Dear Dumplings — Week 22: Your Daddy, St. Francis Of Woodland Hills

The Dumplings -- 22 Weeks and 2 Days

The Dumplings — 22 Weeks and 2 Days

Dear Dumplings:

I am not even sure where to begin.  I had a letter written in my head and suddenly there is an entirely different sort of letter to write.  Sometimes life happens like that.  You think it’s all going to go a certain way and then suddenly it’s not going that way at all.  You go to bed in an entirely different reality than the one in which you woke.

Before I tell you the rest of the story, I’ll start by saying you’re getting quite big.  You’re both actually bigger than what they tell me a 22-week old single baby should weigh … which scares me a little bit since I am one Mama and you are two babies.

Your 22-week picture is so cute.  You’re actually starting to look like little boys!  On Tuesday Harlow weighed 1 lb. 5 oz. and Harper weighed 1lb. 3oz.  Statistically you are the same size.  I’m really starting to feel you move around and I love it.  Harlow you are in the perfect position already.  Head down and ready to go.  Harper, you have decided to camp out right under my rib cage with your tushie heading down my left side.  This is not the ideal position, but perhaps you’ll figure it all out over the next several weeks.

Mama's Belly -- Week 22

Mama’s Belly — Week 22

This week has been long and extremely busy with work for both your Daddy and me.  Soon we are heading to Texas for an extra long weekend where I’ll get to see many old friends.

Now about this day … you’re probably wondering why this particular post is called Your Daddy, St. Francis Of Woodland Hills?  I’m not even sure where to start it was such a bizarre day, so I’ll start at the very beginning.

Your Daddy and I had to run to Home Depot on a quick errand.  The roses needed some food, we needed to replace a set of blinds and I needed a pot for a plant.  This should have taken 30 minutes over lunch …

We went to the outside area of Home Depot to pick up some rose food and an extremely bold bird flew up and tried to sit on my head.  I freaked out because I am not the sort of head a bird should think about sitting on.  I’m a freak.  I had birds once when I was six (Lisa and Marvin) but I don’t remember being all that attached to them and they certainly never dared to come near my head.

I was never a person to bring animals home to your Grandma Kay because I was fairly certain she would have shooed it and me out of the house.  I did once bring a catfish home to Mawmaw.  In that case, I wanted her to cook him for dinner.  You can decide at a later date what exactly that says about me.

I honestly do love animals, but St. Francis I am not.  Let’s be serious, saint anything I am not.

Now your Daddy grew up with birds.  Your Grandma Susan always had a bird.  Your Grandpa Jim loves birds.  The Wilcox house always had parakeets.  Your Daddy has no issue with them wrapping their little claws around his finger. I’m less easygoing in this particular instance.

While I was freaking out over this attempted head landing by the bold bird, your Daddy turned into St. Francis the Bird Whisperer.  The bird flew up and hung onto his shorts, then he sat on his shoulder.  Your Daddy found an open bag of bird seed and gave him some.  He pecked at it, possibly even ate a few kernels, but let’s just say the bird was much more interested in hanging out with and onto your Daddy than he was in any seed.  He literally followed him around the store.

Now your Mama was on a mission to get in and out of Home Depot in 30 minutes.  I was inside getting the last item on the to-do list when in walks your Daddy carrying the bird in his hand without any struggle.  He is followed by Home Depot employees in search of a box.

As I watch this unfold, I begin to panic.

Jonathan, what are you doing? — I asked.

I’m going to take the bird.

Take the bird where?


Home where?  To OUR house?

He smiles at me.  My heart melts and I force a smile … in a are-you-effing-nuts-you-are-not-the-bird-whisperer-what-on-earth-is-happening-right-now!?! sort of way.

Depot the bird sitting on Daddy's hand.

Depot the bird sitting on Daddy’s hand.

The bird proceeds to get in our car and ride in your Daddy’s lap as we travel to Petco, the bird store and then home.  He does not do this without pooping in my car.  Of course, your Daddy cleaned it up since he could tell by the look on my face I was not going near it.

After we conclude our visit to the bird store, I drop your Daddy and the bird off at home.  The bird has a momentary escape in the garage, only to head safely back into your Daddy’s arms.  I’ll be honest, I was hoping he might fly over my head, high up into a tree never to be seen or heard from again.  No such luck.  I left to purchase a bird cage.  When I arrive home with a bird cage your Daddy was sitting on the toilet with this bird on his shoulder.  He was not using the toilet, just sitting on it — like a seat.

This time my heart really did melt.  Not because I wanted this bird — because I was praying to anyone I could think of to come and deliver me from this bird — but because your Daddy did.  He loved his new little friend sitting on his shoulder.

I looked at him and said, you’re the first Jewish Saint Francis of Woodland Hills. 

He laughed.

We named him Depot (or HD for short).  I posted a picture of Depot on Facebook.

Selma calls after seeing the picture of the bird in her newsfeed.  I tell her the story.  Within the hour two bird rescue ladies are at our front door because Selma has this extraordinary Rolodex of incredible people.   I mean who has a bird lady in their Rolodex?

The ladies arrive, and I think they want to take him and coax him back into the wild, or perhaps help us figure out what to do?  I was hoping they would take him.  I was even willing to give them the cage in an effort to ensure his safe release from my home.

Your Daddy had a different idea.

He picked Depot up out of his cage, and he sat calmly in his hands.  I knew as I watched him sit there petting that bird, he was not releasing his bird to anyone.  They had bonded.

How did I let this happen?  Why did I let him come with me to Home Depot?

The reality is, I was not surprised.  I knew deep down your Daddy had to believe Depot was going to the best possible place to let him go.  He needed to be in charge of it.

