My Brother Has A Mother

Preface

In 1995 I was really into the BBS community in Birmingham. If you are not familiar with BBS think of it as AOL chat boards but before AOL. My Dad, the consummate lover of anything digital, brought home this fabulous contraption called a computer and with a phone line you could dial in to converse with other people in the near vicinity of you. I had become good friends with two of those people, Spencer and John. John and I met occassionally and would do things 17 year olds did, eating, talking, scheming, etc. One night we went bowling. When the lady in the next lane asked if we were twins we looked at each other and laughed. One of us answered “No, why?” to which she replied “you have the same smile”. And we did. We still do. Or atleast I think we do. John and I could go months without speaking (mostly due to his position in the Navy) but when we did reconnect it was as if no time was lost. Through the darkest and shittiest of times we have always been there for each other. If we were not siblings by blood we were definitely by choice.

John is currently stationed in Manama, Bahrain, doing whatever it is people in the Navy do there. I think it has something to do with selling Encyclopedias. Or heroin. In the fashion that is John and I we began scheming for his return stateside for the holidays. His mother was not expecting him until at least December 31st. However, John’s flight was scheduled for arrival on December 27th. This presented the perfect opportunity to surprise his family. And I took on the honor of delivering him to the same. John had not seen his family in almost 9 months so this surely was going to be epic.

Around 4 p.m. I waited in the newly renovated baggage terminal of the Birmingham airport. A jazz band, hired specifically for the holidays, was playing, setting the mood for excited and weary travelers alike. I settled into a comfortable chair with line sight to the escalator that deposited arriving passengers to collect their luggage. People were milling about. Some stopped to watch the band and sing along. A small family next to me passed their time playing on a tablet, congratulating each other on their high scores, and then arguing who would play next. I focused on the escalator. I glanced at the arrivals board and noticed that John’s flight status was now “deplaning”. I became increasingly anxious. I must have looked away for just a moment for as I looked back at the escalator he had already began walking towards me. I jumped up and began running towards him, almost knocking down a teenage girl. I might have squealed. We hugged and I kissed his cheek. He looked great. His hair recently cut and his eyes blurry from the 21 hour flight. We found his luggage and went to the car. I had purchased a bottle of water for him anticipating that he might be dehydrated. He gladly accepted it.

Now was the time for the big surprise. I was nervous. He was nervous. I asked “do you mind if I video the reunion?”. He hesitated, not really grasping why I would want to. “I always love watching those YouTube videos of soldiers surprising their families. Think of all the Reddit karma I could get!” I said. John agreed. The drive to his mother’s house was a little chaotic. John was trying to determine if his mother would in fact be home. He called his sister Gracie and her husband to get everything coordinated. Gracie’s husband said that Debbie was home, but was preparing to go out to dinner with her husband. We didn’t have much time.

Fairly soon we pulled up to the front curb of the house. It was dusk now and only a single light from the front porch was on. John quickly hopped out of the car to retrieve his bag from the trunk. “Turn on the video now if you want to get this”. I fumbled with my phone, trying to prepare to click record. As we walked down the path I tried to narrate but it came out awkward. We reached the door and John looked through the glass. Maybe hoping his mother would walk by and see him. “Ring the doorbell” I urged. As soon as the bell was rung, a small figure appeared, looking around the doorway. This small person suddenly and quite sharply screamed “RUSSEEEEEEEEEELL!” (John’s middle name and the name his family calls him). The little boy, Mikel, John’s nephew, flew at the glass door. Another voice, this time with a Russian accent, quizzically stated “Russell? Where?” We entered the foyer of the house, Mykel still yelling and hugging John. With the grace of a ballerina, this 5’2″ thin woman with a head full of blonde curlers, materialized from the doorway. She stood there for just a moment, completely speechless, her hand at her mouth. Suddenly John was engulfed in this woman’s arms. She began to quietly cry. Every few seconds she would pull away, John’s face in her hands, and just look at him. Almost as if making sure he was real.

“When did you get in?” she asked. “Just now” John reported. That is when they noticed they were not alone. John turned to me and said “Liesl brought me here”. I was rushed with a hug. Debbie whispered in my ear “Thank you for bringing my son home”. My eyes teared up. “It was the least I could do” I sniffled. Debbie ushered us into the living room to sit and talk. I sensed they needed some alone time, so I excused myself, stating I needed to get home to Hanlon and Kevin. John and I hugged and promised to see each other once he was over his jetlag. I hugged Debbie and her husband, Stevan. I felt high. I had delivered my brother to his mother.

