The time my friends ate grasshoppers

Warning- Stop reading Mom!  I know you read everything I write, but do not read this story.  (She has major bug phobia).

So tonight two of my good friends came over to help me around the house to to help me prepare for my new couch which arrives in the morning.  The three of us love Mexican food and we planned on ordering Mexican food for dinner.

I opened the food ordering app because I prefer to order my food online.  Because I hate talking to people on the phone that much.  

I do not see our normal go-to restaurant listed.  So we decided to try a new Mexican restaurant.  I quickly google the name and I learn that it is a restaurant that specializes in authentic cuisine from the Oaxaca region in Southern Mexico.  I said we should be adventurous.  The worst thing that could happen was that the food wouldn’t be good and we would have to get food from somewhere else.  

We decided to give it a try.

I look at the menu and made a comment about the fact that they had cow tongue.

One of my friends decided on a grasshopper burrito.  The description seemed palatable and it said there was a choice of meat.  My friend wanted chicken.  

My other friend decided she wanted to order the same thing.

I looked the menu over and became overwhelmed so I ordered chicken tacos and an order of chips, guacamole and salsa.

When the food arrived, we were starving and ready to eat.  I pull out the two burritos.  My daughter said she wanted one and I said that they belonged to our friends.  I gave my daughter some guacamole and chips and one of my chicken tacos.  We all dig in and we talk about how good the food was.  

Everything was great.

Then one of my friends jumps and says that her burrito actually has grasshoppers in it because one just fell out.  My other friend was about five bites into her grasshopper burrito and she stops eating.  I was eating chicken tacos but I lose my appetite in solidarity.  The only one who continues to eat without being phased is my daughter.  

“Grasshopper Burrito” wasn’t just a cute name.  

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We contemplated what to do.  Do we call the restaurant and try to get something else?  My friends felt bad because I put the whole order on my card.  I assured them that this was such a good story that it was worth every penny.

Seriously, I have been bummed lately.  I haven’t laughed this hard in a very long time. This might have been the hardest I laughed since before Bryon got sick. 

My friends decided to just order a pizza instead.  With no meat.  And orange soda.  Sunkist.  Though the person on the phone called it Outcast soda.  Hey ya!

The burritos went into the trash.  My friend brought the trash outside which was good because I was having images of the grasshoppers coming back to life in my house.  

My poor friend got the creepy crawlies.  

You can’t really tell by the picture but in person, you could totally see the grasshopper legs.

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A quick google search does reveal that grasshoppers are actually part of the diet in Mexico’s Oaxaca region.  They are called Chapulines.  So this cuisine is authentic.  

Just a bit too authentic for us.

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My one fun night in New York City

 

Bryon spent the last two and a half weeks of his life in New York City.  I had him moved from our regional medical center because he needed better care.  It was two of the most optimistic and the most scariest weeks of my life.   I was optimistic because he had a world class medical team caring for him.  I was scared because he was still very sick and I knew that even if he survived, the road to recovery was going to be complicated.

I don’t usually think about my time in New York.  I mean, it ended with Bryon dying.  

Yesterday I was reading about how one of my blogging friends spent her birthday in NYC.  She spent part of her day in Washington Heights, which was the part of NYC where Bryon’s hospital was located.  

It dawned on me that I can’t ignore New York City forever.  Someday I will  have to return.  I may want to take my daughter to see the Rockettes or take her to the Natural History Museum.  Or the Bronx Zoo.  Or maybe I would go with my Spanish teacher friend to find an Argentinian restaurant.  Or to see The Bangles with Kimmy Gibbler and my Latin Teacher friend the next time they go on tour.  It would be ridiculous to avoid a whole city for the rest of my life because of what happened.  I will probably just avoid Washington Heights.

So I was reading my blogging friends birthday post and then I was on Facebook.  I checked “On This Day” and sure enough, it was a post about the one fun thing I did during those two and a half weeks.

My daughter’s Godmother came down with her (now) fiance and got hotel rooms in the Times Square area.  She was telling me all about the city as we drove downtown.  I am a small town girl from Maine after all.  We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant.  It was my one fun night in New York City.

