A quiz to determine whether you should be

a SAHM, WAHM or WOHM. (Yeah, kind of kidding here).

I love this “quiz” from The Washington Post. Just goes to show that no mom has it “easy.”

Click here to see the quiz.

I Don’t Like Johnny Football

I live in Texas, and I’m married to a very enthusiastic Aggie (are there any other type?), so I’m sure I’ll be flayed for this. But here’s the truth: I don’t like Johnny Manziel. On the other hand, I went to the University of Texas. Maybe I’m expected to disparage the former A&M quarterback.

There are a couple reasons I don’t like Manziel that have nothing to do with him personally.

1) He’s only 21 and making millions of dollars in the NFL. I know that’s not his fault. That’s legal. But at 21, he should be in school, getting an education, learning how to manage money wisely. I think the NFL, the association who looks out for student athletes, and the media do kids a disservice when they put them in situations like this. I don’t want to see Manziel crash and burn, but there’s a good chance he will.

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2) The media is making him a bigger deal than he is. Sometimes I think the media creates news, and they created this story for sure. Yes, Manziel is a good player. So are hundreds of other players. So are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and a lot of other football players. And you know what? There are a lot of people who don’t earn nearly what the worst pro football player makes, and what they do is a lot more important. Let’s talk about police officers, soldiers, teachers, EMTs, plumbers–yes, plumbers! Ever had a water leak flooding your house? Give me a plumber over a football player any time.

Why I don’t like Manziel personally.

3) He’s not a role model. Man, I wish Tim Tebow had been able to stay in the NFL. I’m sure there’s some football related reason he didn’t last, but he was a good guy. I could get behind Tim Tebow (as much as I can get behind any football player). But Manziel doesn’t have a great record. He gets in trouble. He gives the other team the finger. He’s not a good sport. He drinks, parties, and acts a lot like a 21-year-old kid. Oh, wait. He IS a 21-year-old kid. So that goes back to my first reason for not liking him.

manziel

Can we please stop idolizing football players? I suppose that’s about as likely as persuading people to stop idolizing rock stars. That’s a whole different blog.

An open letter to the family who donated my mother’s kidney,

First, please let me begin by thanking you for your generosity at a time that must have been unimaginably difficult. My mother received a kidney transplant in late July and I will never be able to express how thankful we all are. Instead I would like to tell you what your gift means to my family and to me.

DSC_0085_NEFMy mother has been suffering from renal failure for nearly twenty years. At first, it was manageable with diet, but eventually—nearly ten years ago—she had to go on dialysis. She has been on the kidney transplant list for the past six and half years.

I have young children, ages nine and six. This means their grandmother has been on dialysis for all their lives. The grandmother they have known has always been weak and fragile. She has been unable to babysit them, or get down on the floor and play with them. Due to her dialysis schedule, she often hasn’t been able to attend school events. Holidays have been cut short. Multi-generation family vacations have been impossible. I know how much she loves them and how hard it has been on her to not be a “normal” grandmother to them.

For me, the hardest part has been knowing that even the limited part she has played in their lives couldn’t last. Dialysis is hard on a person’s body and I have watched as it shaved years off my mother’s life, knowing that the inevitably result of my mother’s kidney failure would be that she would not live to see my children grow into adults. They would never know her as teenagers. They would not be able to turn to her for guidance in those tough years. They would never see her through the eyes of an adult.

My mother is my children’s only grandmother. We lost my mother-in-law to pancreatic cancer three years ago. It breaks my heart, but they have already begun to forget her and how much she loved them. Knowing they would lose their other grandmother too, that they would forget her, that they would enter adulthood with no grandmother … that has been heart wrenching for me.

That is what this gift you’ve given us means to me. Not only does it mean more years with my mother for me, but it means more years with her for my children. It means she will live long enough to see them graduate high school and probably college. It means they will have the chance to know her. My mother is one of brightest, most cheerful, most optimistic people I have ever known. She has faced true hardship in her life, and she has always done it with a smile. Her optimism and joy infect everyone around her. At my darkest moments, I’ve been able to think, “What would my mother do?” And the answer is almost always, “She would find the positive. She would find a way to smile through it.” Sometimes, just having that example is enough. Because of your family’s generosity, my children will have that example, too.

Thank you. Thank you a thousand times, in a thousand tiny ways.


 

Emily McKay lives and writes in the Texas Hill Country where she bakes and collects eggs from her yard chickens.

Wingmen

Shortly after the tragic news about Robin Williams broke, when messages of shock flooded Facedbook, a friend of mine posted this:

Where was your wingman, Robin Williams? For all the joy you brought to people, all the fans mourning your loss and others condemning, who among us was there for you? We never really know what’s going on in the mind of someone else.

Over the next few hours, her words became a constant echo through my mind, poking and prodding, nudging, shifting into new questions: Who’s my wingman? Who can I call? Who can I lean on? Who’s there for me? But then…Whose wingman am I? Do they know? Do they know they can call me anytime…about anything? Do they know I am there for them? Do I demonstrate the things that I think in my heart? Do I reach out? Do I touch base and check on them? Do I let them know when I think about them?