When I got home that evening, I wanted to play the reunion for Kevin. My heart sank when I realized that I never hit the “record” button. It recorded just a few seconds of Debbie squealing with delight when she realized John was home. I felt a bit sick that I slacked on this wonderful moment. But, I hope that this written story will suffice.

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Start Here —>

The Helmet family is preparing a trip to the great state of Colorado. Yes, that Colorado. The one with the fires and the shootings. It’ll be like the wild west, but with less dysentery. The town we are staying in is called Creede. Thankfully, none of these shitheads will be there:

Creede is a historic silver mining town just on the headwaters of the Rio Grande. It is gorgeous, mild and relaxing. At least that is what my Dad tells me. This is the same father I have nicknamed Clark Griswold because every. single. minute. of this trip must be planned. I just want to sit on my ass and look at mountains. Possibly feed a chipmunk or a moose or a chipmoose. I don’t know fauna lives there or how it has mutated.

We’re very excited about this trip. Hanlon has asked every day if it is “plane day”. Bless her heart. I have planned to keep her very entertained while in flight. Once we’re on a layover I expect her to run around like a crazed beast. And that is fine. What do I care if other people are inconvenienced by my child? I’m an asshole like that.

I promise to take lots of photos and spend 3 months not posting them. I aim to please!

Also, do not try to rob my house. We have hired someone to stay at the house full-time. And my dogs are ferocious. Have you ever been licked to death? I DO NOT recommend it!

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Think Pink

I was not going to be “that” parent. The one who invested time and money into cartoon characters. My child would live and breathe books about dystopian planets, animal kingdoms, Victorian era literature. We’d play with organic puzzles made only from recycled plant matter. Food and drink would be AAP certified if it didn’t come out of my body. Somewhere around month 3 of Hanlon’s life, all of that was shot to hell. I became a mother of convenience. With severe post-partum anxiety, I was trying to do my best to keep myself alive, much less a helpless infant. I was reading blogs and not understanding how these women were doing it: keeping their child happy without negating their ethics, morals, standards, what-have-you. I then realized that it was a fight I didn’t care to win. As long as Hannie was happy, healthy, vibrant, daring and loving who did it hurt to enjoy a Disney’s Cinderella book? Would the world crumble when she watched the Pinocchio movie my mother gave her (that was released from Disney’s vault on the day Hannie was born and thus has her birth date on it)? What values was my child learning from these “gettin’ the vapahs” women so classically shown?

When we were setting up Hanlon’s room pre-birth every color was meticulously chosen. There were no gender-identifying colors. Her bedding was bright oranges, reds, blues and greens. Her walls were painted “sweet corn”, a subtle yet stimulating yellow. I was anti-pink. I was a pink nazi. I was against putting bows in her hair to define her in public, because let’s be honest, who gives a shit? I had witnessed first hand other mothers becoming enraged when their child was mistaken for the opposite sex: “oh, HE is so handsome!” WAAAAAAAARGAAAAARBLE! “HE IS A GIIIIRL!” Um, SHE is also 2 months old and only cares about that milky milk, so settle down Beatrice. I was just going to let things slide. If Hannie was mistaken for a boy (which she often was, despite wearing a PURPLE onesie and ballet slipper socks) I wasn’t going to correct them. I simply said thank you for their compliment and moved on.

All that being said, my sweet 3 year old is the definition of a GIRL. She loves pink. She loves pastel colors in general. She wants to wear her Rapunzel dress to Publix. And that is fine. Because she chose it. She also plays hard in the dirt. Her legs are so bruised from rough and tumble play I am afraid CPS will be called on us. She likes cars and playing with her best friend Galvin. Even though I fully embrace her girliness, I have caught myself trying to sway her opinions. For example, on a recent shopping trip to Target, Hannie picked out the most garish Minnie Mouse backpack. She was squealing with delight as I trolled the aisle saying “oh! look at this cute owl pack! or this one is a puppy!”. All the while she was trying her damndest to put on the pink monstrosity on her shoulders. I helped her put it on and tightened the straps. I sighed and looked into my daughter’s jubilant face. She won. And she strolled proudly down the aisles showing any one who would look her “pwetty pink backpack”.

Despite my wanting her to not be defined by her gender, her happiness is so much more important.

