5 Years Ago Today, We Gave Up a Dream

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The beginning of the journey, the day we bought the land and picked the location of what would become our beloved Tango Canyon.

I have mentioned in previous posts, our family has experience “transplanting” from the City to the Country.  We lasted 8 years.  Sometimes dark and lonely, sometimes like a cable television show where city folks learn how to manage their lives surrounded by unfamiliar creatures like scorpions, wild turkey, tortoises, vultures, newborn deer and copperhead snakes.  But one thing remained constant:  My husband’s dream to be close to his children and provide a simple lifestyle our family would always remember.  We fought with the neighbors, our friends/employers and sometimes each other throughout the highs and lows of our time in the country.  But we never stopped loving each other or our dream.

The children and I made daily sojourns out to the place in the country that was to be our home and they christened it with their laughter and love.
The children and I made daily sojourns out to the place in the country that was to be our home and they christened it with their laughter and love.

Along the way, my husband and I learned that giving up on a dream is not failure or surrender.  It is just an unexpected twist in life’s path that may leave scars but also offers great gifts.  When we returned to the City and the comforts of old friends and family, we had stories and experiences to share that others had only dreamed of.  As one of Mike’s lawyer friends put it, “You have been away from the reservation.  Not many of us have the courage to do that.”  There’s something about going away that is terribly frightening and inspiring at the same time.  On my horrible days, I would frown and tell people, “If you want to get to know yourself really well, move to the f—–ng PRAIRIE!”.

The children's handprints in front of their country home.
The children’s handprints in front of their country home.

The part we are proud of is that our family made its mark on the people and community we grew to love – and they on us.  We did not fit in there nor do we really completely fit in back here in the City because of the lessons we learned in our small town.  But that’s okay.  We had a dream, we lived it for awhile and then gracefully left it behind…..and survived to tell about it!

Our safe haven in the country.....the place we asked our children to leave in search of a new life in Kansas City.
Our safe haven in the country…..the place we asked our children to leave in search of a new life in Kansas City.

So, on the 5th anniversary of our departure from the home we loved so well we named it after Mike’s father’s homeland’s national dance, “Tango Canyon,” I am proud to report that all is well.  Transition complete.  Our journey unfolds before us everyday and it is good.  And we are better for having known the rugged world of Southern Kansas and its inhabitants.

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5 Things I Want My Children To Know About Summer

Dear Isa and Mario,

Before parents and institutions made summer about either catching up or advancing skills, summer was once a glorious time of slowing down and enjoying life.  Children were not only free to follow their imaginations wherever they could take them while spending time with family – they were expected to.  There were no “summer nannies” that were temporarily in charge of a rigorous weekly schedule of commitments.  Only grandparents and siblings with the means to help keep younger children happily occupied.

Harvesting sweet honey from a flower on the honeysuckle bush took great skill and patience.
Harvesting sweet honey from a flower on the honeysuckle bush took great skill and patience.

I keep hearing and reading about “Tips for Having a 70s Summer” as if there were a magical, secret formula – when it is really the simplest thing in the world to do!

A tire swing in a yard is a beautiful thing, giving you a bird's eye view of the sky and, even better if it leads to a lake or river.
A tire swing in a yard is a beautiful thing, giving you a bird’s eye view of the sky and, even better if it leads to a lake or river.

Growing up, summer at my house was about 5 things, not in any particular order – and it required no training or money.  Just the desire to float along carefree……

1.  Family  Since my 6 older brothers and sisters went to boarding school for High School, summer was the epitome of action at my house.  Suddenly, our house was flooded with teenagers each summer, and I relished spending time with each one as much as they may have resented it (and some did!!!).  After awhile, if I had been a very good girl, Mim, my Grandmother, would invite me to her house for an overnight stay!

Mim's refrigerator stocked with Orange Crush was by her back door, which played an enchanting little tune when she opened it to greet you warmly.
Mim’s refrigerator stocked with Orange Crush was by her back door, which played an enchanting little tune when she opened it to greet you warmly.