Sometimes you just have to go with it where your Daddy is concerned.  I just have to follow his lead.  He’s unpredictable.  No two days are ever alike.  I have a love-hate relationship with this fact.  Mostly love.

Not knowing anything about Depot, we have no idea what is best at the moment.  We do know he is quite domesticated for a wild bird, and letting him just go would not be good since he really does not fly.  We want what is best for him.  Tomorrow we are going to visit a wild bird sanctuary.

Sometimes things happen and I know I must write about it.  I must remember it.  It must be one of the moments I tell my children.  As I type this, I am exhausted from the day, but your weekly letter had to be about your Daddy.  It had to.

Your Daddy has one of the biggest hearts in the whole world, don’t ever forget that.

I hope you get his great big heart, even if it means I end up with a house full of turtles, rabbits, fish, birds, cats, dogs, hamsters or billy goats.  I’m hear to tell you St. Francis Of Woodland Hills will not tolerate snakes and his wife will not tolerate spiders. Anything else is open for discussion, I suppose — but I would always go to your Daddy first.  He’s going to be the random pet pushover.

I’m not an ogre or anything, however, I prefer to actually have a farm before you start bringing the farm animals home.

Right now Depot is sleeping in a cage on my desk.  This scenario is not exactly what I had in mind.



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Somewhere Between This and That.

The Internet is a double-edged sword. Especially if you are compulsively creative.

Some days I read all of the blogs and websites I love and I feel invincible.  There is so much energy pulsing through my veins I can hardly sleep.  I find projects, goals and creative things to do across the spectrum.  I am determined to be a super-twin-mama-master-chef-yogini-seamstress-crafty-decorator-gardener-healthy-choice-maker-extraordinaire!

Then there are the other days.

The days when I read all of the blogs and websites I love, my Facebook newsfeed and I literally stop breathing.  There is no energy.  I am overcome with an unexplainable fear. Fear of failing at everything.  Not just some things, but EVERYTHING. 

Somewhere between invincible and the last 48 hours my super-twin-mama-master-chef-yogini-seamstress-crafty-decorator-gardener-healthy-choice-maker-extraordinaire! has left.  She has been replaced by the nothing-super-to-see-here-twin-mama-can’t-boil-a-freaking-egg-sloth-can’t-sew-a-napkin-witless-craftless-no-eye-for-style-plant-murderer-Dr.Pepper-drinking-who-knows-what-the-hell-is-in-this-food-extraordinaire!

There has to be some sort of happy medium between the days I feel invincible and the days I don’t.  But I can’t seem to find it.

My only explanation is that sometimes my dreams for what I want to do and be and see and experience exceed my own expectations.  Or I read too much in one morning.  I’m sure it’s a little of both. 

We can take in more images and types of information in one hour of our day in Google searches then we could in one week when I was younger.  Literally.

Have you ever looked something up on microfiche?  Yes, I just typed the word microfiche.  Welcome to how Generation-X wrote papers.  Google?  Google what?  Google NOTHING.  

Have you heard of a card catalog? 

Somewhere between Americans expanding their girth size and information intake, I think some important things have been lost.  The Internet has made it easier to sit and dream about it rather than doing it.  It takes seconds to pin it, like it, read how to do it and dream about doing it before we’re on to the next thing.  

We forget we didn’t actually DO anything.

Our pin-boards, dream boards and bucket lists become so large it’s almost impossible to know where to begin.  It’s easier to just keep pinning, dreaming and adding. 

As a sometimes chronic pinner, dreamer and adder —  it’s my take on things.

Lately, I have lost my ability to slow down (even on my mat).  To unplug.  To stop and create.  To stop and even figure out what I REALLY want to create.  (Except for when the Dumplings send me into a coma at 4 o’clock in the afternoon for three hours.) 

My husband thinks my nesting gene is on some sort of crack.  I’m starting to agree with him. 

When I was doing 60+ Days On the Mat preparing myself mentally and my body physically for pregnancy — praying every morning and every night, and completely focusing on what I wanted; letting go of what I didn’t — I was slowing down every day.   I was getting on my mat with intention and writing from a part of me I never knew was there. 

It’s not that I don’t have an intention now.  I absolutely do.  A million of them.  And I generally wait to write until I have something to say.  Some days are better than others.  Writing is a skill that needs to be honed and practiced like any other in an effort to find your voice.

But, full confession – I miss the focus those 67+ Days gave me.   As I enter the final four months of this pregnancy I need to get that back.    I have 123 days (probably less) to go. 

I want it back.  

I got to the day of my embryo transfer on February 1st and I felt ready for anything.  I was so in my body and in the moment.  I can honestly say it was the most alive I have felt — EVER. 

I can’t say that today, mainly because I feel like extraterrestrial beings are growing inside of me.  There are moments when I have the urge to call Ghostbusters.  Like right now.  I think they are punching each other. 

If the Dumplings came tomorrow, I’m not ready.  I’m scared to death.  I’m all over the place, and perhaps that comes with the territory of growing two humans inside of you at the same time? Perhaps that comes with the territory of knowing something that used to be a dream is four months or less from a reality?

There is an overwhelming responsibility I feel right now to get everything right.  I know it will become more so once they get here.  And more importantly, I know I absolutely won’t get everything right.  It’s statistically impossible. Plus, what are they going to complain about when they’re older if I’m not at least somewhat irritating and WRONG?  Hopefully, I can get the important stuff right.

So tonight, as I was combing the Internet feeling like a less than invincible beached whale, I decided to take a breath.   I prayed for focus.  I prayed for clarity.  I prayed for intention.  I thanked God for sending my nausea to Siberia.  As a side note I was hoping He could do the same for my heartburn and the many other oh-so-interesting-side-effects of Dumpling creation. 

