Family Stories: A Story About a Mother (2006)

This was written in my Navelgazing Midwife blog on October 10, 2006, right before Meghann’s wedding to Brian. It was a weird route to finding it, but I am really glad I came across it. It’s hilarious and offers a window into my crazy family. And, damn, I am an awesome storyteller!

In its original state, I didn’t use everyone’s names, but their roles in the upcoming wedding. It made reading terribly cumbersome, so I am editing it to add their names. My former partner is a transman, but was presenting as a woman when this was written. I am fixing his name and pronouns. I am also adding photos; the original was all text. images-1

Baby Daze

Mine.

My mom was 21 when I was born, but she could have been 16. I was her little dolly. She hated for me to get dirty and gave me baths at least 4 times a day, changing my clothes each time and making sure my hair was curled and never out of place. She loved putting ribbons in my hair and patent leather shoes on my feet. I remember twirling frilly skirts from the earliest of ages. I still twirl frilly skirts.

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My mom didn’t have the best time as a new mom since my dad liked to hunt and was raised in a typical Cuban way of “you, woman, you stay home and raise the kids and I, the man, will do whatever I damn well please.” It was rather shocking for mom to be left alone with one, and quickly two little girls who hollered a lot (I hollered more than my more docile sister… surprising, I’m sure).

3000 miles from anyone she knew and living in the California desert, she got pregnant and had yet another child before they got orders to Orlando, a mere 400 miles from some family in Miami. Her life finally brightened.

My Early Life

I remember mom’s day to day life of drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and talking about diets. I remember her struggling to do exercises with the lady on TV (in leotards, no less) and yacking with the neighbors on the telephone that had a party line of 6 people. (Do any of you young-un’s even know what a party line is?!) All of us kids in the neighborhood walked to school together, played together, knew every detail about each others’ lives (or so we thought) and many of us dated and ended up marrying and having kids with each other.

Mom got a job when I was in junior high and I remember her falling asleep under the sunlamp several times (loooooong before tanning booths & tanning spray) and not being able to sit down, but having to work in her polyester uniform all night long.

Our relationship with mom became endless scribbles on notepads – crayons, pencils, pens, markers – anything handy was fair game for writing the “Need $20 for band” notes. No “thanks” or anything. Just the command. What a brat I was. Mom’s notes in return said things like, “Turn roast on at 4 and then throw carrots in at 4:30. Eat at 5:30. Love!” Mom kept those notebooks for years, all dog-eared and stained. I wish I had them now.

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Mental Illness Creeps In

I’ve written about mom’s issues with mental illness and suicide attempts. We’ll skip that part. Suffice it to say it had a tad of an impact on my life and relationship with her.

Mental illness runs like a chased bunny rabbit in our family. From grandparents that killed themselves to alcoholic and drug addict great-grandparents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings, we could erect an asylum and keep the census at capacity with slick ease. Every shade of mental illness presents itself in the annals of my family, too. We have us a whole lotta depression, but sprinkles of schizophrenia, plenty of bipolar disorder (but rarely any mania, usually with hypomania presenting as normal behavior) and the ever-popular child and spouse abusers with and without violent tendencies. Oh, and let’s not forget all the eating disorders that are possible, either. We have all those, too. Doesn’t it sound like fun?

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My mom used to hide her keys from herself. We continually were on the search for mom’s keys. It was a constant mission. When we were going to go somewhere, from the time I was twirling my skirts, I began looking for mom’s keys to the car. We’d find them in amazingly strange places including in the back of the freezer behind the hamburger meat (where the placenta would be in my freezer now) or in her lingerie drawer under the marabou lined crotch-less panties. The only limitations on where we were to look were 1. either in the house 2. in the yard in the grass 3. in the car 4. in the trunk 5. at the neighbor’s house (which neighbor’s house was anyone’s guess). You can imagine that once I was in charge of my own keys I put up a key holder next to the door in every home I have ever lived in. It is the FIRST THING I put up when I move into a place. (so far) I have never lost a set of keys in my house. Ever.

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I lose other things, though. The can opener. The salt shaker. Words. Chunks of time.