Headphone

Posted in Attack of the Manatee!, It's Picture Pages, Weekend Update | 3 Comments

Wine Cures Everything

What? Oh me? I’m fine. More importantly, how are you?

I don’t even know where to start with all that has been going on, so I will start in the middle. That seems to be a reasonable jumping spot.

Spring came and went and Alabama summer was ushered in with 103 degree temperatures. Those 72 hours were probably the worst of my life. With heat similiar to that of Satan’s armpit, all you want to do is lie still in your house, preferably with a bottle of alcohol, and watch March of the Penguins. Morgan Freeman can lull me into a dead sleep. And if I am asleep I am not complaining about the heat. But, have you ever explained to a 3 year old the necessity of NOT going outside when it is that hot? I recommend to do it immediately! Hilarity will ensue! Oh the joy you you will feel by hour 31 when your child asks for the eleventieth time “bubbles, Mommy? BUBBLES OUTSIDE?!” and you look at her compassionately, take another swig of your margarita and roll your eyes. You might even mutter under your breath to your spouse “now I know why some animals eat their young”. Staying in the cool confines of your 1,300 square foot home is not conducive to the well-being of a small family. Add to that all the animals in our house. And all their panting and pacing and general stank-ass smell. At one point I threw a Dora the Explorer doll at the cat just for meowing too loud. The heat wave subsided and we all came out un-scathed and more knowledgable about how much time together we can spend without calling the police.

Also, at some point in the past 3 months I injured my back. The spasms left me unable to do any reasonable task, i.e. lifting Hannie, cleaning the house, drinking a glass of wine. The wine helped though. Bendy straws are a wonderful invention. So, I went to a physician to get some help. After an X-Ray, he proudly bounded into the room and inquired “has anyone ever told you that you have scoliosis?”. He was so damn happy. It was as if he discovered uranium. Sadly, I’ve never had scoliosis. In fact, I was fine all through childhood. The doctor said that the pressure of Hanlon on my spine and hips in utero could be the mitigating factor. Then again it could be genetics. I’ve always slouched, hiding my body inside itself. I am now on daily doses of Flexeril and IB 800. We’ll revisit again in a couple of weeks to determine if I need to do physical therapy.

Or maybe I just need to buy more wine.

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So This Happened

March 17, 2009:

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March 17, 2012

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Hannie celebrated her 3rd birthday on March 10th. We had a great party with lots of family and friends. Birthday girl in a tutu photos coming soon. You know, when I stop hacking my lung up.

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What It Feels Like To Stop Breathing

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We spent a wonderful Saturday at a friends house grilling hot dogs, blowing bubbles with the kids, and watching the dogs sit on each other like some weird frat prank. Overall a great day.

I should take a moment and rewind to the previous Monday. With the warmer temperatures and the pollen overload I was having a pretty difficult time with my seasonal allergies. So much so that I thought I was getting a sinus infection. I went to the local urgent clinic where I was diagnosed with Micoplasma (walking pneumonia). I was given a nebulizer treatment, a steroid shot, cough syrup, and a Z-pack. Sometimes you just need to listen to your body. I am quick to dismiss symptoms as “oh it’s just a cold”. Or “darn these allergies!”. I am glad I didn’t this time.

So, back to Saturday. We had an uneventful remainder of the evening. I even went out to pick up gyros for dinner. Sometime around 9:30 I could feel my chest tightening. I lied down on the couch to relax a bit but to no avail. I began to hear a crackle and wheeze followed by a gurgling in my chest. The more I tried to relax the harder it became to push air in and out of my lungs. Soon I was struggling to take each breath, having to close my eyes and visualize air coming in and air going out. The rise and fall of my lungs ached against my ribs. I couldn’t even call out to Kevin, who was in the kitchen cleaning up dinner.

What seemed a lifetime, Kevin came into the living room to see me hurting. He stared at me, unable to comprehend that his wife was in trouble. “Do you want to go to the hospital?” he asked? A single tear welled into my eye because yes, this is bad. I managed to wheeze “call Mom”. Kevin explained the situation to Dad and they were at our house in 15 minutes. While my Dad called my sister Karen, an ICU nurse, Mom and Kevin made a makeshift humidifier for me. The hot steam felt good, but was not working. I finally asked to be taken to the ER.