For the past several weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship. It started earlier this summer with my dreaded annual mammogram. I believe in them, but wow, do they stress me out. Because of that, I’d put this one off a bit. But I knew it was time to go, so I mustered my courage and went. Then I waited. A day went by with no phone call. Yay! Day two. The morning went by. Yay! Maybe I’m in the clear….but then…the phone rings. It’s the hospital…the nurse…they’ve found something…an abnormality…I need to come back…my head is spinning…I’m feeling dizzy…

Okay, maybe you know that drill. I do. It’s happened before. But I stood there, all barely able to breathe and freaked out and…alone. And I wanted to call someone. I needed to call someone. I needed someone to take my hand and tell me it would be okay. I needed a wingman.

But I had no idea who to call.

At first I thought about my husband…but he was working and I didn’t want to worry him while he needed to be focused on his job. Then I thought about my sister…but she’s got massive big stuff on her plate, and I didn’t want to stress her out. Then I thought about my sweet neighbor…but I didn’t want to lay that on her. Then…

I just stood there, because I honest to God had no idea who to call. Because somehow I’ve reached this point where I have lots of people with whom I’m friends, but I’m not sure I have…a wingman.

There, I said it.

It’s odd that I can be surrounded by so much, a loving husband and wonderful kids, by great neighbors and friends, but still sometimes feel alone. And I know that part of that is my fault, because sometimes I don’t know how to reach out, to say, hey, I’m scared. I’ve got a problem. I need help. I need someone right now. I need a friend. I need YOU.

It takes a lot of courage to make yourself vulnerable like that. It’s like standing before someone naked.

But just like you have to get naked with your spouse (or significant other or whoever you’re crawling in bed with), I’m realizing you have to get naked with your friends too (figuratively speaking, of course.) (unless you’re like trying on swimsuits or something.) (but maybe that’s a topic for another day).

Sometimes I wonder when things got so complicated. Maybe they always were, but it seems like marriage and careers and motherhood, LIFE, all add extra layers and pressures to our daily existences, and sometimes it’s friendship that takes the backseat.

Have you ever felt like that? Like someone just took their friendship away? I have. Maybe we don’t mean for that to happen. We don’t want for it to happen. Maybe we don’t even realize it’s happened. Then one day we realize it’s been weeks—months—since we’ve talked to someone. Maybe we’ve missed someone’s birthday or some other important milestone in their lives. Maybe we’ve hurt them and haven’t even realized it. Maybe they’ve hurt us. The next thing you know you’re estranged, and you’re not quite sure why. (Or maybe you are, but you don’t know what to do about it, because doing something about it is HARD and SCARY.)

Recently I’ve reconnected with two longtime friends (Hi, Stacey, Hi, Wendy…you better say HI back!) and having them back in my life has been like this great big GIFT dropped down in my lap. With them, there was no falling out, just a drifting apart. Our life paths diverged. Technology (okay, and baseball) brought us back together (thank you, Facebook!), and it’s been wonderful But there are two other friendships that did experience a fracture. I’m really not sure why, but I’m working on fixing those. And yeah, it’s scary. But that’s okay. Friendship is worth it.

Wingmen are worth it.

Make sure you’ve got one. Make sure you are one.

You never know just how important it might be.

(And oh yeah. The whole mammogram thing? Everything turned out fine. Cysts.)

Depression: A Serious Disease

depression 3
I had a different idea for today’s blog, but my heart is heavy after learning about the loss of two people to depression and suicide in less than 24 hours.

One is a Hollywood legend that touched the lives of millions around the world with his laughter, insight into character and engaging personality (Robin Williams). The other was a young man, barely in his twenties. A beloved son with his entire life ahead of him.

But depression doesn’t discriminate. It knows no bounds. Age, sex, race, status… It doesn’t matter.
child depression
And depression isn’t something a person can merely “get over.” Or “set aside.” Or even worse, “just suck it up.”

For the person struggling with the disease, life can seem worthless. They feel lost, alone. The lows can be abysmal, with no light to reach for evident.
depression 2
For family members, it can be difficult as they struggle to understand the depths of the disease and how it affects their loved one.

Depression is not something to take lightly. To brush off. To dismiss as a weakness. It’s an evil disease. It takes lives. It leaves families shattered.
depression 1
If you or a loved one, a neighbor or co-worker…if anyone you come in contact with shows signs of depression, don’t let it slide. Instead, find the name and number of a local crisis center. Learn about the resources available and share that information. All it could take is for that person struggling to know that someone cares, that help is available. That they are worth it. That life can be a beautiful gift. That their life is a beautiful gift.

So please, look up that number and jot it down, add it to your phone contacts, share it with others.

And today, remember to hug your children and let them know they mean the world to you. Tell your spouse you love him or her. Call your mom and dad, sister and brother, grandmother and aunt. Email your favorite teacher. Text your best friend. Smile at the person in line at the bank or grocery store. Share a joke with a co-worker.

You never know when you have the chance to be the ray of sunshine in someone’s day.
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Resources to consider:

http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/help-for-depression#TreatmentFacts1

http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depresssion-support

Baby Shower Gifts

I hosted my sister’s baby shower last weekend. She’s due mid-September with her first baby. It’s been 5 years since my baby shower and there are already new, cool gadgets and baby items out there. I wish I’d had some of them!