Rappin’

Remember, too, how funky my mom is – that she loooooooooves gangsta rap music. I am not lying and those of you that know me have seen her license plate and seen her email address and know I am not lying. My nearly 70-year old mother sings gangsta rap word for word and rocks like kids in their teens. It is surreal and looks like computer animation. Someone should make a video of her. I swear they should. I made her cry once because I told her Tupac Shakur wasn’t a poet. My daughter Meghann told me I was never allowed to make grandma cry again, so I no longer argue with her about rap music. I just sigh and give a sallow smile.

We ARE Weird

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Meghann, my oldest daughter, also my UC baby, is getting married in less than 2 weeks. When her fiancé Brian started learning about the family, I made sure he knew about the looooooooooooooooooooooong history of mental illness in the family and that he might have to visit his future wife in the cuckoo house one day. He said his family was weird, too, and I had to clarify the difference between Uncle Ned wearing a Superman cape at all Thanksgiving dinners and having to take psychotropic medications for the rest of your life to keep from carving one’s arm up like that holiday’s turkey. He nodded, saying he understood. Still not sure if he does. He might not yet.

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So, when I heard tell that Brian made a comment that our family was “weird,” I bristled. Weird? Excuse me? How so?

My Fairy Daughter

Well, see, Aimee, my baby girl child, likes to wear fairy wings. Yeah, she is 20 years old, but so what. She’s my kid, after all.

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In fact, Meghann wears fairy wings a lot, too, but that’s besides the point of this story.

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So, Meghann considered having Aimee (maid of honor) wear fairy wings down the aisle at the wedding, but thought the conservative Christian in-law family might crap too stinky, so decided to get her the wings to wear at the reception. Meggie got the wings to match Aimee’s Maid of Honor dress and called to tell me how HUGE they are and they are gorgeous and she can’t wait to surprise her fairy sister with them and that she found a place that might allow her sister to wear a new pair of wings all the time so she could just live in wings every day if she wanted to. I was touched and wiped a tear. Not lying.

So, that very day, I sent Meghann a picture of her fairy sister Aimee with her boyfriend that I’d taken on the beach at sunset. This is when the “weird” comment comes into play.

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Aimee on the beach at sunset.

Brian says, “Your family’s weird,” because we have a fairy child and she’s gonna wear wings at the reception (so big she’s gonna knock people over with them apparently. Gonna make for some dandy photographic moments, if you ask me). In defense, Meghann says, “YOUR family’s weird!”

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Aimee in her wings at Meghann & Brian’s reception.

I had to gently explain to dear Meghann that calling names like “weird” opens the door to more name-calling and to please refrain and that if he is thinking we are weird NOW, what the hell is he going to think in 10 years? I asked her to use some other words like “quirky,” and “colorful,” and “adventurous.” She just laughed and said we were weird.

Freakin’ Dress Shopping

So, I’m at Nordstrom’s and I am looking for clothes for the wedding. Her colors are chocolate and raspberry, but the bridesmaids are wearing latte and a lighter pink. (This really is going somewhere, I promise.) Not wanting to look like a bridesmaid, I am lost as to what color to buy – chocolate brown or latte… what color belt… or a scarf… a sash? something for my head? a hat? do I not wear her colors at all? Do I look like a drag queen altogether? Or do I dress like a Southern Baptist? I dial Meghann’s phone. She is my Consultant-In-All-Matters (most of all when it comes to her wedding). She doesn’t answer. I call again, leaving a message. Where the heck is she? She always answers.

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Meghann’s bridesmaids – photographer, me!

I grab dresses, go the dressing room, try them on, ask my Zack what he thinks (he barely looks up from the video poker he’s playing on his Treo) and dial Meggie yet again. No answer. Crap. I pick the dark chocolate brown because it is so flippin’ tight I won’t have to wear a bra and is off my shoulders and will terrorize the Southern Baptists by baring my tattoos. We migrate to the scarf section. I flit through all the choices and am disturbed I can’t find what I want. I call my daughter again. No answer. I am getting huffy now. Leaving nasty messages on her machine.

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“Where ARE you! I am having an OUTFIT CRISIS and I NEED YOU! Will you PLEASE call me back NOW so you can HELP ME!”

And I go search out the saleslady who wants to sell me everything (and does) because Zack is sitting playing on the Treo and will just hand over the credit card when it’s all said and done and she knows that.