One thing about the ER, if you say you are having difficulty breathing or having any type of chest pain, you will be immediately taken past triage and into a room. The nurse put me in a wheelchair and as he rolled me down the hall he noticed the raggedness of my breath. “Are you asthmatic?!” I couldn’t even manage a word, but just shook my head no. Kevin had to answer all of the questions for me. I could thumbs up or down on yes or no questions, but any detail into my medical history was fielded by Kevin. All the time I am being questioned, I am live-wired to an ECG, a oxygen canula is inserted in my nose, and a pulse-ox on my finger. All of this in a 10 minute time span. I cannot remember if they immediately administered a nebulizer or if the doctor saw me first. It was a huge blur. I do remember getting a portable X-Ray and thanking my stars I didn’t have to be taken somewhere else in the hospital without Kevin. Once the doctor reviewed the film I received a second nebulizer treatment and a steroid shot in the hip. A VERY painful shot at that. It made my entire leg cramp up and for the first time I felt like I could scream.

The doctor came in and went over his findings: no full lobal pneumonia, most likely a bronchial attack brought on by the micoplasma. He asked if I felt well enough to go home and I emphatically said yes. I was tired. I wanted to be at home, in my bed, close to Hannie. I was discharged with enough medication to start my own pharmacy and instructions to follow up with my physician on Monday. Time lapse: 3 hours. Not too bad for a Saturday night in the ER.

Sunday is my parent’s day with Hannie and they took her to the zoo. I literally slept all day, save for eating some breakfast. I embraced this rest. I revelled in it. Occassionally I would wake for a moment in a cold-sweat, thinking I couldn’t breathe, but all was fine. I am fine. And my family and the good people at St. Vincent’s Hospital are all good in my book.

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Hey look! Technology!

This post is brought to you by my iPhone and the WordPress app. Isn’t technology grand? It only took me 3 years to get here.

So, here are some photos I took this week. I think some people call it a “Friday Photo Dump”. Or “I Am An Attention Whore Friday”. I’m not hip to what the cool kids are doing these days.

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Posted in All Growed Up, Meet The Bloggers | 1 Comment

Upon Realizing I Put The Remote In The Refrigerator

my mind is not the sharp tack it once was. i used to be a star at remembering names and faces. spelling words and reciting poems were my forte’. now i barely remember where i left my glasses (they’re on my face) or that i have put the remote control in the refrigerator and the milk in the cabinet with the dishes. one thing i AM good at remembering is where Hannie leaves her forty million teeny, tiny doll shoes. and the last time she pooped (it was yesterday at 6:29 p.m.). did she take a My Little Pony to school today? no, but she did every day last month.

i’m not sure if at the ripe old age of 33 that i’m starting to lose my short term memory or if it was all those fun things i did in college. did i destroy a few brain cells? i will neither confirm nor deny. i plead the fifth. no comment. please direct such inquiries to my public relations manager, Brock Von Squishee, Esquire.

to be honest, now i can’t remember where i was even going with this. damn. if you see me walking, dead-eyed around Highland Avenue it is probably because i cannot remember where i left my car. or where i live.

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I Solemnly Swear That I Suck

blabbity, blabbity sorry for not blogging, whackity, smackity. oh who the hell cares.

i recently took a new job that has sucked me into a vortex of awesome. however, with such awesomeness, comes monitored internet. (they’re watching me right now. as i type.) i have my very own office with a lovely view of a wooded grove. and by grove i mean there is a parking lot in the middle of it. i also received a substantial pay increase as well as insurance benefits that make me want to ask my physician for every test known to modern science. retinal screening using hot needles?! sure, why not, it’s covered! cholesterol test using ground up lemurs?! bring on the lemurs*!

Hannie has blossomed into a no-hold-barred 2 and a half year old. everything she wants she needs. and not just needs but “NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDS!”. “i neeeeed to watch Lion King for the 400th time”. “i neeeeeed to have every single book that i own in my two tiny hands”. “i neeeeeed to eat my 12th helping of oranges right now or you will pay the price in screaming”.

after a jarring experience of falling out of her crib we transitioned her to a big girl bed. her crib is a combination crib/big ass bed. had i actually read the damn instructions i would have realized that we could have just taken the front of the crib off, lowered the mattress and made it into a toddler bed. but no, we went from teeny tiny baby sleepy place to full mattress-hey mom could you like totally get out of my room so me and Bubba can make out-bed. it’s a big bed.

Big Girl Bed

since the photo was taken we have added black-out curtains that match the pillowcases and have taken down the ill fated black-out window vinyls. those were about as useful as a bag of wet mice**. due to our vigilant effort to make moving to a big girl bed the most awesomest thing on the planet, she transitioned perfectly. and i love that i can now crawl in bed with her at night and snuggle and sing songs.