As I finished writing this post and went to get a drink in the kitchen … Raylan was waiting for me.  This crazy cat has a house full of toys to play with and somehow he found the last remaining feminine pad I had and decided it was his.  All his.

Raylan and pad

As I grabbed my camera and took the picture above — I had a flash of the Dumplings.  A house full of toys and bouncy seats and all sorts of fancy things to entertain them – and there they were playing in cardboard boxes.

Sometimes we all need to go find our cardboard box and play in it.  That blank slate where anything is possible.

Watching the cat play with this pad was sort of like that. He had no idea what it was, but he was going to explore it, chew on it and hold it and scratch it — until he had exhausted all of its possibilities.

 Tomorrow we see the Dumplings in 3D.  I’m sure I’ll have a picture and a Dear Dumplings letter to share before the end of the week. 

In the meantime, you should all read this letter Heather Armstrong wrote to her daughter, Marlo, on her 4th birthday.  I’ve been reading these letters to her daughters for years, hoping the day could come when I could write mine. 

She was my inspiration as I wrote the first letter to the Dumplings before I even knew they actually were two. 

As I finish my last big editing project and head to Texas for vacation next week — I am going to search for the focus of my next 123 days.  I’m definitely going to start meditating and slowing down. 

Eventually I hope to end up somewhere between a super-twin-mama-master-chef-yogini-seamstress-crafty-decorator-gardener-healthy-choice-maker-extraordinaire! and the nothing-super-to-see-here-twin-mama-can’t-boil-a-freaking-egg-sloth-can’t-sew-a-napkin-witless-craftless-no-eye-for-style-plant-murderer-Dr.Pepper-drinking-who-knows-what-the-hell-is-in-this-food-extraordinaire!

Somewhere between This and That is a place where my nesting gene has detoxed and I can be fully present. 

I want that back. 

The Dumplings need that Mama in charge of things when they get here.

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Dear Dumplings — Week 21: Mediocrity. Don’t Embrace It.

Week 21

Dear Dumplings,

Here I am again, at the height of mediocrity.  I am getting to your weekly letter on the last day.  21 Weeks today … 22 Weeks tomorrow.  I’ll try to keep it short since on Tuesday we get to see you in 3D at Dr. D’s office for your 22 week check-up.

I don’t feel guilty about being late with your letter anymore.  I think it’s in your best interest not to get used to your Mama performing amazing feats of time management … or any feats of time management, for that matter. 

When I was in yoga a couple of weeks ago a women of five month old girl twins came bounding into yoga with her twins in their little infant seats, with matching outfits and headbands … and a body that showed no signs of ever having been pregnant.  I envied her spunk (not to mention the post-pregnancy body) and how she did yoga while entertaining two infants. She looked like a circus act.  She was amazing. 

At first I thought it would be easier to hate her peppy enthusiasm and perfection.  As the class progressed, I continued to think about it and ultimately decided is was easier to hate her because to strive to be like her was more than I could think about in that moment or any moment following it.  You two will be lucky to have matching socks. 

I love this time of year on Facebook.  I scroll down my newsfeed and see all these smiling faces of high school and college graduates getting ready to start their lives. 

They’ve graduated.  They’ve accomplished something.  They have every right to be beaming.

Graduation.  I know it seems like it should be awhile before we think about it … but in today’s world you don your first cap and gown at the tender age of five.

In my newsfeed, amidst all of the accomplished high school and college graduates, I see the smiling kindergarten children wearing caps and gowns. Perhaps I am jealous because I never wore a cap and gown until I was 17?

Your Mama is here to tell you now … you have accomplished nothing worthy of wearing a cap and gown when you are 5.  As cute as those photo-ops may be for your scrapbook, I’m thinking on kindergarten graduation day we might just go get an ice cream cone and be grateful summer is here.  (I say this now, knowing full well if I choose to send you to a place that dresses five year old children up to look like college graduates, your pictures will make the newsfeed.) Of course, the jury is still out on whether you’ll go to public school or get educated at home in a barn … an air conditioned barn. 

What about fifth grade graduations?  I suppose learning to read, spell, divide and multiply is worthy of something.  I’m thinking a day at Six Flags?  Provided we live near one where the flags are over Texas … the one here is creepy.

Eighth grade graduations?  I suppose there are instances where an eighth grade graduation would be an accomplishment, especially if you could look into the future and see who is not going to be graduating from high school.  For some, this might be the only cap and gown they ever wear.  But again, your Mama is not one to reward mediocrity.  This isn’t 1913, it’s 2013.  All kids should strive to make it to their high school graduation. 

So, provided you are not being educated in a barn and we’re not sending you to a 9 zillion dollar a year private school (don’t worry, we won’t be) I suppose we can attend the eighth grade ceremony … unless, of course, you’d rather take a road trip to Anywhere-You-Want-To-Go-Except-That-Silly-Graduation, U.S.A.

At the end of the day, I think if you’ve had three graduation ceremonies before you turn 17 or 18 … is the last one going to have any significance for you?  There are no job applications that have a box asking if you graduated from the eighth grade.  The real world does not care about your accomplishments before you actually accomplish something. 

Your Mama and Daddy do, but are we doing you any favors by playing into this whole charade?

I’m not for having you live in a world where everyone gets a diploma … 3 freaking times … and everyone gets a trophy … and everyone gets a ribbon … the truth is, it seems like a little overkill.  I’m convinced this is some sort of obnoxious new normal brought on by cap and gown rental companies and ribbon and medal makers.  I think if we spend too much time rewarding everyone for everything, then the moments truly worthy of renting the cap and gown or displaying the ribbon, trophy or medal take on equal significance with those that don’t. 

