Grief: A Man, A Thought, A Realization

The Awesome Woman Project
June 6th was the day that I realized that I will always miss my momma, but I will be okay without her.


I was sitting in an airplane on the tarmac of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and I was talking to Subha, the man from Cuba who played a tuba.  He wasn’t really from Cuba and he didn’t really play a tuba, which made me laugh. Anyway, this self-professed beardo told me, “You are a happy person. It’s great to see someone with so much enthusiasm. Some people take themselves too seriously.”


Joy finally reached my eyes. Subha saw it. A year ago, I wondered when that would happen again. I smiled a little longer and I told him, “I’ve been through hard times. I know that you have to smile when life is good.”


I had just ended the year, that began in June of 2014, the same way that I started it: at a military retirement in San Antonio, Texas. Everything there was familiar. My friends and I picked up right where we had left off, and things, for the most part, looked the same.  After saying a good-bye to my friends that I knew wouldn’t last forever, I was ready to go home. Texas will always be a part of me, but I am not a Texan.


Before I boarded the plane, I didn’t feel my normal twinges of panic. I am a terrible flyer. Instead, I felt a sense of peace and calm.  After we were in the air, I told Subha that I needed to get some sleep, because after a late night of partying it up with friends and an early morning drive to the airport, I had to be able to take care of my kiddos once I got home. Before I closed my eyes Subha said, “someone once told me that it is only a bad day, never a bad life.”


I thought about that for a little while. There are some undeniably bad days in life, but overall, life is a collection of many experiences, and I am fortunate enough that I have had more good ones than bad.  My mom and I planned a wedding together, for better or worse. She held my hand as I gave birth. She guided me through the tough spots of motherhood and the woes of marrying young. She taught me how to develop a support system when I moved away from home, and she guided me through the various lessons of married life.  Doing things backwards provided me with all of these incredible memories.


Just before my mom died, my friend Jackie and I were sitting in a coffee shop at nine o’clock at night and she told me, “I still hear my mom’s voice in my head. She isn’t gone.”


Like Jackie’s mom, my mom isn’t really gone either. I have these memories, and I have her artwork that provides me with her insight into life. These are the things that will guide me through the roughness when it comes.


I will always miss my momma, but I will be okay without her.

Grief: What It Means To Be Human


This year has taught me what it means to be human.


I have experienced darkness that has been intertwined with great beauty. I have also experienced darkness that is as deep as I ever hope to know it. It has mostly been because I have experienced the loss of a deep maternal bond.


Grief has made me confront my fears and the difficulties that have plagued areas of my life. It has been a prolonged experience and it seems like it will last for an immeasurable amount of time. It didn’t end after six-months and I don’t imagine that it will end after today – the day that marks a full year since my mother passed away.  Grief ebbs, flows and changes, but unfortunately, it doesn’t end.


It doesn’t seem normal. After all, we are told that sadness and tears are negative. Yet, every grief book that I have ever read has told me not to run from it. They have said that the only way through it is to feel it, and they are right. I have had to let the pain consume me, and I have had to let my emotions rule my life for a while, even if it seems like an illogical way to live at times. If I chose any other way, then grief would be lurking, and it would pounce at the most inconvenient time in the future. I have trusted that to be true. So, I have openly sobbed in anguish, and when I have no longer had the energy to sob I have allowed hot tears to quietly spill onto my pillow. I have practically welcomed it.


I used to think that I was prepared for this. I have not been a stranger to hard things happening in my life. I am the wife of man with a body that refuses to function like it should. We have been through cancer scares, surgeries, and bone infections. We have had to trust that a future for us will exist.  My husband is still here for me to touch and talk to. My mom is not. The darkness of the last year has felt thicker, more opaque, and at times more suffocating than any other that I have ever felt.


My past experiences have taught me one valuable lesson that has pulled me through this: The intensity of pain doesn’t last forever, and because of the pain I know how to cherish the greatness that life has to offer. Even if that greatness is as seemingly insignificant as watching a snail on a warm spring day; it is still great. It is a source of hope that I have carried with me.


My grief shocked me, at first. I have never mourned like this for anyone else. In fact, for some, I realize that I did not actually mourn at all. Over the course of the last year I have realized that my tears are not actually for my mother, because I have faith that she is fine where she is.  She is at peace. The reality is that I am grieving for the things that I no longer have her for: real-time support, her physical hugs, her ability to soothe me by saying exactly what I needed to hear, and her faith in my capabilities when I didn’t have enough for myself. I miss her physically being here for me. I miss listening to her stories. I miss going shopping with her. I even miss her nagging at me, because I know that she did it from a place of love and concern for my well-being. 