I got to drink Orange Crush (one only, so I would not wet the bed) at Mim’s house and then raid the “secret drawer” (which, of course, she knew was not a secret) in my Dad’s old bedroom for sticks of Doublemint gum.  Mim had a sweet laugh and everything about her seemed so ladylike to me – the smell of her skin, the touch of her perfectly manicured hands on mine – I was always on my best behavior on those special summer overnight

2.  Music

Your Uncle JD had a garage band.  They played cool Rolling Stones songs like “Jumping Jack Flash” and the band members, Louie and Bobby, let me stand on a chair and pretend to be playing tambourine.  No wonder I married your Dad,”Mike Tamburini”!!!

There were 2 teenaged albums I was especially curious about – the one with the 2 white guys and their wives – but one of them had an African American wife (Seals & Crofts).

An average of 2,400 hours per summer was spent playing albums in my sisters' room - "Teenage Albums"!
An average of 2,400 hours per summer was spent playing albums in my sisters’ room – “Teenage Albums”!
Aunt Kit's Senior Song was by these guys, "We May Never Pass This Way Again" - you should look it up on your "device"!
Aunt Kit’s Senior Song was by these guys, “We May Never Pass This Way Again” – you should look it up on your “device”!

The other album was in Uncle Jeff and Uncle JD’s room, and I was forbidden from ever playing it.  Oh, yeah?

"Look like dog shit?  Yah!  Smell like dog shit?  Sniff....Yah!"
“Look like dog shit? Yah! Smell like dog shit? Sniff….Yah!”

3.  The Outdoors

 It was not a punishment to play in the yard growing up – in fact, I actually had to be called inside for supper.

The smell of line-dried linens still makes me homesick.
The smell of line-dried linens still makes me homesick.

Always a huge fan of Grandma Rhetta, I tried to be right by her side when she was taking the freshly dried sheets off the laundry line.  Here’s some great advice, too, kids:  It is fun to put a clothespin on your nose and talk!

Homemade ice cream was always churning outside, especially on Sundays.  Pulling the ladle out and swiping fresh ice cream from the metal churner was divine!
Homemade ice cream was often churning outside, especially on Sundays. Pulling the ladle out and swiping fresh ice cream from the metal churner was divine!

4.  Food  Of course, Mom was a great cook and produced “3 squares” for all of us plus our friends every single day.  But on many occasions, our family would drive to the river and take the barge across to the great state of Tennessee for fried catfish and hushpuppies.

We'd park our station wagon on the barge and all get out of the car and watch the Mighty Mississippi move us toward  the other side.  It smelled earthy and dank and felt like home.
We’d park our station wagon on the barge and all get out of the car and watch the Mighty Mississippi move us toward the other side. It smelled earthy and dank and felt like home.

5.  Reading  I never had to be told to go to my room and read.  I rode my bicycle to town several times a week and checked out great books on my own.  My friend, Julie, and I would compete to see who could read the most.  These were my 2 favorites:

She was the most clever girl I had ever known.
She was the most clever girl I had ever known.
She was kind and hard-working and was rewarded with fresh berries from her very own patch.
She was kind and hard-working and was rewarded with fresh berries from her very own patch.

When summer was coming to an end, the farmers would drive by my house with trailers full of freshly picked cotton on their way to the Killion-Rone-Wilson Cotton Gin – you know, the stuff your clothes are made of?  Oh, and do you recognize your Grandpa’s last name somewhere in that lineup?

One time I got to ride in the back of one of those cloud-filled trailers with my friends Annie, Jimmy and Michael – I paid for it the next day with my sneezing, but it was one of the most memorable rides to town I ever experienced.

This doesn't happen anymore - the new technology makes cotton into bales right there in the field as soon as it is picked.
This doesn’t happen anymore – the new technology makes cotton into bales right there in the field as soon as it is picked.

So, my darling children, I have tried to give you summers that are less about “achievement” and more about “experience,” but it is not so easy as it once was.  I have enjoyed every minute of our summers together, it will always be a magical time for me as your Mom.  Just thought you should know some of the reasons why our family isn’t as busy as other families – and happily so!!!!