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Margarita
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Tacos
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Seinfeld restaurant
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View from the hotel room

Though there were other good things about being in the city.

I had a family to stay with.  They didn’t even know me but they knew Bryon.  They welcomed me into their home and they were so kind to me.  They stay ended up being short but had Bryon survived, he might have been in the city for months.  They never once gave me a time limit.  I know they were rooting for the slow recovery.  It would worth a trip to NYC to see them and have them meet my daughter.

Bryon’s friends in NYC got to see him.  That was great.

The team was much more optimistic and Bryon’s spirits were the best they had been through the whole ordeal.  In Albany, Bryon was too depressed to facetime with our daughter, but in NYC, he was happy facetiming her.

Bryon still had his sense of humor.  It took me a week to figure out that I could take the express train to get to the hospital faster.  He shook his head and rolled his eyes at me.

But right now, NYC remains the city where Bryon died.  Maybe someday I will return but it probably won’t be anytime soon.

Recharging: Hiking at Thatcher State Park

Yesterday morning Kimmy Gibbler asked me if I wanted to go on a hike with the kids to Thatcher State Park.  I was game.  I had never been to Thatcher State Park but I have always heard it was a lovely place to visit.  My local blogging friend Melissa recently visited Thatcher Park and wrote about her trip.

I just had to make an emergency stop at Target to get a pair of sneakers for my daughter because I think I might have left them in Chicago.  Once we got a new pair of sneakers, (and some fruit snacks and some juice boxes and some bottles of water) we were ready.

We didn’t hike long or anywhere steep because we had small children with us, but it was still a really fun outing.   I look forward to many more!

Do you hike? Where do you like to hike?

 

Late night ramblings of a widow #2

Late night ramblings…I can’t promise this post will be coherent.

It is late and I hate going to bed.

I hate being reminded that I am the only one that sleeps in my bed.

Well, unless my cat decides I am worthy of his presence.

My daughter got a toddler bed at Easter and it took her several months before she figured out she could physically get out of bed on her own.  So now there is a 50 percent chance she will make her way to my room in the early hours and climb into my bed.  And I will be too tired to care.  Unlike my cat, she is a cuddler.

I have been pondering life.

I have spent so much time living with blinders on and I never realized all the life that goes on.

I was on a run recently with Kimmy Gibbler and we were near train tracks and an Amtrak train went by.  I pointed out that the train was full of people heading to Western New York and that each person had their own agenda.

There were also other runners, joggers and walkers.  There were the maintenance men.  There was the homeless person sitting on a bench.  There were bunny rabbits in the grass.

So much life around.  Does it even matter?  Does it even affect me?

When I was back in Maine last weekend, I had breakfast with an old friend.  I will call her Charlotte because I don’t usually use real names and that was her name in French class.  I sat next to her and my name was Emilie.  Charlotte and Emilie.  Except the “E” had one of those accents on it and I can’t be bothered to try to figure out how to type with one.  Just being honest.

Charlotte said several things to me that made me think.  Some of it was about religion.  She definitely gave me some things to think about.  But if you are one of my religious friends reading this- don’t get too excited.  I am just thinking.

One of the other things that she brought up was the whole concept of the butterfly effect.  I honestly have never given much thought into it.  But it made sense to me.  Greed in the healthcare system has a trickle down effect that can affect patient care.  Laziness of doctors in overprescribing antibiotics plays into antibiotic resistance as well as the corporate greed that fuels the usage of putting antibiotics into our meat.

I was so fascinated by this concept that I spent some time on the internet reading it.  I also read Andy Andrews book about it.  It is a very quick yet powerful read.  And I am not just saying that because he talks about Joshua Chamberlain which automatically wins over this history buff from Maine.

Fun fact about me: I was a history major at the University of Southern Maine.  Your senior thesis was written while enrolled in your History 400 class and each offering had a different theme.  My final semester I was so excited that Maine History was offered in one of the sections.  But I did not write my thesis on Joshua Chamberlain.  I wrote it about French Canadian immigration to Maine’s mill towns.  I don’t have a copy.  It probably sucked and I am sure I could write a much better paper now.  Maybe I will write history books someday.