If everyone gets a trophy and a medal and a ribbon for everything, it gives a false sense of accomplishment.  We start to believe we are good at things we’re not that good at.  The things that actually bring us joy, the things that make us feel awesome can be glossed over while we’re collecting another fifth place medal.  (Yes, there are fifth place medals and ribbons.)  One of the greatest gifts your Mama ever got was being told I should not play basketball or be a cheerleader.  The truth is I only ever liked to throw free throws and I didn’t really understand cheer-leading … I still don’t. 

I found the things I was good at.  That is my hope for you, whatever they may be. 

Your Daddy has an amazing gift with words … a gift that puts your Mama to shame.  He’s an incredible athlete, he knows more about sports than Rainman knew about cards … he was on the tennis team.  He’s got a lot of talents and many things he should not be doing (like load the dishwasher).

I wish I was not a master loader, but I have always been good at puzzles.  Dishwashers are like puzzles.  I never considered this a talent until I saw your Daddy’s loading skills. 

We all have gifts, large and small.  Some are hobbies, some are careers, some are just for the love of doing it … and some just are (like loading the dishwasher).  You most certainly will have some of all of these.  Your Daddy and I hope we can help you find them, hone them and grow them. 



P.S.  We’re not really going to keep you home on any graduation day … even graduating from finger painting probably has its merits.  But under my breath, as I write the check to rent the graduation costume and take tons of pictures of you in the ridiculous get up, just know I’ll probably be thinking all of the above … through my tears that you are another year older. 

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Week 21: Piggly Wiggly and Preparation H

Piggly Wiggly Prep H

I was not going to write about Piggly Wiggly, but after the conversation below with my husband at dinner it was too bizarre not to write.

I’m accused of writing for the Hallmark Channel (by my father) in most of my posts … tonight will not be that sort of (insert sappy music crescendo here) post that ends neatly tied up in a bow.  I like happy endings — and given the title, this will certainly not be an unhappy ending — but I will not to make anyone cry.  It probably won’t even make you think all that much.

Unless you just think I’m nuts, which is a perfectly acceptable thought.

Why were you tossing and turning last night? – Jonathan asked.

I could not fall asleep without finding myself in the aisle of a Piggly Wiggly.  Every time I turned over I kept hoping a new dream would lull me to sleep.

Where were you in Piggly Wiggly?

The baby food aisle.

Ahhh … I get it.  You associate Piggly Wiggly with the deep southern charm and hospitality you long for, Jonathan said as though he has solved some sort of dream puzzle.

Honestly, no.  I don’t even know where a Piggly Wiggly is.  We never shopped at Piggly Wiggly when I was a kid.  In the dream, I was standing in the baby food aisle, but what I needed to buy was Preparation H.

Oh.  But still, you look at that pig and that store as southern and charming. 

I honestly don’t think so.  The strange part was the cashier was Mr. Piggly Wiggly — the pig.  I asked him where the Preparation H was located.  It was not charming, it was freaky.  Chuckie doll freaky.  It was like talking to a costume character at Disneyland.  He danced me over to the Preparation H aisle.  


Yes, danced.  He was pretty excited about showing me where this magic cream lived.

We both laughed hysterically because the image of the pig as the cashier was somewhat entertaining.  It was about as entertaining as I was going to be without half a bottle of wine in me.

Ahhh … wine.

Now that the nausea is basically gone, I am starting to miss the wine, though not craving it or anything.

Now you ask, Terry, why are you having a dream about Preparation H of all things?

I pause, as I think about typing the second half of this post.  My only comfort at the moment is a small Kit Kat bar, Mumford & Sons, Raylan the cat, and the knowledge that if I was even slightly intoxicated, this would all probably be funnier.

Do you know that hemorrhoids are a side effect of pregnancy?

Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.

I fall in the category of … WHAT IS A HEMORRHOID!?!!?

I have never contemplated a hemorrhoid in my life.  I thought it was something old men got or people who sat too much.  Healthy people like me don’t know what a hemorrhoid really is, do we?

To tell you the truth, I never thought about it.  I actually had to look up exactly what a hemorrhoid is and how to spell it … now I could win a spelling bee on the word hemorrhoid.

I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say — I combed the pregnancy messages boards, talked to Jonathan and he made me write my doctors.  You haven’t lived until you’ve had an open conversation about hemorrhoids with your husband.

Now that’s love.

Note to self:  Never discuss embarrassing pregnancy symptoms with your husband …

I was too humiliated by the concept of a hemorrhoid to actually call someone on the phone and say the word out loud, so being the complete coward that I am, I emailed them.  I was secretly hoping the emails would get sent to their junk folder.  After all, a email titled Hemorrhoids? should go to a junk folder, right?

No such luck.  Dr. K writes back first and basically says it’s par for the course in pregnancy, but drinking more water and getting plenty of fiber is always good.  Dr. S. writes back later in the day and says get some Preparation H.

I was secretly mortified that such an email ever left my computer.  I deleted all traces of it coming and going hoping to forget this particular day of my pregnancy.

Until I went to bed … and that damn pig danced me over to the Preparation H in aisle 12.

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I Miss You Mawmaw. Love, Tige

Dear Mawmaw,

It was two years ago today that you left in body, but I would argue it was a lot longer than that since the woman I describe in your eulogy walked this earth.  Oh, how I miss her.  I talk to you all the time, hoping you can hear me.  Sometimes I think you answer back in my dreams.  Today I was thinking about you, as I often do, but now June 12th has a little more meaning than it used to.