Kisses Before Bedtime
Kisses Before Bedtime
we also spent a couple of weekends at the lake with good friends. at first Hannie was leery of the water, but soon took to it like a fish, stating quite adamantly “i do it!”.

Swimmin'
Swimming with Daddy

Crazy Hair, Beautiful Face
Crazy Hair, Beautiful Face

i have tons more to post about and plenty of pictures to keep you photo-vultures happy. right now i’m tired from being a negligent blogger.

*no lemurs were offended or injured during the writing of this obsurd post.
**also, no mice were made wet. i’m not sure why you’d put wet mice in a bag anyway.

Posted in Attack of the Manatee!, It's Picture Pages | 2 Comments

The Flow

wednesday, april 27th, kevin and i were awakened by tornado sirens. i was non-plussed as i have never seen an actual tornado hit birmingham. it just doesn’t happen. there is something about the topography of Red Mountain that acts as a buffer to our tiny big city. the day started just like any other day. i got up, showered, got Hannie up, fed her, got us all out the door on time. it was incredibly windy but by the time i parked the car at Hannie’s school, things had lightened up.

when i arrived at work my boss and i were chatting about the early morning storm. she mentioned that what we experienced would pale in comparison to what we were in for that evening. i was confused. i had heard nothing about impending dangerous weather. i didn’t even realize the damage that the early morning storm had done. quickly, i logged onto the internet and there were constant streams of information from NOAA about the super cells of storms headed our way. what was to be a normal wednesday turned into a 12 hour panic attack.

i couldn’t breathe. my heart was beating uncontrollably. my stomach was in knots. all i could think about was Hannie at school on top of the mountain and my parents in their spacious 35 foot RV. images of the RV swirling in a tornado flashed through my mind. i called my mother and pleaded with her to go to our house for shelter. we were still 5 hours from any major activity, yet i was lining up the troops. information from news stations kept flying in. kevin called and said they were closing his office at 1 p.m. and would pick up Hannie and take her home. i felt a small shroud lifted. atleast she’ll be with him. let her be safe in his arms.

and then.

it hit. a tornado hit the city of Cullman. a sleepy town 60 miles to our north. we watched it on our conference room television live from a traffic camera. the meteorologist just stood there, mouth agape. we were silent. panic was tightening my chest and tears began to form in my eyes. i looked away. it was 3 p.m. now and rumors of closing the building were circulating. my boss decided to close our office at 3:30 p.m.

once i was home the panic washed away. i had my family with me and all of the reports were telling us the storms were headed in a northern pattern. we walked around the neighborhood a little and let Hannie swing on “aunt” michelle’s porch swing. i timidly kept checking the sky and it was turning darker. we went inside to check the weather and to much of our surprise our iron giant, Red Mountain could not keep the danger away. impact was targeted directly on us. i welcomed the panic this time.

i called my parents and told them to get to our house “NOW”. kevin and i began gathering candles, important papers, medicine, blankets, Hannie’s favorite stuff animals, leashes for the dogs, the cat’s collar. i filled up Hannie’s juice cup and downed a glass of wine. i could not take an anti-anxiety pill for it would knock me on my behind. i needed my wits about me, but i also needed to calm down. my parents arrived just as the sky turned green. the satellite went out and the power flickered. we headed to the basement. all of us tuned into some sort of radio or smart device.

the tornado, a one and a half mile wide monster, missed us by 6 miles. i checked my iphone and the radar was blank. no reds or greens or yellows. just blank. we went back up stairs and it was all over.

we fed Hannie dinner while we kept updates on what exactly happened. i was numb. i just stared out the window. the sun began shining through a thin veil of clouds. but the sun was on the wrong side of the sky. my parents packed up their belongings and headed back to their RV to check for any damage. Hannie finished dinner and we got her bathed and in bed. as i sat on our bed i watched the television in horror at the pure size of the tornado that missed us. it was massive. and it took out entire towns. overwhelmed, i cried.

the next morning was overcast, but the clouds burned off quickly. the internet and news stations reported the complete decimation of heavily populated towns. i felt utter sadness and despair as the death and injury count rose throughout the day. the only bright spot was the amazing unity of people coming together to help their neighbors. it was the ebb and flow of the storm. it churned us up and spit us out, only to form a stronger bond.

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