She helps me find a beautiful pink silk sash for my belly (my gooshie belly kinda smooshes out and I needed a girdle, but I can’t find one in my size… where’s that corset when I need one?!) and then we found a cashmere Pashmina to cover my shoulders during the service in the church. I got some lovely crystal bracelets and earrings to match the sash and all the while I am punching Meghann’s number over and over. Is she in a car accident? Did she fall off the face of the earth? Where in god’s name is she?

Finally, as I am poring over the Pashminas, I think, “Brian!” and call HIS phone!

“Hey! I am having a HUGE outfit crisis… can you PLEASE ask Meghann to PLEASE call her mother NOW so she can help me NOW? Thanks so much. See you soon!”

Miscommunication Abounds

About an hour later, my daughter calls laughing her head off, telling me she was painting something or other in the yard for the wedding and had her phone in the car. She said, “Mom. Remember that weird discussion? Well, you just sealed our family’s fate.” I was confused. She said, “Mom. You called Brian’s phone with an OUTFIT CRISIS! That ranks up there as weird!” I pouted and whispered, “Not to me.” She laughed and said, “Not to me, either, mom. Not to me, either.”

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So, my parents are not married anymore, but mom is in touch with dad’s family periodically. Mom called me (in San Diego) to tell me to quit bugging her about not having bought a plane ticket yet… from Orlando to San Antonio (“It’s a mother hen, not a daughter hen!”). While we were on the phone, she tells me my uncle (my dad’s brother) has died, but I am baffled because no one, especially dad, who went to San Antonio for the wedding early, has said a word about it. When she was on the phone telling me this, Meggie was driving to go see my dad, who apparently was in silent mourning (not wanting to disrupt the wedding festivities?). I asked mom when he died and she said 2 days ago.

I got off the phone with mom and called Meghann really quickly to tell her of my uncle dying, but that my dad wasn’t talking about it… maybe she could whisper in his ear, “I’m sorry about your brother,” or some such. She said she was a few minutes away and needed to pay attention to the directions.

10 minutes later, I get a call back from my mom and she says, “You know. I don’t think your uncle died.” Blinking, I didn’t even know what to say. “What?!?!” “Well, you know, your aunt has such a thick accent, maybe she said he was die-ING, not dead.” I screamed that I had to go, I’d call her back.

I dialed Meghann FAST.

“Hello?” “Don’t say anything to my dad about his brother! Grandma doesn’t think he’s really dead.” “What?!?” hysterical laughing “Mom!!” “I don’t even know how to explain it. Just don’t say anything. I’ll tell you later.”

She hung up laughing so hard I could see tears rolling down her cheeks and I am sure I heard the words, “Weird, weird, weird!!!!” seeping through her guffawing lips.

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My Destiny Awaits

I was telling the story to my guru childbirth teacher friend and whining that I was destined to follow in my mother’s footsteps. I shook my head and sighed that in 10 years I was going to be as crazy as my mom.

She laughed and waved her hand in the air as she walked away saying, “Bullshit, you don’t even like rap!”

Nope. I sure don’t.

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Meghann’s flower girl scratching her bottom in the middle of the wedding.

Touching Base

This is a bullet point list of my life at the moment.

  • I am distraught over the “Zero Tolerance” bullshit happening. I know those women. I caught those babies when I worked in border towns. I know in a visceral way what those women feel like in my arms and those babies in my hands. Did you know the kids in the “shelters” are not allowed to be held? The siblings are not permitted to hug each other? That “policy” is to keep abuse from happening. But what of the extreme violence of abandonment? I can barely breathe sometimes I am so upset.