Grief is a very self-centered thing, and knowing that makes me feel completely human. It makes me realize how imperfect all humans are, and in that respect, I suppose that I can even see beauty in the darkest place that I have ever been. I finally understand what people mean when they say that all humans are deeply flawed.


Through out the year, I have allowed pain to be inflicted on me by other people’s perspectives of who I am. I have allowed them to devalue my experiences and me. I suppose it is because I have been unsure of my life without my mom as a guide. I am a grown woman who naively thought that I didn’t need my mom anymore. I lived hundreds of miles away from her for ten years. It makes sense that I would think that way. I was gravely mistaken, though. I have felt vulnerable in a way that I can’t recall ever feeling. I suppose it is one more way that I have felt completely human.


This year I have discovered that the problem with other people is that they are as human as I am. They are as imperfect as I am. They are as flawed as I am. There is not a single human on this earth who is completely enlightened, because we are all emotionally charged. We all have certain ideals that have been based off of culture, family, theories, or studies. We all think that we are right and just in our way of life. We are all human beings, and in that respect there is no one right way to live a perfect life. People have the power within themselves to live the life that they deem right. They only have to say yes to whatever they think that is, which can be hard to do. Humans like conformity, and when people don’t conform to their social circle’s ideas, they are riddled with guilt and they are often shamed. It can be easy to give in to that pressure.


The result of giving my power away to other people has been an undiluted anger that has seethed from my core, and the anger has made me feel even more human. It has given me the energy to rise, and take my power back. My decisions are mine to make. My life is mine to live. In the same regard, other people have the right to live their lives according to their own philosophies. I will not pretend to understand it, but I have to respect it the same way that they have to respect me for being unique and different. These hard lessons are a part of the human experience, and they have to be learned and relearned over the course of an entire life.


This year has taught me what it is to be human.


DIY: From Country to Artistic Flair

I am an eclectic person, but country has never been one of my favorite styles. So, why I chose to buy this sign is beyond me. After dealing with several of my husband’s health issues, I decided that it wasn’t worth having things in my house that didn’t make me happy. Life is too uncertain for that. Yet, this sign continued to sit on my shelf until finally, I couldn’t handle it anymore. Instead of donating it, I decided to upcycle it.

First, I cleaned it really well, because apparently I hate to dust. Then, I used parchment paper to trace the sign. I placed the parchment paper over a scrap of pretty paper that I had in my over abundant stash (Remember, my Letting Go Challenge?!) and then I carefully cut the shape of the sign out. Before I did anything else with the paper, I used some pink acrylic paint to paint the sign. When that was dry, I used Modge Podge to glue the paper to the front of the sign.

It was beginning to look better, but it still didn’t scream, “Carmen!!” So, I took a small paintbrush and a little black paint and I started to outline the design on the paper. Next, I  outlined the letters with the pink paint and then I decided to lightly go over it for a sort of distressed look.

After two years it still makes me smile, although, I still don’t like to dust. 😝

Cravings Sandwiches in New Braunfels, Texas


Man, oh, man, I am craving some Cravings right now!! This quirky little place stole my heart while I was living in Texas. Between their Firecrackers and their cheesy Poblano Queso Soup, I was in foodie heaven.

This place is teeny tiny. During their lunch hour rush, I discovered that it was best to use their drive-thru. However, if you have time or you stop in at an off hour, be sure to check this made-with-love place out. On one wall they have old wedding photos hung all over it, and on the other there is a cool chalk board wall. However, the best-of-the-best decor is in the bathrooms that are located on the outside of the building. The women’s restroom was covered with heartthrobs from every era. While you pee you could be staring at Brad Pitt, which in hindsight might creep the guy out a little bit if he ever read this, but come on ladies, how fun is their decor?!

The real reason you need to go to this place, though, are these Firecrackers. They are the bomb diggity!! Okay, I take that back…that sounded lame, lol, but you get what I mean. The salty, butteriness mixed with the fresh tasting dill and the heat of the red pepper makes this something that you really will crave. They are so good that I went home and figured out how to make them myself.

And the sandwiches…

The fresh spinach, and the melty cheese mixed with the generous helpings of meat, and the home made buns make these things worth the calories!! I swear to you, you won’t be sorry if you decide to fly to Texas just to eat at Cravings. I need to go back….like, right now…lol.

