I didn't even imagine that Joe would one day become quite an accomplished horse rider , a genuine cowboy, and that he and David would break and care for horses with such skill that they could make a living at it. Joe would also become an honor student, a star football player, and graduate high school in favor with his teachers and classmates, voted most likely to succeed. That day he was just a boy who was coping with his parents' divorce, and my heart went out to him.
|Reading books to Joe that night|
I went to my boss’ house for dinner that night, more at the invitation of the boys than of him. I got the feeling that they all liked me there, a woman in the shadow of all these guys. I was also delighted to watch them together. David was bold; Joe was thoughtful. They were fun and respectful and I loved the relationship they had. I ended up marrying Mario eighteen months later, even though I was clueless of my true feelings for him that first night. It was easy being with him and the boys, eating cold chicken and salad together, and later reading books. I read four or five books aloud to the boys that evening as Mario washed the dinner dishes.
“Why are you leaving?” Joe asked me as stood up to leave.
Mario laughed from the sink and shouted, “Because she doesn’t live here!”
“I have a baby,” I answered Joe, smiling.
Joe leaned against the chair and looked at me. "Is it a girl baby or a boy baby?”
“A boy. His name is Vince.”
“Why don't you go home and get him and bring him back here?”
I looked up at Mario who was smiling.
“No, honey,” I said. “I’m going to go home and spend some time with him. Usually I give him a bath and put him to bed.”
"Okay, bye," Mario said, emerging from the kitchen, drying his hand on a towel. "Thanks for coming over."
I left that night, not knowing it would be the first night of many--nights where I did go home and get Vince and bring him back to Mario's place. We all got along so well, and I loved seeing this side of Mario. We were good friends and once I allowed myself to, we fell in love.
In many ways, I saw David and Joe as a package deal when I married Mario, but I soon learned to appreciate them as individuals. Joe expressed his emotions and reasoned through every decision, just like his father. Even as a teenager, he was kind and funny, tender and strong, analytical and careful.
|Ariel, Asher and Joe...goin' to the chapel|
Not long ago, Joe married Ariel, the woman of substance that brings out the best in him. She lights up his world, has a beautiful smile, and appreciates who he is. Want to know the beautiful thing? When he met her, she was a single mother of a young son.
|Harvey's birth--three Generations|
Over the years, I have amassed thousands of memories and thousands of words to describe Joe, but none come as close as this: he is just like Mario. Even the way he fathers his delightful sons reminds me of his Dad...and I can think of no greater compliment.
Today is his birthday, and I think of how far he has come. Now a father to three boys, he juggles work, home, and family with care and purpose. Every day I am proud of him.
Happy Birthday, Joe! We love you, so, so, so much!
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
This blog is a re-post from five years ago--and it is still true today. Even though Mario and I are not fighting, the principles for reconciliation still apply. Think of your love and remember the joy and challenge of a love that lasts.
|Mario and I one random night - 30 years married.|
We are cordial as we speak to one another this morning, but there are icicles sticking to our words. After 25 years of marriage, our fights have become polite.
I know I’m crazy in love with my husband and I know he is my rock as much as a human man can be a human woman’s rock. Even so, I am mad at him. He made me mad yesterday and when he did I felt bad about myself. The mood in our house drastically changed. I didn’t just shut my mouth – I made him angry, too. We were both tired and hungry and spent, so when our busy day was all over, we shared our double sized bed together without touching one another.
This morning I made my own coffee.
Today we will reconcile. I’m mad at him now but I can guarantee you that I will not be able to stay away from him. He rejoices with me in my small victories, like being able to rent a garbage bin for the lowest price. He will help me see things from a balanced perspective and convince me that organic salmon is worth the price. He will kiss me some time during today and chills will radiate from the back of my neck to the base of my spine.
The reason I know this is because I have endured many fights with him. They have threatened my happiness temporarily; but never have stolen from the concept of true love – the dream I am living with this man.