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  • I was sick for so long and we finally… FINALLY… figured out it was a Biliary Obstruction in my liver. I should have had my gallbladder out 10 years before it was taken out, so that is where the obstruction began. Taking the gallbladder out did not end the abdominal pain, in fact, it got worse. Then the itching began and I was scratching my back with scissors, deciding to go to the hospital for help when I had blood from my back on my bed sheets. The itching was the most unbelievable in the world. It is easy to see why people kill themselves when their liver is failing and the itching is relentless. My liver labs were not terrible. Until they were. My urine turned to rust color with each itching episode, then when the color lightened, itching would go away. I dashed back to the liver doctor when my Alk Phos was 1085 (39-117 is normal range), my AST was 76 (range 0-40) and my ALT  was 116 (0-32 range) and they did several imagine tests, finding the obstruction in my liver. We began looking at surgery to remove the blockage and then, one day, I went from feeling like shit to feeling normal… for the first time in MANY years. My labs normalized. The imaging showed the blockage had cleared on its own! And I continue pain-free in my gut. Pee is clear. No itching. I thought I was near death and had a DNR. I have rescinded the DNR.
  • Work is going really well. I am getting better and better with guidance from friends there, one of whom is the busiest there. She has taken me under her wing, showing me shortcuts to promo work and how to garner more clients. I am having a wonderful time still, and my love for what I do seems to shine through to the folks that call/cam/email/text and now Second Life.
  • Work has moved into Second Life. How I missed SL for all these years (it is 14 years old) is beyond me. SL is the most fun I have had online in a couple of decades. I am learning as fast as I can, but the learning curve was steep for me because I have never played video games ever in my life. SL is NOT a video game, per se, but a Virtual World. If you are in SL, email me and I will tell you who my non-work Alt is (NavelgazingWriter@Gmail.com).
  • My HgbA1c went from 7.0 to 8.3 in one 3-month period. I was doing my insulin incorrectly (not pushing the insulin in slowly and leaving the needle in for 15 seconds or so afterwards) and since I changed, I have had no BG over 140, even post-prandial! I’ve had several low BGs (the lowest was a scary 40!)

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  • So I lowered the Lantus down 4 points, then 2 more points and my fastings are always under 100 and my pre-eating checks are equally as low. I am giddy excited to see my next HgbA1c.
  • I am really fat. As fat as I was before the gastric bypass in 2001. I am just resigned to being fat.
  • My teeth are falling out of my head and I look like a hillbilly, so do not want to go anywhere I don’t have to lest I have to talk.
  • One of the most beautiful experiences in my entire life occurred when Meghann brought the grandbabies to Orlando to visit hillbilly grandma. Gabriella read to me.

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GABRIELLA READ TO ME!

  • Meghann took me to Epcot (during Flower & Garden Festival!) and I went even looking like a hillbilly. I had a flippin’ BLAST with my baby and grandbabies.

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  • I live with a childhood friend (who I consider my sister) and her husband (also a childhood friend and brother-in-law) and 2 of their kids, both of whom I was with the moment they were born. What started with the flu ended up making my brother-in-law very ill on February 14th and he died on May 24th unexpectedly. Out household and family are coping, but we miss him terribly.

 

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  • My blog life is in limbo at the moment. I am moving some of this blog to another host, but think I am going to just move the Food Stuff over and give it a new name. I miss writing my thoughts here. I wrote an amazing piece on that stupid giuliani person when he talked about Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) and had to put it in my work blog because I didn’t have another place to put it. It should be seen by more people!

Well, that is it in a few bullet points. I miss y’all lots and thanks for those that have contacted me asking if I am still here and alright. Thank you for that. It is for you that I want to write more.

Honey Tales

Bee Charmer

Not one person who has seen Fried Green Tomatoes will think of anything else but Idgie’s love for Ruth and how she wanted to impress her by getting a honeycomb directly from the hive.

“You’re just a bee charmer, Idgie Threadgoode.

That’s what you are, a bee charmer.”

Honey in Birth

Honey has a great supply of natural sugars and most midwives had honey of some sort on hand, whether in the Honey Bear…

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…or Honey Sticks.

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…or some Honey Lollipops.

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If a woman’s energy was waning, a couple of spoonfuls of honey or 2 or 3 sticks, could perk her back up for awhile more… even if she was unable to eat or drink much else, honey was a great pick-me-up.

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Honey has antimicrobial properties, it is a hydrogen peroxide thing, and there is a lot of research showing honey, Manuka Honey in particular, used on infections can help heal the wound quicker… and without the risk of medication interactions/allergies. Honey is often used on diabetic ulcers, it being more effective than many other treatments.

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New Use for Honey (for me)

So, I kind of knew this, but when I was an intern midwife in San Diego, I got to see the range of what home birth midwives do with honey.

Mind you, by the time I was interning as a midwife in San Diego, I had been in birth for over 20 years and had gone to hundreds of births in hospitals, birth centers and at home. Over the years, I would see things done I had never heard of before, but could usually be shown the research about it.

Honey was often used in the way I mentioned above; for energy.

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So when a woman’s perineum tore at birth and said she did not want to be sutured, I was pretty shocked (every woman who had ever torn in my experience was sutured, it wasn’t ever a consideration not to be). When the midwives acted as if this was a normal thing, choosing no stitches, I was baffled. When they pulled out the plastic Honey Bear and grabbed a spoon from the family utensil drawer, I blinked.