Your Memorial Service was at the Cowboy Church in Henrietta, Texas.  I don’t think you ever went to a cowboy church, but once I realized what it was all about, I decided you would have approved.  Basically, the Cowboy Church was founded as place where cowboys could tie up their horse, pray and have a meal.  Sounds like your kind of church, if you had a kind of church at all.  The only thing was the pastor could not pronounce pinochle when describing one of my stories about you. 

Once I saw his struggles, I thought perhaps he needed the cowboy spelling of the card game … penuckle.  It was too late, however.  I don’t think anyone in there knew what he was talking about. 

I decided to anchor the post today with the pictures of you and Aunt Lucille working in the bomber factory before even Mom was born.  You look so cute. 

I remember walking into the service not being able to believe how many friends you had from childhood still alive in Joy, Texas.  They all had a story for me about you, and I was not surprised by a one of them. 

Until that day, I never thought much about you being in high school … you were always just my Mawmaw … always will be. 

Love you,


Mawmaw and Lucille Bomber Pic

Mawmaw Factory shot


Louise LaRue Slaughter  (May 18, 1925 – June 12, 2011)

I would first like to thank everyone for coming here today to celebrate my grandmother’s life. 

My grandmother was simply like no one else you ever met.

The first thing about her that was totally unique is that she really wasn’t your standard, ordinary everyday grandmother straight out of central casting.  In name, I mean. 

No one ever called her “grandma”, or “gram” of anything else like that.  I always called her Mawmaw – and there’s a story there.

“Mawmaw” was the word I used at about age two attempting to say “Mamaw”, which is what my mother called her grandmother.

But she didn’t correct me – in fact, she embraced it.  I mean, how many people willingly go their whole lives with a mispronounced name?  But that was her.  I think she liked having a name that no one else had. 

Mawmaw called me Tige from as far back as I can remember.  Tige.  She was my Mawmaw and I was her Tige. 

Like I said, she wasn’t like everyone else.

She had three daughters — my mom, Kay, Kathie and my Aunt Ann – no middle names, they are simply Kay, Kathie and Ann.  I asked her once why they had no middle names — because I had a middle name (Louise after her) and she had a middle name (Larue) so as a child I found it odd.  She simply said, no one uses the middle names and we liked those names.  And so it was. 

Kathie, her middle daughter, was born in 1949 and had her first seizure when she was four months old.  Mawmaw and my grandfather, R.W. Slaughter, were raising a developmentally disabled child at a time when this choice was not the path many  people chose.  I was well into my 20s before I truly realized the sacrifices she made doing what was right and not what was easy.

I cannot continue without taking a moment to tell you about Bob.  Bob was my surrogate grandfather, and Mawmaw’s companion for close to 40 years.  I never knew my grandfather, R.W. Slaughter — he passed away a few months before I was born.  I thought about him a lot when I was little.  There was a picture of him on the wall in the room where I would sleep.  I would ask Mawmaw about him all the time and she would tell me stories about him when Mom and Annie were little or when he was a boy.  I was very aware of the fact that the picture on the wall was my real grandfather and Bob was Bob.  I never called him anything else, but I loved him like you would have loved your grandfather.

Mawmaw was always a fly by the seat of your pants sort of person.  She was never prone to schedules, rules or predictable behavior of any sort.  Her address book was on paper plates and her bookkeeping was on everything from yellow legal pads to torn envelopes to fence posts.  It appeared there was no method to any of it, but somehow if you moved the paper plate with Doy’s phone number on it she knew where that particular paper plate was supposed to be.  I learned early on just to leave the paper plates alone. 

Mawmaw was what some might call a free spirit.  Not a lazy spirit, as she worked very hard from morning until night and when there was hay to bale or cows to check on, she would work until it was done. 

Now Bob was an Air Force man.   He was all about rules, schedules and structure. As you might conclude, Mawmaw and Bob did not always agree on the methods of their work on the farm.  Even at the age of 6, I could see this head-butting take place from across the field – suddenly Bob would throw his hands up and his hat down and storm off his tractor.  He would look at me and say, “Terrible (he called me Terrible) your Mawmaw is crazy!”   All I am going to say about this is, he is not the only person to have ever thrown up their arms, thrown down a hat and run off a tractor or from a room in an effort to keep from wringing her neck.

Now what I always loved about these moments was my Mawmaw’s reaction.  She was always laughing.  She literally did not care if she drove you crazy or drove you to drink.  She somehow thought all problems could be solved with her cute little smile and a De-Da-De-Da-Di-Do and I am here to tell you, they often were.  She was a force to be reckoned with and oftentimes it was easier to dance with her than try to get her attention. 

The great thing about being a grandparent is you are not the parent.  You can say yes, when you might have said no to your own children.  Mawmaw took her role as Fairy Grandmother very seriously and she did not disappoint.

One time I went with Mawmaw and Kathie to get their hair cut.  I was 4, about to turn 5 and start kindergarten.  So I decided I wanted to get a haircut, too.  Now, most grandmothers might have looked at my nice thick, brown, shoulder length bob and thought, “Perhaps the mother of this gorgeous hair would prefer I not cut it all off … ”

I am quite certain this thought bubble never entered Mawmaw’s mind. 

Instead she said, “Ok, Tige.  How do you want your hair cut?” and me being almost 5 said, “Like yours.”  

In my kindergarten picture I look like a boy.  Mawmaw’s hairdresser did my entire haircut with a razor blade.  Now I was only 5, so it did not bother me one bit, but I can assure you this was a moment when my mother threw her arms up, her hat down and ran from the room screaming in an effort to keep from wringing her neck. 

The Haircut

When I was 9, Kathie started her school year while I was still there for the summer.  Me being 9, and never having ridden a bus before, said, “Mawmaw, I want to go to school and ride the bus too.”  So, she took me down and enrolled me in 4th grade at the local school. 