Everything we do matters.  It might not seem that way to us on a daily basis but our actions matter.  Positive actions create more positivity and negative actions create more negativity.  If you spend your time making those around you feel good, you are putting more positivity into the world which will have a butterfly effect.  You could be causing good for people you don’t even know and you may never know the magnitude of your good actions.

The same is true on the negative side.  Don’t be negative people!

Kimmy Gibbler always says that the world needs more hi-fives and less negativity.

It also makes me think about intricate our lives paths are.

When I was in Vegas last February, my friend and I had visited Mandalay Bay.  As I was walking around Mandalay Bay, I was thinking about how I attended the 2005 Young Republican National Convention.  If I hadn’t attended that event, I never would have gotten involved with the Young Republican National Federation.  I never would have met some of my closest friends from that organization.  I never would have met Bryon.  I never would have moved to New York.  My daughter would have never been born.  I wouldn’t even know my Albany family.

I have no idea what my life would be like if I had not attended that one event.

My life unfolded this way for a reason (and is still unfolding.)  Everyone is in my life for a reason.  Every opportunity in my life currently is there for a reason.  I may not be sure what it is yet, but I am right where I belong.

Chicago 2017: Navy Pier

During my weekend in Chicago I really wanted to go take my daughter on the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier.

I first rode on the Ferris Wheel in 2004.  It was the Monday after Thanksgiving.  I had attended a wedding in Wisconsin and it was ten days after my Grandma Sullivan died.  I had found out while I was working.  It was a Friday and my father and I had been planning to leave that day to try to get to Massachusetts before she passed but we were too late.

I can still remember what I did in those ten days:

Friday- Grandma died.
Saturday- Went to Massachusetts (5 hours away from my home in Maine).
Sunday- Grandma’s wake.
Monday- Grandma’s funeral.
Tuesday- Went back to Maine.
Wednesday- Helped my mother prepare for Thanksgiving
Thursday- Thanksgiving
Friday- Flew from Bangor, ME to Madison, WI (via Cincinnati) to attend the wedding of a friend that I had attended university with while I was in England.  My cousin (from the other side of the family) was crazy enough to fly up from Florida to attend as my guest.
Saturday- Wedding just outside of Madison, WI
Sunday-  Went to Milwaukee with my cousin.  We went to the Milwaukee Public Museum, had lunch at Usingers, and toured the Colonel Pabst Mansion.

I couldn’t resist posting this Wayne’s World clip.

On Monday my cousin was crazy enough to take a bus to Chicago with me.  She was crazy enough walk around Chicago with me for 12 hours in the cold, November rain.  We had pizza at Gino’s, walked by Wrigley field, went to the top of Sears tower and rode the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier.

I have no pictures of myself on the Ferris Wheel but here is one of me on the El.

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Chicago 2004

And because I talking about the cold November rain got this song stuck in my head…here you go-

I returned to Maine that Tuesday.

There were lots of things that I did not know at that time.  I had just gotten involved in politics but I had not even heard of the Young Republicans.  18 months after that trip to Chicago, I would attend the Young Republican Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.  On that trip, I would attend a party at the Romanian Embassy and on the shuttle bus ride there, I would sit behind a girl from Chicago who would become on of my best friends. (You met her here)

In the fall of 2007, I was living in Southern Indiana with another friend from the Young Republicans.  I was on a three months contract for work.  My roommate and I drove up to Chicago to see my best friend and another good friend in Chicago.  We had dinner at an Italian restaurant and then went to Navy Pier.  And we rode the Ferris Wheel.

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Chicago 2007
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Chicago 2007
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Chicago 2007

In 2007 we were single girls travelling around the country, attending political meetings and partying with future leaders and elected officials (some of them surprised us).

In 2012, we both got married.  I got married in September in Albany and she got married in December in Mexico.  Her location was a bit more exotic than mine but it didn’t matter.  We were both there for each other on our big days.