Love,

Mom

City Pups Immersed In The Country

I don’t know about any other gals, but 19 years ago when I said, “I Do,” I didn’t give one darn about whether the Handsome Groom could drywall like a champ, or, on the more basic level, even fix a leaky faucet.  Does anybody?

I married him for his intelligence, wit and that mysterious Half-Latin machismo that got me so stirred up at our first lunch date my calves literally burst through my pantyhose – and he didn’t mind!!!!

Then things started to break around the house.  ALOT of things.  In conversations with my husband about what needed fixing, I started to feel like Emily Newhart and her adorable, book-smart, practical Bob.  bob-newhart-show-suzanne-pleshette

Fortunately, my lawyer husband had plenty o’ handy clients who were good-hearted and just a phone call away.  Problems solved!  At least some of them.  I learned that certain men who are genetically challenged in the handy department are also – well, to put it bluntly, pretty lousy GRILLERS, too!  We had our share of well-intentioned dinner parties where the guests walked away wondering, “What the hell was that mystery meat I was just served?”.

It was fine, though, we lived in the city and any deficiency of the homemaking sort (I am neglecting to tell you that I, the “Pumpered” Princess, as our Argentinian cousin lovingly  refers to me, am completely worthless around the house) was easily solved by finding a “service.”

In 2002, now with two babies, our perfectly appointed household “rescue team” went away because we moved to…..and I shudder to say this …… THE COUNTRY!

Mike with kids on 70th  “Goodbye, City Life – Green Acres Here We Come!”.

In Southern Kansas, a fellow knows how to do many handy things – to infinity.  We bought 34 acres – to do what with, I am still mystified.  But there went “Brender and Eddie” while their city friends waved goodbye…..

My husband immediately traded in his BMW with lovely seat warmers for a bright red F-150 pick up truck.  Perfectly Appalling, Right?

“What are you going to do with a pickup truck?” I calmly inquired one day.  Oh, his eyes lit up with wonder as if he had seen Jesus himself as he replied, “You know, haul shit and stuff.”

Okay.  That’s fine.  We can do this, my Inner Diva told me – we can rise above our pathetic City Helplessness and conquer the untame land of the heartiest souls on Earth known as…...KANSANS.  Yes, that very special place where people throw parties to, of all things – burn their land!  The place that was once referred to by a City Transplant not terribly unlike myself in the 1800’s as “The land of grasshoppers and drought.”

Soon, our lives became an adventure and our completely privileged and helpless demeanor became a source of entertainment for the locals.  One time I was advised to seek advice from the Farmers at the local “CO-OP” about our barn swallow problem.  These awful creatures build mud nests on your home then sit atop your roof (because they basically own you at this point) protecting their young.  “How do they protect their young?,” did I hear you ask?  By divebombing the eyeballs of any threat.  So, I put my signature red lipstick on and drove to town to this apparent shrine of intelligence, the Co-op.  I was told to tape plastic snakes near the nest of the barn swallow and assured that my problem would soon disappear.  What I would give today to hear those farmers’ howls as I left from the Co-op on a mission to the local Dollar Store in pursuit of plastic snakes.  The joke was on me:  it did not work.

Finally, exasperated by our complete incompetence, I suggested we do something as a family that would be good for the community.  We were matched with a Little from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.  He visited every Sunday.  Success!  And you know what? My sweet husband and son were the kindest, most patient souls with this lost little boy.

Mario with BrysonThey spent endless hours playing together and our Little did not mind one bit that we were weakling city pups – he really enjoyed us!!!

Fortunately, for me, our time in the land of awe-inspiring sunsets had an end – because I am just a girl who needs the comforts of a city.  George Lopez once said, “I need to get back to horrible crime, terrible parking and great Chinese food!”.  But we did have a lot of laughs, and I grew to accept my husband – and his adorable, quirky, country-wanna-be self.

We did what we could to “work the land” we bought and had some memorable bonfire parties in the canyon behind our home.  But, alas, the city beckoned us back.

And now “Bob and Emily” are back where they belong – laughing and reminiscing about the times we had trying to be RUGGED INDIVIDUALISTS.