True love is not wimpy. It is not selfish or self-centered. It doesn’t wear make-up to make itself look good. It exists between two people ready and willing and able to sacrifice for and with each other. True love sees disappointment regularly and survives. It is filled with passion, but equally filled with awareness that it is responsible to the world around it. It becomes a large, stable boulder in a sea of change that people know will never move.
My love is not perfect; but it is strong. It is rooted in grace and mercy and forgiveness. It is a marathon runner, fueled by respect, truth and kindness. It has fallen many times on a rocky road that never ends and it has stood up and limped back into the race, ready to go on. My love kicks ass.
That’s why this morning I can write this. I am no baby – I am no spoiled princess. I am a woman of substance and strength and I know who I am. I will apologize for my part and I will forgive him for his.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
|Scarlett Star -- Last month|
Today I was trying to tell Scarlett, my granddaughter, a knock-knock joke.
Scarlett: Who’s there?
Me: Interrupting Cow
Scarlett: (smiles mischievously) Um…no. You can’t come in.
I laughed pretty loud, and Scarlett laughed at me laughing. “Grandma,” she said, exaggerating her own laughter. “We’re having so much fun!”
Laughing is fun and we know this. My grandkids love laughing; they even invent reasons to do it—and Scarlett is no exception. She loves playing barbies with me and pretending one breaks their leg just so we call over Doc McStuffins, who will save the day. Doc McStuffins is huge, compared to Scarlett’s Barbies. Sometimes she makes her walk over to them like the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man, which makes both of us laugh. Scarlett loves making me laugh. She loves being good at this.
Scarlett Star Rodriguez was born in New Mexico four years ago today, in a birthing room perched on the top floor of the hospital. After a long labor, Rikki delivered Scarlett, who was promptly weighed, measured, and handed over to her father, Vince (my son) as Rikki recovered. Scarlett relaxed into his arms and after a few minutes with her, he let me hold her myself. This scene will be with me forever—it was a perfect, peaceful time after a long, tumultuous labor.
Scarlett was finally here.
The birth of a child is always a little unpredictable, but soon things became normal and Vince and Rikki brought her home to meet Bruno, the family dog, accepted her as his baby.
Scarlett was the first child to be born after Mario and I returned from South Africa, and we rejoiced that we were so close. Even though the family still lived miles away in New Mexico, I was grateful to be back in the USA, only two time zones away from a phone call—a simple plane ride from here to there. Still, Scarlett’s birth magnified the desire for all of us to be closer. It also exposed an interesting fact: California was Vince’s home, but New Mexico was Rikki’s.
Where would Scarlett find her home? The answer was, as it is for all children, that Scarlett’s home was with her parents. No matter where they chose to live, Scarlett’s most important connection would be with her mother and father during her formative years.
By the time Scarlett turned one, anyone could see she was a secure and happy baby. Vince and Rikki eventually decided to move “back” to California, and so we are very close now. After a getting-to-know-you period, Scarlett started socializing with us regularly. She became more and more accepting of us, and each step was a miracle.
Today Scarlett Star turns FOUR! She has grown into a delightful, friendly, joy-filled girl who we love being around. Every other week, for a Friday trip to Chico, Scarlett accompanies me to see her cousins and Auntie Alicia. These days are especially beautiful, since the building of strong family connections is so important. She also loves her extended family, running to her cousins at family gatherings and clinging to them with glee. "There's my cousin," she says, pointing at a picture on our refrigerator. "That's my family."
Yesterday I asked Scarlett what she wanted for her birthday. She thought awhile and then she said, “Well, I’ll tell you what I want, but Mommie said I could have it if I am a very good goy-al.” I smiled at this and waited with great anticipation. She came closer and whispered her heart’s desire: “I want a can of soda all to myself!”
Remember when the idea of a can of soda was magical? When your toys were real and the world was a safe place filled with endless possibilities to have fun? That’s how old Scarlett is today—the magical age of four.
Happy Birthday, Scarlett Star! You are an amazing goy-al.