Before too long I was a student at Lead Hill Elementary, and on the basketball team, in the 4-H club and had lots of friends coming and going. 

We went to Walmart and I got school clothes, school supplies and a nice Hello Kitty lunch box with a thermos.  Now I know my mom and Annie were jealous because Mom had to carry a giant paper sack for a lunch box and Annie was given a Big Yellow School Bus lunch box.  I, on the other hand, got to pick out the coolest lunch box in Walmart. 

Now, I can tell you what was packed in that lunchbox was no better than what was in the paper sack and the Big Yellow School Bus.  It was generally a peanut butter sandwich, because according to Mawmaw, “You can’t run a household without peanut butter.”

9th Birthday

One of the things I learned to do on the farm was fish.   One summer I caught a particularly large catfish.  Now I was 9, so large is relative here, but to my 9-year old eyes this was the biggest catfish I had ever seen.  I decided to take it up to Mawmaw so she could cook it for dinner.  After all, we loved catfish.  I walked into the kitchen and there stood Mawmaw and my great-grandmother, Mamaw Wines and in I walk with this catfish and present it to them.  Mamaw Wines only said, “Lord have mercy, child.”  Mawmaw took the catfish and filled the sink with water and put him in there so he could continue to live.  After a few minutes she got a paper sack and put the catfish in it and shooed me out the door telling me to take the catfish back to the cow pond.  “Tige, we do not eat fish from cow ponds, we eat meat from the deep freeze.” 

I could go on and on with stories about my Mawmaw.  Everyone should be so blessed as to be the only grandchild of a woman who was literally one of your best childhood buddies. I always felt invincible when I was with her. 

I tend to fly by the seat of my pants like she did, though maybe with less gusto.  I often wish I had her ability to sing De-Da-Di-Da-Di-Do and let the stresses of the day roll right off of me.  I did inherit what few musical tastes she had.  To this day, I love Anne Murray, John Denver or Gordon Lightfoot and whenever they are playing I always think of Mawmaw making up her own lyrics to the songs. 

You won’t be surprised that I, too, make up my own lyrics to songs. 

Mawmaw, Louise, Mother – she could infuriate you one minute and bring you great joy in the next.  Today, we remember the spirited joy and indomitable spirit … and celebrate a one-of-a-kind person … and a long life well-lived.

I will be forever grateful to have had her to call my Mawmaw.

Mawmaw and Me

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Dear Dumplings — Week 20: Words Of Wisdom

Week 20 -- Half way there!

Week 20 — Half way there!

Dear Dumplings:

We’re half way there, can you believe it?

Your Mama is getting quite the bump.  I can’t believe how much you have grown since last week.  It’s amazing, actually.  This week they tell me you are as long as carrots or bananas, depending on who is writing the information.  You weigh about 10.5 ounces, which means I have roughly 21 ounces of baby boys in there!

They also say my uterus is as high as my belly button … but I beg to differ.  The last time I went in for a check-up, one of you (Harlow) was already above my belly button, so apparently you are making a lot of nice room for yourselves at the expense of my stomach.  This might explain why I get full after a very small amount of food.

I had my first craving yesterday.  Hummus.  I have no idea where it came from, but I left Ellen’s yoga class with an intense desire to eat hummus and Triscuits.  I proceeded to eat the hummus and the crackers at around 6:30pm and then I took a 3 hour nap.  Yes, a nighttime nap.  I woke up at 10:00 only to go back to bed at 12:30am for 8 hours.

I must still be recovering from Chicago or all this growing you are doing is making me tired.

You’ll notice I have a different camera this week.  My friend, Elaine, said it was important not to take all pictures with your iPhone when you’re little, so I’m getting out my good camera and trying to learn more about it.

I spent the last two days editing footage from Chicago, and after writing about your Mama’s big mistake at ASCO a couple of days ago, I feel somewhat out of enlightening things to say.

Not to get too preachy here, but what good is writing you weekly letters if I’m not allowed to impart some wisdom?

This week I have three pieces of wisdom.  I learned them all a long time ago, but this week I was somehow reminded of their importance.

1.) Own your screw-ups right away.  The longer you wait, the worse it gets.

2.) It’s always easier to remember the truth.  And as you get older, sometimes it is even hard to remember the truth, because whole periods of your life become a blur.

3.) Want the life you have, and if the life you have is not going exactly how you had planned, use your mistakes or misfortunes as the catalyst to make it better. I think God gives us bridges to cross throughout life, and it’s up to us to figure out what the other side is going to look like.  Free will and all .

When I messed up this past week at ASCO, a lot of these things came up for me, even though the first one is the only one that specifically pertains to my mistake.

As for the second one, there was nothing I was ever tempted to lie about — I throw that one in because the one thing your Grandma Kay hated the most when I was a kid was lying.  I guess it rubbed off.  I’ll probably be pretty strong on that front, too.  You have been warned.

As for the last one … in speaking to cancer survivors and thinking about all the ups and downs of my own life, I started to see once again how important it is to want the life we have.  To embrace it, grow from it and use things we don’t like as a catalyst for changes within.

A lot of these things may seem like cliches and platitudes, and they are, if you are not practicing them.  Sometimes it’s easy to say these things when nothing is wrong with your life.  It’s when everything seems wrong and unfair about your life that they become so important.  Try to remember that … if you happen to read any of these letters before you turn 40.

AKG — Always. Keep. Growing.

Literally (which you are clearly doing now, from the looks of my belly) and figuratively (which I hope you will do throughout your life).

As 5:00 approaches on Friday … we’re all going to take a nap.  This seems to be prime nap time at the Wilcox house.  You’re still right now.  I think your nap has already started.

Or you want me to stop lecturing you.