Check out their website for their specials:

Wrist Licking Good Po’ Boys in Louisiana

What could be better than a po-boy sandwich? Nothing! Especially, if it was made at Darrell’s in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Darrell’s is a bar that is nestled in between train tracks and industrial lots. It’s not a place that you’d think to take kids to, normally. However, it has a drive-thru in the back, so it’s totally legit. It reminds me of the best burrito place that my Grandma H used to take us to in California when I was little. We had to walk through a scruffy looking bar in the middle of Oakland to get to the restaurant. It was worth it every time! I promise that Darrell’s is worth it, too. Just keep imagining Po-Boys that are so juicy that the gravy drips down your wrist and all you want to do is lick it off so that it doesn’t go to waste. They are that good!

You might be wondering how I found this hole in the wall place. Well, I did a google search for food just as we crossed the boarder from Texas into Louisiana. I found Darrell’s on yelp and the locals swore by these sandwiches. I thought, who am I to resist the temptation?

So, as we passed through the area at 10:30am, we decided to stop and wait the half-an-hour until they opened. I heard that the line could get pretty crazy, so I wasn’t going to complain. We were first and we had stellar treatment (trust me, that means something when you have three kids yelling at you from the back seat)!

Once they were open, the waitress came to the window and said, “What can I getcha, baby?” in a thick southern drawl. We’d never been there before, so she walked us through the menu and helped us choose the perfect sandwiches for our family. The boys all had shrimp, Mike had roast beef, and I had the special. The bread was tender, but not soggy. The jalapeño mayo was just spicy enough. It didn’t overwhelm my senses. The cheese was real cheese, and not that overly processed stuff that I hate so much. I swear, the only thing you could hear from our car were moans of pure food bliss. These sandwiches are the best of the best food porn. Just look at it! You know you want one…

I promise, you won’t be sorry if you go!! I mean, not only am I NOT getting paid for this post, but they don’t even know that I wrote it! It was just so awesome that I had to tell y’all!

Awesome Woman Project Travel: AT&T Park Awesome Woman Project, Travel, Goldfield Ghost Town, Apache Junction Awesome Woman Project, Travel, Graffiti Park, Austin, Texas Image Map

What Not to Miss at AT&T Park


Have you ever gone to a ball park and not really known what they were famous for? I know that we have, so I decided to list out a few of the things that sets AT&T Park aside from all other ball parks. These are the things that we have enjoyed the most with our kids. Without further ado, here they are: 
PS: If you are in San Francisco and you can’t afford to purchase game time tickets, it doesn’t mean that you have to miss out. AT&T Park has a street level opening that allows people just like you to watch at least one part of the game for free!! So, if you are near the Bay Bridge or Pier 39, then find your way over to AT&T Park to see the Giants play.

Half Moon Bay – From Crab Pot to Hot Pot

Did you know that you could buy super fresh crab right off of the boats in Half Moon Bay?! I didn’t either until my grandmother told me about it. She couldn’t wait for my boys to go. So, on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in February, we decided to head over to Pillar Point Harbor right off of Highway 1 at Capistrano Road. My first tip is to NEVER go to the ocean on a warm and sunny weekend. The parking is terrible!!
However, we fought the crowds, and as we walked onto the pier with a gentle sea breeze blowing through our hair, we decided that it was totally worth doing. Our family friend June filled me in about how the crab fishermen sold their crab for the exact same price that they all agreed upon before the season started in November. Usually, the prices are very reasonable earlier in the season, because the supply is plentiful. As the crab becomes scarcer, the prices rise, which explains why we paid $9 per pound instead of only the $6 that my grandmother paid the year before at the beginning of the season.


As we walked between the boats, I carefully held my four-year-old’s hand while making sure that my other two boys weren’t fooling around. It would have been really easy for them to fall into the green water where the seals were waiting for their next easy meal. It was really cool to watch one of them jump out of the water and eat a fish right out of one of the fishermen’s hands. The captain of the boat that we bought our crab from was awesome! He found a crab that had lost its front claws, and he let the kids touch it. He answered all of our questions and was extraordinarily pleasant even after fishing all night long. We walked away with my middle son saying, “I want to be a fisherman when I grow up!” I guess I should have him watch Deadliest Catch…

Every crab that we bought was over two pounds, and full of super sweet meat.  He put them into big clear plastic bags, and we carefully carried them back to our car where we placed them on ice. It was really important to keep them alive until we got home, and thankfully, the ice did just that. If you don’t want to cook and clean the crab yourself, you are in luck, because for only $3 per crab, you can have Princeton Market do it for you right at the harbor.