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Albany, 2012
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Mexico, 2012

We both had our daughters in 2014.  Her daughter came in April and mine came in September.  They are exactly 5 months apart.

And she was there for me when Bryon died.  She made the trip to Albany (along with the other lovely lady in her wedding photo).  They actually already had the plans to be in NYC the weekend that ended up being the weekend of Bryon’s funeral.  His birthday was the day after his funeral and she made arrangements to meet my father halfway between NYC and Albany to bring our daughter to see him for his birthday.   I told Bryon that he would see our daughter, as long as the doctors said it was okay.  He was excited.

But he died a week before his birthday.

And now I am here.  A widow.  Travelling as much as a I can this year to make up for the fact that I spent most of 2016 in an ICU room watching Bryon slowly die.  And because I promised him as he was dying that I would still take our daughter on adventures.

So that brings me to Chicago in 2017.  With my best friend and our young daughters.  And I wanted to go to Navy Pier to ride the Ferris Wheel…again.

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Chicago 2017
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Chicago 2017
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Chicago 2017

Both of the little ones enjoyed the ride.  I can’t remember if it was my friends daughters first time or not.  I think it’s safe to say that when my daughter and I return, that we will go on the Ferris Wheel again.  Maybe next time, she will be tall enough for some of the other rides.

 

 Chicago: Family Matters House

In February 2014, I was at the end of my first trimester.

In the beginning of February Bryon and I flew to New Orleans to go on a Caribbean cruise (this was before Zika was a thing).  We flew through O’Hare. I remember being very exhausted as we walked through the airport. Bryon was always a fast walker in general and a foot taller than me.  Pregnant or not, I was always struggling to keep up.  In the airport on that trip Bryon had to take my carry-on (he did always say he was the pack Mule) and slow down. The difference was, in this trip, he couldn’t complain about it. I was carrying his child after all.

Two weeks after that I returned to O’Hare for a baby shower for my best friend who lives just outside of Chicago.  She was in her third trimester. We were both exhausted, hungry, and were constantly looking for restroom because we kept needing to pee.

While I was there, Bryon, the ultimate vacation planner, told me what we should do.

My best friend and I laughed but we were too tired, hungry and too busy racing to the bathroom to bother.

Bryon and I always planned to take a trip to Chicago with a side trip to Wisconsin to visit a good friend of ours.

We never got to take that trip.

So the her first thing my best friend did when she picked me up from O’Hare was take me to the Family Matters House.

This one was for you Bryon.

When I posted this picture on Facebook my friend asked if Carl Winslow was in the police car. Maybe he was!

The house was across from a park. I can totally understand why Carl and Harriet chose the place to raise their 3 kids. Even if their third kid disappeared in the last season…

My daughter wasn’t impressed. 

I think Bryon would be happy.

The last first holiday

One thing I have been told about grief is that the firsts are the hardest.  I learned that quickly.  I had the proverbial bandaid ripped off as your 31st birthday was the day after the funeral  and my birthday came two days after that.  The following month included our daughter’s second birthday and our 4th wedding anniversary.  

Then the holidays followed.  

Halloween came and went.  Our daughter dressed up as a cheerleader.  We were invited to go trick or treating with friends followed by some chili.  We had a good time.

Thanksgiving came and went.  We spent it with my family in New Hampshire.  Four generations came together.  I made most of dinner and baked three pies which you would think was a waste of time but I enjoy the process of baking.  I squeezed in time in Maine and Boston.  

Christmas came and went.  It was spent with our Albany Family.  Feliz Navidad Brunch and an Italian Feast that can’t be beat.

New Years came and went.  I got to say good-bye to 2016 (literally the worst year of my life) and I welcomed 2017.  We stayed up to see Mariah Carey make a fool of herself.  Be glad you weren’t there to see that.  The festivities continued the next day at the New Beginnings Brunch.

Valentine’s Day came and went.  We celebrated at the Toddler 3 class party.  Friends sent packages and our favorite golden retriever, Carter, told his parents to buy us roses which Carter’s father did.