Zzzzzzzzz …



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Things I Learned At ASCO … Again.

Selma and Me ASCO 2013

Selma and Me
ASCO 2013

I’m sitting on the plane coming home from Chicago, listening to Brad Paisley sing Letter To Me, as tears stream down my cheeks.  Not because I am trying to remember all the of the things I wish I could tell my 17-year old self, but rather the things my 43-year old self sometimes forgets.

However, I do wish I had studied Spanish, though I’m glad I never took a typing class since I spend most of my time pecking on an iPhone or an iPad.  You’ll only understand what I’m talking about if you listen to the song at the end of the post.

I am returning from ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology), a conference I have attended every year since 2007.  The last five I have worked for Vital Options International and a woman I am honored to call my friend, Selma Schimmel.  ASCO is stressful, it’s an exorbitant amount of work and I do the jobs of three people while I am there.  The AAA part of my personality (which is generally healthily suppressed with yoga) emerges in overdrive. 

Upon arrival, I am always confronted with the fact that people who were there last year are not around this year … and it’s not because they had a schedule conflict.  Right now it’s hitting too close to home and I was distracted.  My head was in it, but so were a whole lot of other things; many I didn’t want to think about.  So, of course, all I was doing was thinking about things I cannot control. 

Monday morning something happened during one of our production days that has never happened.  Not ever.  It was our busiest morning all week.  Doctors were calling and switching and showing up 24-hours early and 30 minutes late.  I had somehow lost my already wavering focus and my calm.  I should have stopped and done a headstand.  Maybe there was not enough blood in my brain?  My stomach was heavy (Selma is convinced it grew in Chicago), my back hurt because my breasts seemed to weigh 400 pounds, nausea was back and the maids were talking too loud in the hallway. 

I was so grateful to get to lunch I could barely see straight. 

Before I had backed them up on the media hard drive, the interviews of two doctors were deleted off of one of our media cards on accident.  I told my cameraman all was backed up when it wasn’t.  I’ve never done that.  I’ve never even come close to doing that.  I don’t do that. 

He deleted the card to use for the afternoon.  End of interviews. 

Apparently, I have now done that. 

I had the proverbial ball, and I dropped it, plain and simple.  There was only one location for the blame. 

One of the doctors I consider a friend, Allyson Ocean.  We profiled the organization she founded after one of her young patients lost his battle with colon cancer, Michael’s Mission.  The other one was our first ever in depth skin content with Dr. Mario Lacouture, who wrote the Skin Care Guide For People Living With Cancer.  I realized early in the afternoon right before one of our regular doctors came for his interview — the incredibly charismatic and passionate, Heinz-Josef Lenz (aka H-J).  He got there and I was in tears over my laptop; my anxiety was through the roof.  My husband was calming me, giving me solutions, Selma was amazingly cool (though she had every right not to be) — I felt like I had let everyone down, especially the doctors I was going to have to tell that 30-minutes of time they had generously given us was a possible waste.  I had all of the audio for both interviews, so it was not entirely gone, but their visuals were gone. 

I couldn’t shake it.

I sat in front of my camera and got ready to film the interview with H-J.  I was flush red and full of fluster.  He looked at me, laughing and said, Terry, this is NOT a PROBLEM!  Let it go!  This is not cancer!

I laughed, which is easy to do with H-J.  His energy is infectious.  And he was so right.

I turned on the camera and took a deep breath and thought about the Dumplings.  They didn’t need my anxiety.  More likely they needed some protein and a forward bend. 

Working in cancer advocacy and knowing so many people who have left this earth way before I think they were finished … I tell myself this all the time.  This. Is. Not. Cancer.  I tell myself this whenever I see tragedy of any kind.  Eventually we all have a cancer to face, even if it’s not cancer.  It’s our cancer.

The first thing we did was see if we could get the doctors back to our interview suite — a next to impossible task on the last full conference day.  They were both already back in New York. 

At the end of the day, I sat and wrote my confession to Allyson and Mario telling them I would see what I could do with audio and then probably send a camera person to their offices in New York to film them again so I could recreate the interview.

Allyson wrote, “It’s ok – things happen.  Don’t stress too much as it’s not good for those little nuggets!! I will be flexible and available to work with Dr. Lacouture to do it again. Thanks for the opportunity.”

Mario wrote, “Terry, thanks.  Don’t worry.  We’ll figure something out — next year also!”

It. Is. Not. Cancer.  It’s not life or death.

I love the fact that when I rose to the level of complete meltdown everyone around me went calm.  My husband.  Selma.  My crew.  Dr. Lenz.  Instinctively most of us know when people get like that, the beating they are giving themselves is enough.  I do it for people all the time, especially Jonathan.  I tell myself it’s one of the many reasons I know he is my soul mate.  When two people become tornadoes at the same time … it can’t possibly be a match made in heaven.   

We all make mistakes.  Lord knows, I have.  This week I inaugurated a new one, and guess what?  Everyone survived.  Rarely are any of our mistakes life and death, and for that we should count our blessings.  Maybe I’ll spend a few hundred dollars to fix it.  Most problems can be solved with a deep breath, a little more time and a little more money.  Many can be avoided if we were breathing enough in the first place. 

This morning we interviewed one of Dr. Lenz’s patients, Gloria Borges, Founder and Executive Director of the WunderGlo Foundation.  She was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at 28.  Instead of rolling over, she started a foundation and tasked herself with raising 250 million dollars for cancer research to find the cure over the next 9 years.    Her energy is contagious and I know immediately why she and Dr. Lenz make a great doctor-patient power team. 

I can’t wait to share her interview with y’all because trust me, it may not change you, but it will definitely awaken you.  At the very least you’ll feel like a chronic underachiever.