If you haven’t gone for your fresh crab yet, you’d better hurry! The season ends in June, but you definitely don’t want to wait that long.

Goldfield Ghost Town, Apache Junction, Arizona

Cowboys, Indians, wild west gunfights, and finding a fortune in the gold mines are what a small boy thinks of when he travels though the Southwest. The beautiful desert scenery and long distances between towns allows the imagination to run wild and think of as many “what if” scenarios as possible. Like, what if there were a wild west gun fight in the middle of a town because someone stole someone else’s cows?

We found out the answer when we went to visit Goldfield Ghost Town, a little boy’s cowboy dreamland!This ghost town is set against the beautiful Superstition Mountains and transports you to the 1800’s, or at least allows you to dream about what it might have been like back then.

While we were there we toured the Goldfield’s Historic Museum. We learned a lot of cool  facts about the old west and the United States in general. The man who worked the front was very educational and answered as many questions as the boys could throw at him. We saw the types of stones that were found in the mines around the area, replicas of houses and interesting artifacts. They had some really neat souvenirs too; I picked up some old time currency from when each state had their own.Then we decided to pan for gold and see if we would strike it rich!

The boys found a few specks of gold, some garnets and of course, fool’s gold. It was a very enjoyable experience and the kids loved every minute of it! They left feeling like they were millionaires because they found real gold!

Besides the fact that you could leave Goldfield’s Ghost Town poor since it is not one flat rate for everything, it was a really great place to visit! It was very memorable and the boys still say that the gunfight was the best thing ever! If you have boys who dream of cowboys and old wild west gun fights, or even if you just want to learn something new while enjoying a beautiful view, then I highly suggest stopping by when you are in the area!

Awesome Woman Project Travel: Half Moon Bay Crab Boats Awesome Woman Project, Darell's Po Boys, Lake Charles, Louisiana Awesome Woman Project, Cravings, New Braunfels, Texas Image Map

USS Lexington, Corpus Christi, Texas

The USS Lexington was really cool if you had the patience to read everything, but it wasn’t for busy little boys. The kids loved going up and down the ships steep stairs and seeing the captain’s quarters. However, they only got half way through the ship. One other note is that if you have bad knees or a bad back DO NOT GO. There are a lot of ladders to climb.
I was so excited that they had a corvette show going on the day that we went to visit. The cars were gorgeous! They sat on the deck of the ship with their hoods open and their beautiful paint sparkling in the sun, surrounded by various styles of military aircraft. It was spectacular! My dad took me to air shows, boat shows, fishing shows, and car shows when I was a very little girl, so this brought back a lot of those memories.
While we were on the ship I looked out into the water and all that I could see were white globs swimming through the murkiness of the Gulf of Mexico. Jelly fish! I am so thankful that we went on the boat before going to the beach. Needless to say, I did not let the boys go into the water in Corpus Christi. My dad took the kids down to walk on the beach, and he allowed them to kick washed up jelly fish back into the water. Gotta love boys.
See?!?! See?!?! I even enhanced the color of the water (it isn’t really green) so that you could really see all of them! Crazy isn’t it?!?!

Khema, Texas – The Perfect Weekend Getaway

 In 2011, my family decided that we were going to take a trip to the Texas coast and enjoy the gray waters of Khema. My middle son had never been to the beach before, and my oldest couldn’t remember when he went last. I guess it’s hard to remember things from when you were two. They were so excited and asked every question that popped into their head during the car ride there. “What if we get eaten by a shark?” “How cold is the water?” “I am going to be so brave and just dive right in, how deep is it again?”
We only spent one weekend in Khema, but we enjoyed every minute of it! Well, except for when some lady asked me if I was pregnant again, “so soon.” (A word of advice: if a woman is carrying an 8-week-old baby and she looks pregnant, just smile and tell her that she looks great. She really doesn’t need to be reminded that she gained as much weight as she did. Thanks.) We stayed at the Holiday Inn that was within walking distance of the boardwalk. It was a nice place; modern and clean, but they did not serve a continental breakfast. The boys were not happy about that, but a doughnut quickly cured them of their “no pancake” blues. As we walked through the town, I fell in love. The small shops and individually owned bars and wine shops looked like fun places to visit. I wish that I could tell you which was the best, but I kept imagining pictures of us with a caption stating, “The Best Way to Teach Your Kid to be an Alcoholic Award goes to…These people,” going viral on Facebook.
Compared to Corpus Christi, I thought that Khema was a much nicer town to visit and the water was  better for playing in. If I had to choose which place to go back to again, I would choose Khema in a heart beat.