Honey was spread onto the back of the spoon, the woman’s legs opened a bit and the honey “painted” on the tear, all the while the “antibiotic” properties of honey explained. She was instructed to keep her legs together except to put more honey on it.

I’m not kidding.

I still cannot find medical research showing honey’s aid in normal healing of a perineal or vulvar tear; it remains a midwife’s tale that it does anything at all. (This is different than an infected wound, where the research is copious.) Many midwives, myself included, believe it was keeping the legs together that did much more to heal the tear than the honey.

Medical Grade Honey

But, if it did do something, wouldn’t you want Medical Grade Honey (MGH) slathered on your open wound instead of honey the family is using in their morning tea? In fact, research shows that regular table honey has potentially pathogenic organisms compared to MGH.

I mean new parents know to never give their infants honey because they might have spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. Wouldn’t that follow that it might not be the best thing for a perineum?

Here is a medical grade honey-gauze that might have been an okay thing for an open wound.

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Or perhaps a tube only used only on your body and no one else’s?

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Honeycombs

I remember when my dad (whom I am missing so very much lately) would bring us miel (honey) in the comb from the Cuban store. I loved biting into the wax, feeling the honey ooze out of the tiny openings, then chewing the wax like gum. I wonder if my kids have ever had that experience.

Miel. One of the best Spanish words in existence.

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A Recent Conversation

“I had some cereal and some honey.”

That’s what he said.

“You put honey in cereal? With milk? That’s pretty gross.”

“No, cereal without milk and honey separate.”

“You were spooning honey into your mouth?”

“No I was using a fork and dipping it into the honey and eating it.”

Now I was really on high alert.

“You are telling me that you put a fork into the honey, suck the honey off… then put the fork back into the honey and do it again?”

“Uh, yeah. Why?”

“You are telling me you double, triple and quadruple dip your fork into a communal honey jar?”

“I never thought of it that way before. It never occurred to me.”

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Maybe, knowing what I do now about honey’s medicinal properties, it might not be the grossest thing after all.

(Happy Birthday!)

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Organic Watermelon

Into the Desert

When I was a student midwife, I went where the main midwife took me to assist her at births. So when we had to drive over an hour east of San Diego, a chaparral ecoregion covered in small shrubs and lots of desert sand inbetween, I sat back and enjoyed the view, talking about babies, breastfeeding and all things birthy. Another assistant was with us, too, so the three of us chattered during the drive.

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When we got to the house, it was… not quite a mobile home, but more like a home built out of scrap materials. Well-made, but small and quite worn, probably by the wind and sand.

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See the tiny house in the middle upper third of the picture? That is what it looked like driving to their house. That tiny dirt road was about 2 miles long.

The mom wanted to birth outside, so we set up the Fishy Pool for her.

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If I recall correctly, we put more cold water in than hot because it was blazing outside. Flies and bees were everywhere, dive bombing us while we worked.

With Fishy Pools, unless someone had a washer and dryer hook-up, we had to carry pots, pans, coffee pots, etc. of hot water from the stove to add to the cold water going in from the brand new hose.

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We set up the pool in the searing sun even though there was a Pepper Tree near. The tree housed a beehive, so a bit of a distance was good.

Howling Silence

The labor was lovely; the birth, magical.

The mom would have contractions that had her howling like a desert wolf, then inbetween, complete silence from all of us around her. If she moved, we would hear tiny splashes, but none of us spoke above a whisper, and even then only when necessary.

But from the Pepper Tree, the bees were not silent. In fact, they seemed to be amplified as our sounds faded. Buzz Buzz Buzzzzzzzing from the Pepper Tree. It was mesmerizing.

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In the short space between the end of labor and the beginning of pushing the baby into the world, some sort of surreal experience hit all of us at once. The Pepper Tree emitted a scent, intoxicating… the bees swirled around and buzzed… the flies vanished. I felt dizzy and wondered if my blood glucose was falling, but I saw the others were feeling something as well, our eyes gaping at each other, waggling eyebrows a bit to say a silent, “Yes! Me, too!”

It was as if time had paused for the mom to gather her strength and we were giving her ours as well.