Monday, May 28, 2018
|R.I.P. PFC JAY-D ORNSBY ADKINS|
December 9, 1985 - April 28, 2007
Every year on Memorial Day, I remember one soldier—his name was Jay-D Ornsby-Adkins. He was handsome, funny, compassionate, kind to strangers, and enlisted in the US Army. I think of him to remember what Memorial Day is all about—to honor the soldiers and sailors who have paid the ultimate price while serving their country in the armed services. Jay-D was born on December 9, 1985 and was killed in Iraq on April 28, 2007, making him only twenty-one years old when he died.
The reason I know of Jay-D in the first place is because of Morgan, a girl who has been Alicia’s best friend since high school. It was not long after I met her that I found out her brother was killed in action.
It has made me see this holiday, Memorial Day, much differently.
Jay-D’s mother, Robyn, is a beautiful woman who now bears the dubious distinction of being a Gold-Star Mom. “I have a hair salon,” she once told me, “and every year I ask people if they know what Memorial Day is. Only one or two will know exactly what the holiday is for—only a few know who we are remembering.”
She’s not exaggerating. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 28% of Americans know that Memorial Day is specifically to honor those who died in war. Veteran’s Day is to honor those who served—Memorial Day is to honor those who have died in battle.
These fallen soldiers leave behind families. These families are given a folded flag and a thank you from the U.S. Government. We, as a nation, also grieve on this day, with them. We remember them as more than bodies on a field—we remember the people that they were.
“My Jay-D was born a mischievous little monkey,” Robyn told me, laughing. “Honestly, he was a little character who found joy in challenging me!” Her laughter faded and she sighed. “I would give anything to have him here challenging me now.”
Jay-D grew up dearly loved, an active boy who loved to play. He was fearless and mighty, never running from any fight. “He wouldn’t tolerate anyone bullying him,” Robyn told me. “He’d give them a good fight, for sure.” Robyn stopped to explain how hard it was to teach Jay-D the delicate balance of sticking up for himself and having self-control. As soon as she felt he learned this lesson, he started sticking up for others.
“I would get a call from the principal's office, and they'd tell me that Jay-D was in there for fighting a boy who was bullying someone else,” Robyn laughed. “When he got home, I asked him why he would fight other people’s battles, and he answered me straight: ‘Well, it just didn’t seem right!’”
Jay-D's anti-bullying campaign was in place long before any even existed. “At a time when it was not cool for anyone to help the Down Syndrome kid in school, he did. He would defend an underdog, stand up for the new kids, and even helped others when no one else would.”
The boy who fought for the rights of others also learned how to express his own tender interior. “He taught himself how to play guitar, he loved ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ which he played very well.”
After high school, Jay-D chose to enlist in the US Army, since career opportunities seemed more promising after finishing school. “Jay-D wanted to get his life started,” Robyn said. “He knew that if he enlisted he would be able to earn money for college and get other opportunities.”
At twenty years old, he was enlisted, sworn in and enrolled in boot camp. It was there that he became a soldier. “Once boot camp was over,” Robyn told me. “Everything changed. He was very focused on fighting for his country. Shortly after, he was deployed to Bagdad, Iraq, where he served as a tanker gunner. While the main gun is what most people think of when it comes to tanks, Jay D was part of the crew that operated the machine guns mounted outside.
Through tears, Robyn told me about the day her son was killed: “It was actually supposed to be his day off. He wasn’t supposed to work that day, but his team needed him. He agreed to go, not only because he was part of a team, but also he could apply that day to his next leave.”
Instead of their usual tank, the team took a Hummer as part of a convoy and made their way through the streets. On the side of the road, waiting, was the enemy. As soon as the company’s Hummer was in range, the enemy exploded an IED – an Improvised Explosive Device-- and killed three of the four soldiers in Jay-D’s Hummer. The enemy was fired upon by the surviving convoy, but their deaths did not bring justice. War really is hell.
Robyn was able to bury Jay-D’s remains in Sunset View Cemetary, a place in Jackson. “It is a beautiful and peaceful place.”