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Of course, what I thought I needed at the time and what I really needed were not always the same thing. Wouldn’t parenting be easier if we knew what our baby would be like before he or she would be born?

Watching my sister play the party games and open gifts, I was struck by how clueless she was about what was to come. Life will change forever and irreversibly in about 5 weeks. But all she was thinking about was holding the baby and dressing him in cute little clothes and taking pictures of his firsts. She’s excited to meet him and become a mom.

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That’s why I love baby showers. They remind me of the time before my daughter was born, when motherhood was a wonderful mystery. When every kick and flutter was amazing. When I was scared and excited all at the same time. All moms need a dose of that new baby excitement once in a while. I went home and hugged my big girl, snuggling her like I would have if she’d let me as a cranky baby.

And you know what I realized? I love her more than I did when she was a baby. All the excitement I felt was warranted. My life has changed in so many wonderful and unexpected ways. The fear was warranted too. Not everything has gone how I envisioned. I love giving my sister the gift of a shower, but she gave me the gift of renewed appreciation for my “baby” too.

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Writing beach retreat.

So for years now, Emily & I have gone on writing retreats to the beach. Usually 3 or 4 days where we sneak away from our regular daily lives and hole ourselves away to focus on nothing but writing. We’re here now with our 4 kids and we’ll play and chat and write and the kids will have a blast. But it hasn’t always been like this. Once upon a time there were 4 of us that would come, us and 2 other writers and that’s what I want to talk about today.

When we started these retreats, we were fortunate that one of us had a lovely beach house we could use and it made our twice yearly trips (usually February and September) even more of a treat. For the brief stint I lived in Tennessee, it made things more difficult as I would see family when I went to Texas and there simply wasn’t time to carve out for those writing retreats. But one  November we decided it was time for another one so I flew into Austin and together we piled into the minivan (this time with a very pregnant Emily and a rather chatty toddler) and we hit the road for the five plus hour drive down to Bolivar peninsula. We had these traditions with these trips, we’d usually stop at Chili’s in Houston and then make our way to Galveston where we’d load onto the ferry that would take us over to the smaller strip of land that housed the beautiful Crystal Beach.

I suspect that many of you might not have heard of Crystal Beach or Bolivar peninsula unless you remember Hurricane Ike, the one that hit shortly after Katrina. Ike’s damage didn’t get quite the media attention that Katrina did – Bolivar is obviously not as populated as New Orleans, but still many people lost their lives and even more lost their homes.

It wasn’t just writing retreats though that mark my memories of this blue house on stilts, it was a family vacation spot a few times, a place where I went with several friends for just a weekend away at the beach.

Before the storm, you could see rows and rows of houses, these are the pictures of the aftermath of Ike, you can see how nearly everything was leveled. Now I only lost a place where I have memories, I didn’t lose property or land or belongings or loved ones, and I can only imagine how those people will begin to put their lives back together.

I’m one of those beach people. You know, how some people prefer the mountains – The Professor is one of those, but me, I’m all about the beach. The waves, the sand in my toes and the sun warming my face. I can sit there and watch that water for hours. Or walk along the shore and pick up shimmering pieces of sea glass. It is a refuge for me, the one place on earth that fills my soul more than any other.

Changing beach locations is not the only way our retreats are different. As I mentioned before, now we have kids in tow, whereas when we started, we were both kid-free. Not only that but our dear friend, the one who owned the beach house that we lost now has late-stage Alzheimer’s. Our trips are different, but we still write and recharge and laugh and enjoy a few days away from our “normal” lives. But I miss those early retreats, I miss that blue house and I miss our dear friend.

Celebrating Family

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This past weekend was bittersweet for me as I arrived in Texas for a family reunion with my dad’s side of the family, but then wound up having to say a final good-bye to my mom’s last living uncle who happened to live in the same town.

It was a blessing to see my uncle one last time. To give him a hug, smooth back his hair as he lay in his hospital bed, look in his gentle eyes and say a prayer with him.

It’s been a blessing catching up with cousins I haven’t seen in years. Talking about our kids and our lives. Sharing laughs about old times and making new memories.
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cousin love

This weekend has been a true picture of what family is all about. Helping each other through difficult times. Celebrating good times. Advice and guidance when faced with troubles. Support through good and bad. There have been ups and downs, squabbles and tears. But more importantly, there’s been love. Lots and lots of love.

So today, as I move from my aunt’s house to the RWA National Conference hotel, I leave with the certainty that I’m writing for the perfect genre. Romance novels are about love and healthy relationships conquering conflict and doubt and the ugliness of the world.

Our novels celebrate what we want for our kids: happiness, strength, peace and love. Lots and lots of love.
family love

hearts of  love
Today, I say: Go hug your kids, call your mom or dad or aunt or cousin, send a simple “I Love You” text to someone you haven’t in a while. Celebrate your family. Life is short. Your list of loved ones doesn’t have to be. :-)

RIP My beloved Tio Pablo, te quiero mucho!
Tio Pablo