One of the last things she said was, I was working at a law firm when I was diagnosed (eventually she would become a junior partner).  I had a AAA personality and was working all the time.  Now I sit in traffic in Los Angeles and instead of getting upset, I think about the survivor I knew who just lost her battle last week and can no longer be in traffic. I’m happy to be here, even in traffic.

Then she said something else that resonated with me.  She said if someone gave her a choice to never get cancer and have her old life where she never met Dr.Lenz or all of the survivors battling alongside her … she would choose to get cancer and meet Dr. Lenz and have the life she has today.  The life where she has had 51 rounds of chemo to date.

I think the same thing sometimes.  If someone said to me, you can go back and meet Jonathan at 28 and get married right on time and have babies the old-fashioned way.  No infertility.  It would have been a lot cheaper, certainly easier and probably a lot more fun.

But, I don’t want that life.  I want this one.  I want the one where I have these exact two baby boy Dumplings growing in my womb.  The one where I need the help of the Girl Who Likes Chicken n’ DumplingsThe one where we started a production company a year before we got married.  The one where we met Selma and I wandered into this world of cancer advocacy.  The one where I met Dr. K and found my yoga community.  The one where I let go of the things I can’t control and embraced the things I can (most of the time).  The one where I feel closer to my husband and love him more today than I ever have … and it only gets stronger with each passing moment. 

Somehow I lost sight of this on Monday.  I wish I could say that it will be the last time I will get caught up in the anxiety of the moment and forget.  It won’t be.  I just have to remember H-J and Gloria … and breathe. Remember what’s really important. 

Oh, you got so much goin’ for you goin’ right

But I know at 17 it’s hard to see past Friday night

I wish you’d study Spanish, I wish you’d take a typing class

I wish you wouldn’t worry

Let it be.

I’d say have a little faith and you’ll see …

If I could write a letter to me.

Or the 43-year old version …

Oh, you got so much goin’ for you goin’ right

But I know at 43, it’s hard to see past your screw ups tonight

I wish you’d do a down dog, I wish you’d take a child’s pose

I wish you wouldn’t worry

Let it be.

I’d say have a little faith and you’ll see …

If I could write a letter to me.

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Dear Dumplings — Week 19: What Is Happening To Me?

Week 19Dear Dumplings:

Here it is the very last hour of your 19th week of gestation.  This is your Mama’s busiest week of the year.  We are in Chicago at a conference called ASCO, which stands for the American Society of Clinical Oncology.  It’s the largest cancer conference in the world and it happens every year at this time in Chicago.  This is why my writing is so behind.

But enough about my work — I have a much more serious question for you.

What on earth are you doing to my body!?!

I woke up the first morning of week 19 and suddenly the nausea was gone.  I’m not going to go so far as to say I was craving anything (because I’m not), but I was not nauseous.  I could eat.  I even ate some chicken.  I had a small burger.  Finally I could get down protein that did not involve dairy or beans.  I had turned a corner.  Or should I say WE had turned a corner.

But then … other things started to happen.

Being that you are boys I’m really not sure if I should tell you about it.  This probably falls into the category of “Oh, good grief Mom.”  I can see your eyes rolling.  You probably have no desire to know what you did to my body while you were growing into little men.  Right now I would give anything for a book from my own mother about what was going on with her, it might keep me from Googling things like “Hot Breasts and Pregnancy”  or “Warm Red Breasts and Pregnancy” or “Veins Everywhere and Pregnancy.”  Of course, she did this 44 years ago … she probably does not remember much.

Since your bodies will never perform this particular act of nature, I can’t imagine it will be interesting.  But just remember, you may know a woman or marry a woman one day who is expecting — and if and when you do, think how absolutely enlightened and understanding you’ll be?  I take comfort in this as I proceed.

Of course, my Gran Gran gave me a book about the Merrill family when I was in my 20’s.  I did not read it fully until I was almost 40.  I assume something similar will happen with your Dear Dumpling letters.

After landing in Chicago on Thursday evening, I took a shower.  I know, who wants to think about their Mama in the shower?  No one.  This is not about my shower.  But, after showering my breasts were red and on fire.  Veins were everywhere, including across my tummy where it felt like I had a bowling ball growing.

I stared at myself full of questions.  Is this even remotely normal? 

This seemed like a ridiculous question to email my doctors — I did not email Dr. S, Dr. D or even Dr. K.  Instead I started Googling.  My first search sent me to some strange places on the internet, so I changed my wording.  I read many sites and opinions and message boards.

By the time I was done I determined I either had cancer or an infection in need of antibiotics.  The most comforting option was just “increased blood flow.”

I decide to focus on the extra blood flow and try to relax.

I am surrounded by oncologists for the next three days, so I figure if I get really freaked out, I’ll ask one of them.

The truth is, for every moment I freak out and wonder what the hell is happening to my body there are 1000 moments where I am in complete awe of all that is happening.  I instinctively know everything is happening as it should.  Every time I see you, like I did on Wednesday in Dr. S’s office, I want to cry.

I honestly can’t believe I am 20 weeks pregnant.  I really can’t.  There were so many, many moments I thought I never would be.  I would sit and try to envision my childless life.  Luckily, I never could see it.  I didn’t want to.

Many people see this as no big deal, but to me it’s the biggest of deals.  It’s the biggest deal that has ever happened to me.

You don’t have to remember that I pondered my hot breasts and mix-master veins, just remember that I am grateful.  Grateful for the opportunity to be your Mama.  I hope I don’t let you down too much.

I’ll start by not mentioning my breasts during polite dinner conversation.  But just remember … they will be your main source of sustenance for at least six months.

I won’t ever mention that in front of your friends.



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