Onward

Then the sensation vanished as quickly as it had begun, the world moving once again, moving with the baby who was born in the water soon after, sweetly and easily.

Once the placenta had been born, mom wanted to still sit outside for a bit and wanted under the buzzing Pepper Tree, so we laid out a couple of blankets with towels on them for her. She sat while we cleaned up quietly around her, not speaking unless in a whisper.

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I took note the bees and flies kept their distance and respected the new life under their wings.

These moments, from right before the birth until we rose from under the tree were… I really have no other word for it… Holy.

(That says a lot coming from an atheist.)

Mom nursed the brand new baby as dad held her in his arms in front of him.

Eventually, the heat was oppressive and the baby was getting warm and needed a fan as much as the rest of us. (Babies are rarely fanned! Keeping them warm is much more the usual routine.)

Nourishment

Before we could move into the house, the housemates, who’d been out in the garden on the other side of the property during the birth, brought over some watermelons picked mere moments earlier.

Sitting on the small porch, we caught more of a breeze, so, comparatively, we cooled off.

The gardeners proudly held out the odd-looking watermelons (“they are organic!” I was scolded). I frowned that they were not cold, but was hungry so held out my hand for a big slice. The new family was settled on a cushioned (and covered) bench, already taking bites out of the red watermelon.

As I brought the watermelon to my mouth, I caught the scent and it was so powerful, I pulled it back and looked at it quizzically. When did watermelons smell like this? Never before in my lifetime. I then opened my mouth and bit into a hot chunk of melon. I am sure I swooned, newly in love with a food I thought I knew, but really was just meeting for the first time.

“Oh my GOD, this is GOOD!”

Someone smiled and said, “This is organic watermelon.”

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I have tears in my eyes remembering the taste, the hot squishiness on my tongue, the juice oozing down my chin, hands, arms and elbows. I looked at the others, equally covered in red natural syrup and dreamily taking huge bites, consuming 2 watermelons in a half-hours’ time.

When we’d all finished, someone turned on the hose and we took turns splashing off the drippy stickiness with too-warm water.

Resting After Birth

I was given the hot and sweaty job of getting mom and baby into her bedroom, a small 8×8 room with a fan strung up high, blowing downward, the electric cord snaking from outside the room, through and back outside the window with holes in the screen. She and her partner, and now baby, had a mattress on the floor.

I got things laid out to protect the mattress, helped her to pee before getting down onto the mattress with the baby. I got her a big glass of water (no ice in the house) and plopped down with her.

But There Were Flies

I swear there were over 100 in that tiny room. Zizzing around, up, down, into the corner of the baby’s eyes, landing on anything they could find… our mouths, noses, heads, hands, arms, legs, feet… it was mercilessly hot and the flies were taking up space and air we needed.

I asked the new mom where the flyswatter was and she looked at me horrified.

“We do not kill things at this house! You can use a piece of newspaper to brush them out of the room and then outside.”

I looked to see if she was kidding.

She was not.

I went to find some newspaper, folded it in half and began shooshing the hordes of flies away from the new mother and baby and out of the room as best as I could.

It was a losing battle. (You knew that already, I know.)

Eventually, I just sat down, newspaper in hand, waving it gently around the nursing pair.

“This would be the most difficult part of my living out here… the flies.”

This newly postpartum woman began talking very softly and asked me to close the door.

“Are you sure?! It’s going to stop all the air flow!”

“Just for a minute.”

I crawled the couple of feet, leaned over and closed the door. The temperature climbed 15 degrees within seconds.

She called me to come closer. I could smell her musky sweaty newly postpartum scents. She crooked her finger to come closer, so I leaned my ear nearer her mouth.

Barely above a whisper, she confessed:

“When I am alone in the house, I use the vacuum cleaner hose to suck up the flies. I figure I am not directly killing them, right?”

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Wanting to laugh really loud and hard, I swallowed my extreme amusement and wholeheartedly agreed that it was not directly killing them. I did not want her to feel one more second of guilt about getting rid of the nasty flies in her bedroom.

All These Years Later….

It’s been 20 years since this happened and I can still feel the heat, hear the bees, remember the Holy experience… and taste that amazing watermelon.

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Kakigōri & Michael Flatley

June 6, 1999

The girls and I headed to Epcot at Walt Disney World, me in an Electric Convenience Vehicle… an ECV… and they walking.