Today, the Ornsby’s usually celebrate Jay-D’s memory with friends and close family. One year she decorated a wine barrel and burned a special candle, signifying how the light of love will always burn bright in her heart. She will take delight in having her grandson close by, a little boy named after his Uncle Jay-D.
|Robyn's Jay-D (1985) and Morgan's Jay-D (2015)|
For Memorial Day, please take a deep breath and remember a fallen hero. Think of Jay-D, his heart of gold, and his Gold Star Mom, Robyn. Remember his sister, Morgan, who honors her family and her brother's memory every day of her life.
Resolve to be part of the minority of Americans that remember what this day really is all about. “I see the advertisements for the Auto Malls, the shopping centers, and the grocery stores,” Robyn told me once. “All of them say ‘Memorial Day Sale!’ I wonder if they will honor any fallen Veterans there? I think not. It’s all a money-making opportunity to them.”
Our soldiers are more than men and women in uniform. They are someone's baby, someone's spouse, someone's uncle or aunt. I will grieve the fallen. I will celebrate the freedom that I have because of them.
I will grieve with the families who have lost loved ones on Memorial Day.
Morgan, Alicia, and Alannah—the Three Musketeers from high school were together the other day for Kynan’s birthday. There in the mix was Morgan’s oldest son, a beautiful blue-eyed boy named Jay-D, who bears a striking resemblance to his uncle.
R.I.P. PFC JAY-D ORNSBY ADKINS
Sunday, May 27, 2018
|Abuela and Harvey|
Yesterday Mario asked me how old Harvey was going to be today. He was sure it had been two years since he was born in Seattle.
“Harvey and Scarlett are one year apart,” I answered, smiling. “Which means Harvey will be turning three this year.”
At first Mario insisted that it had not been three years, but soon sighed and shook his head. “I can’t believe it’s been three years. Three years since that week.”
|Before Vows--May 26, 2015|
Mario is referring to the week of Harvey’s birth—one where we decided to go to Seattle and see Joe and Ariel, who were due to have the new baby at any moment. The day after we arrived in Seattle, we followed Joe and Ariel to downtown Seattle, where they made their long-term relationship official and tied the knot at a cute little place called “The Shotgun Chapel.”
The following day, Harvey arrived.
It was a beautiful morning and the sun was shining–-I can remember it as clear as the Seattle sky was that day: rare and brilliant. Without fuss or noise, Harvey Locke Rodriguez was born at home, entering the world with unusual contentment.
|Harvey Locke, 10 minutes old.|
The trips from California to Washington were not as frequesnt as we’d like, so we saw Harvey grow up mostly through pictures. At Christmas, we all met in Kansas City (at David and Lennae’s house) and reconnected. I was amazed at how much Harvey had grown—a smiling baby with confidence and energy to rival his brother, Asher. Trips back and forth to Seattle gave us snapshots of his life, but each time we shared the same joy—Harvey loves us and we love him. Harvey has so much energy! Harvey is the mischievous, playful, happy grandson! Harvey is the beloved, the mighty, the beautiful.
Last year, Joe and Ariel relocated to Kansas City again, making them closer to David’s family, a nice distance for grandparents who have to fly to see grandchildren –and the kids, too (wink, wink). At Christmas we visited them in their new house and Harvey spent the whole time in motion—the only time he really stopped was when he was sleeping. I had to take extra vitamins just to feel normal.
Earlier this year, Joe and Ariel had their third child, Theodore, making Harvey a BIG BROTHER!! I know it all sounds cliché,but once you start having Grandchildren, time goes by even faster!
|Theodore, Mama, Harvey|
I am typing this in the half-light of the early morning, thanking God for our Harvey. I love how he loves life and runs into it without fear. His face is filled with mischief and he’s always cooking up a plan to do something a little naughty—but funny. Born in a place of contentment, raised in a place of safety, and growing with joy and affection from all sides, I can wish only one more thing: God’s amazing grace all over him and his family. I also wish for a chance to see him soon!
|Three Generations 2017|
Happy Birthday, Harvey! You are like sunshine to our lives!