Easter came and went.  There were several Easter egg hunts, a ham dinner and dyeing of Easter eggs.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day came and went.  Holidays that I couldn’t distract myself with company.

And now it’s the Fourth of July.  

The last first holiday without you.  

Sure, there is Bastile Day but we didn’t celebrate that.  I am sure you could come up with some other random holidays that we didn’t celebrate just to frustrate me and keep me from making my point.  

The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays.  If you were still alive, we’d spent the 3rd with your best friends family on the lake and on the 4th, we’d go to a baseball game.  Because what is more American than baseball and fireworks?  And I would get annoyed with you because you used to work at Disney and you knew how fireworks were choreographed.  You knew every firework move before they happened.

Since your death, some traditions have changed.  

I haven’t gone to any baseball games since you were gone.  Part of the reason is that you had a friendship with the lady at the beer stand.  She loved you and I don’t know if she knows if you have died.  And I don’t want to have to tell her.  I know she will be crushed if she doesn’t already know.  I avoid people who may not have known.  I just can’t do it.  I don’t want to cry in public.

But some traditions will stay the same.

Our daughter and I will be with your best friends family at the lake.  My heart hurts to think that you aren’t going to be there.  We had a lot of memories at those parties.  The fireworks, the boat rides and the amazing food. You always brought Sam Summer ale.  And who can forget when I was 30 weeks pregnant and I pressed the wrong button on the bidet and for about 10 seconds I thought my water had broke.  

There is no way around it, you will be missed.  But I know that I am not the only person who will be missing you at the party.  Your best friends family is an extension of our family.  Last year when you were in the ICU and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find a babysitter, they gladly took our daughter for the day so I could sit with you.  We were hopeful that you were going to recover and be there with us today.  

But as we all know, you won’t be there.  Because you are dead.

The fact your best friend’s family still include us the same as they did when you were alive means more to me than I can ever express in spoken or written word.  They are part of our family whether their son marries our daughter or not.  (We are still taking pictures for the rehearsal dinner slide show just in case).  Whether they get married or not, I think it is safe to say that they will grow up together.

We will try not to dwell on your absence too much.  I know you wouldn’t want that.  

And also, you will be there in spirit.  At least that is what people tell me.  Like, all the time.  I think they mean well.  I think they think that by saying it that makes me feel better but it doesn’t.  Even if it’s true, we all know you are dead and that it’s not the same.    

Part of me is relieved that all the first holidays will be done.  But then I realize that there will still be a whole bunch of firsts.  

Later this month I will go to my first wedding without you.  

Weddings.  I won’t have you to dance with me.  We won’t be coordinating outfits.  And I can’t just absentmindedly choose the chicken dish knowing that I can have a taste of your beef dish.  You won’t be there getting enraged if someone chooses First Corinthians for their reading.  I won’t hear you rant about how Paul wasn’t talking about romantic love, that he was talking about the love of The Church.  

You won’t be there for all our daughter’s firsts.  Her first day of kindergarten.  Her first recital. Her first sports competition.  Her first time riding a bike without training wheels.  Her first date.  (You might be dead, but I am sure your blood pressure just went up).  You will miss all her big days.  Her graduations.  Her prom.  Her wedding.  You won’t be there to meet her children.

And then I think of all the firsts that I never thought I would ever have to repeat.  Especially at this stage of my life.  I don’t want to think about these firsts.  Not yet.  I miss you too much.  But eventually I am going to have to think about it.  I am not going to lie, I am kind of angry that I am in this position.  I was happy with you.  Sure, we had our problems, but I was happy.  We were a good team.  But you taught me how to love and you made me a better person so I know my story isn’t over yet.  I also think it’s ironic.  Loving you made me a better person and you don’t even get to experience it.  Someone else might but not you.  Seems like a twisted joke.  This whole ordeal (crisis? nightmare? my life?) seems like a twisted joke.

So tomorrow (technically later today as I write this) we will miss you more than anyone can imagine.  We will be comforted by each other’s company.  And we know that you will be there, whether it’s “in spirit” as everyone tells me, or if it’s because you are a part of us now or a combination of the two.