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I always had my camera equipment and we carried our yellow Mickey ponchos for the inevitable afternoon thunderstorms.

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As we wended our way around World Showcase, we went inside The American Adventure to listen to the Voices of Liberty, an amazing a Capella group that sings beautiful songs about America… and a couple of Disney tunes thrown in. (Not quite sure where the other voices are coming from, but they vanish around 2 minutes in.)

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America Gardens Theater

When you walk out of the The American Adventure (which we had been in dozens of times so did not go this day), across the way, is the America Gardens Theater. I have to show you several pictures because they will be relevant later in the story.

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America Gardens Theater, Epcot, Walt Disney World

It’s a wonderful theater with great acoustics.

The day we were there, Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance was performing. I had never seen them before so was really excited.

Because I had the ECV, we were led to the Handicapped Section. It was about 8 rows from the stage and I was on the far left of the benches.

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This is the handicapped row. I was sitting on the other side by the man walking in the blue shirt. You can see how close we were to the stage.

Kakigōri

It being June in Florida, it was damn hot. I tend to get to places early (movies, shows, parties, etc.) and this was no exception. Waiting, it was suffocatingly hot. While we always carried water, that Kakigōri booth in Japan, which is next to The American Adventure, beckoned. We needed something cold!

Kakigōri, a Japanese treat, is a sort of snow cone, or if you know Hawai’i Shave Ice, it is similar to that as well. Besides the syrups they add (your choices), some people enjoy cream in theirs. (Blech!)

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Not long after we were sitting in the flippin’ hot sun, the girls were sent on a mission to get the Kakigōri cones. I love cherry, and when they have it, grape. Yum! We three sat eating our snow cones, waiting for the show to start.

It finally did.

Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYmsbjhd–E?rel=0]

The show began with an amazing display of Irish dancing, men and women, moving in unison, the legs kicking while the tops of their bodies were stock still. It was delightful fun!

Midway through the show, a soloist came out and began singing the most lovely ballad… her soprano voice soaring into the air around us.

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Feedback

Then the feedback started. A blaring eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee that was the strangest thing ever! Disney is meticulous with their sound systems, it was bizarre having feedback.

People were looking around. Why hadn’t the sound people fixed it yet? Crazy!

Then I see a Cast Member wending his way through the crowd… in a hurry… was everything okay? Holy crap, he was heading… towards… me?

“Ma’am, can you get off the ECV’s horn?”

I looked down and my bulging fat belly was leaning on the red horn button, causing the horrid “feedback.”

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

I leaned back and, miraculously, the feedback stopped.

People everywhere were staring. Right at me. I was filled with embarrassment.

And then I started laughing.

The girls and I got the sillies, thinking about me causing all that ruckus. It took every bit of control to not howl with laughter through the rest of the performance.

We’ve continued laughing for almost 20 years now.

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Potatoes in Tacoma

The US Army Sends Us Packing

The kids’ dad and I moved to Tacoma with an Army transfer. We were at the bottom rung of the pay scale. Poor. Poorer than poor. Tristan was 16 months old and I was several months pregnant with Meghann. It was a wrangle to get a lease on a house, but we did it.

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8 Rips Lane, Tacoma, WA

(I swear the house did not look like this when we rented it. This is the new & improved exterior.)

Our Household goods were super-slow getting to us, so we were given a few things to tide us over… one of which was a crib mattress for me to lay on. Tristan slept in the playpen and the kids’ dad slept in a sleeping bag (if I recall correctly).

One middle of the night, I heard something skittering above me, in the attic. Humorously, my former husband put his boots on (and nothing else) and grabbed a trenching tool and stomped around looking for the noisemakers. He didn’t find anything, but I laid there listening to the scratching far after he fell back to sleep.

When our household goods still hadn’t arrived a month later, the Army bought us a bed. A waterbed. How time-warp is that?!? We had those rainbow sheets on it.

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We also had satin hearts in a swirly mobile hanging over the bed.

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Meghann & Me

I had Meghann at home, in an Unassisted Birth (called a UC or “freebirth”)… the stupidest thing I have ever done in my entire life. You can read her story here if you are interested: Meghann’s UC Birth Story.

Relevant to this story, however, is my never-ending time breastfeeding.

I’d nursed Tristan for a mere 4 months and had big expectations to nurse until Meghann weaned herself (which she sort of did at 2.5 years old). So I was a nursing zombie. I was so tired, but then we got our tv and (we had to have gotten) cable because voila! there was MTV.