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4 Things I’ve Learned After My First 4 AA Meetings

13 months ago, I told everybody I was an alcoholic and I stopped drinking – cold turkey.  5 months later, I had decided that I could manage drinking moderately on my own.  3 months after that, I allowed myself to expand my definition of “moderate” to 1 bottle of Malbec nightly.  About a month after that, “moderate” often meant 1 1/2 bottles of any wine – I wasn’t picky any longer.  In the last 6 months, I have had more hangovers than the previous 25 years combined.

But I kept craving my wine every evening by 5:30, in spite of the hangovers.  Meanwhile, things got pretty challenging for my son in Middle School.  He lost 50 pounds in 3 months and stopped going to school altogether.

It was time for me to stop riding in the backseat of my life and commit to sobriety, for myself, for my family.

Sitting outside the first AA meeting, terrified and shaking and on the verge of tears.
Sitting outside the first AA meeting, terrified and shaking and on the verge of tears.

Today, I have been sober for 6 days, and I have found a brand new group of empathetic souls.  I live for my sobriety and my daily Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.  Here are 4 poignant truths I have learned from listening to many brave people about addiction to alcohol:

1.  FEED YOUR SOBRIETY LIKE YOU FED YOUR ADDICTION

I hear people talking about being grateful for waking up sober each morning, in spite of their fears of facing a new day.  They cherish their newfound way of living and find creative ways to nourish it.  Meeting and talking with other alcoholics is just one way.  Other people have found comfort and courage in meditation, prayer, public service, laughter, and just relishing in the simple gift of living one day at a time.  I learned there is a term for the first way I tried to stay sober – “white knuckle sobriety” – just like the metaphor suggests, it is all work and no play, very tense and lonely.  Now I am learning new ways to enjoy my life free of fixating on that next drink – because I am surrounding myself with the wonderful people of AA.

The
The “24 Hours Recovery” Coin I received at my first AA meeting.

2.  “ROCK BOTTOM” IS YOUR FRIEND

Whatever it is that leads you to commit to Recovery is a blessing.  Don’t ruminate over it, be grateful that it opened up a new way of living and move toward the future.  Yes, eventually I will “work” the 12 Steps and do a thorough and honest inventory of my past and make amends to those I have harmed.  But for now, in my first week of Recovery, I am just grateful for my “rock bottom” and whatever Force that led me to a program with new friends to help me stay sober.  At my first meeting, I received a plastic coin with the Serenity Prayer on one side and the phrase, “To thine own self be true” on the other.  I touch it several times a day – it is a real symbol of a miraculous change that is happening  within me.

3.  THE VIEW FROM THE DRIVER’S SEAT IS MUCH BETTER THAN THE BACK SEAT

Some alcoholics are control freaks, others are fearful “yes” people who prefer to let others control them.  I am the second type.  Sitting in the back seat, I have observed a lot of faults in others but given myself permission to avoid honestly assessing myself.  Each additional day I nurture my sobriety, I am stronger and have more desire to sit in that driver’s seat and enjoy the journey that is my life.

A few hours after my first AA meeting.  Completely serene.
A few hours after my first AA meeting. Completely serene.

4.  HUMILITY SHINES MORE BEAUTIFULLY THAN GOLD

When actively living in my addiction, I tried to fool myself with a “pretty veneer” – shallow expressions of success, happiness, and a good life.  Everybody knows, the only thing more frightening than a room full of crusty bikers is a room full of addicts.  I avoided walking into that room for longer than I care to admit.  But I have and it is glorious.  Maybe only an addict can laugh at this, but one of the the group leaders self-deprecatingly shared with us how unlike other addicts he was sure he was – until one day he found himself sitting in a County jail reading a copy of “I’m Ok, You’re Ok”!!!!  Fortunately, he got out of the jail and generously shares his story with “newbies” like me because getting sober is a really scary thing at first.

I am excited about starting this journey with others instead of “white knuckling” it by myself.  I am grateful to have the opportunity to share parts of the journey with those who wish to read about it here.  Stay tuned!