Meghann was born May 27, 1984. MTV had been around since 1981, but it was really in its heyday during the time I was watching it in the middle of the night, baby at my breast. In fact, the first Top 20 Video Countdown began in March 1984 (and it SUCKED! Watch it on YouTube!), so right before Meggie was born.

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The songs that stood out most for me, the ones I waited for with baited breath:

Cyndi LauperGirls Just Want to Have Fun – (WOW! The people in it are incredibly diverse for that time period. I never noticed before.) Tristan loved this video, especially the part where the girls are floating in the bubbles/circles and going around. I can see him as if it was yesterday, in his footie pajamas, dancing and pointing at the TV.

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Michael JacksonThriller

Because Thriller was so so long, it came on rarely. I would nap with one eye open so I could catch it. The dancing still is amazing, even 30 years later.

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MadonnaBorderline

While Holiday was Madonna’s first hit, her first video hit was Lucky Star. From the first moment I saw her, I was enamored. She came out with a string of hits in 1984, but when Meghann was a newborn, Borderline was the video I salivated for. (Clearly, I know wayyyy too much about Madonna’s early career!)

Madonna In New York

The Couch

We’d inherited a sofa bed from the kids’ dad’s parents, a little larger than a loveseat, with two big square pillows to sit on. I’ve scoured my thousands of pictures and the Net looking for the sofa. This is the best I could find.

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Here is how the sofa opened into a bed.

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I sat on the couch on the right side. Every time. Before Meghann was born. And after she was born. That was my spot. I plopped a feather pillow with the rainbow pillowcase under my right arm, holding up my elbow, and I would nurse for hours. Sitting on that right side of the couch.

At night, we just sat nursing by the light of MTV. We kept the volume low for her dad who had to work the next morning, but we still bee-bopped to whomever MTV put on in the wee hours.

One dark early morning, I was nursing on the right side of the couch and out from behind the huge square furnace we had in the living room, came a rat. Then another rat. Then 3 baby rats.

I screamed bloody murder and the kids’ dad ran out, scaring them so they skittered back from whence they came.

How to Kill a Rat

When the Landlord finally came over, he gave us some mouse traps and rat food. He walked around showing us where they were getting in. One place was behind the toilet which freaked me out every time I had to use the bathroom. Picture fat pregnant me with my legs raised while I did my business. Ugh.

The landlord gave us the perfect solution to keeping the rats out.

Crush some glass and sprinkle it where the holes are.

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I stood there blinking.

“Uh, I have a toddler! I cannot have crushed glass around the house.”

“Well, that’s the best idea I have.”

We checked the traps and poison a few days later and the bait had all been taken, the poison eaten… and the rats twice their size and twice as active.

We had to move.

By the time a solution appeared, Meghann was 4 months old.

The Apartment

Some friends of the kids’ dad were managers at an apartment complex and said they had a place we could move into. The challenge was we did not have the deposit, so they said they had not cleaned it yet and if we were willing to clean it ourselves, it was ours.

Done.

We headed over right away to go clean, taking some more friends from the military. When we opened the door, ghastly smells wrapped around us; cigarette stench was the main foulness, but there were others we could not parse out.

The walls in the living room were vile. Drips of nicotine painted them.

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Where the previous tenants removed photos, we could see what the once pristine white walls had looked like.

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Looking at the white areas, we saw we really had our work cut out for us.

We set to cleaning.

Being fat and not able to climb, I chose the kitchen. Kitchen HELL I should say. Not only were there nicotine streaks, the people before us cooked with grease. A lot of grease. A lot of spattering grease. Within 5 feet of the stove, the grease and yellow cigarette goop challenged each other for dripping space.

The only way I could think of cleaning this disgusting mess was with SOS Pads. Steel wool with soap on them if you aren’t familiar. I set to wetting the SOS pad, then  scrubbing the wall, that blessedly, had glossy paint. Small favors.

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I was cleaning madly (literally, not very happily doing this hard work) and got right there around the plastic plate where the plugs go in the wall when suddenly there was a huge -POP- and a giant blue flash that zipped up my arm and threw me against the refrigerator across the kitchen. People ran in to see what happened and I innocently told them what I was doing and their eyes all bugged out.

“THAT’S METAL AND WATER YOU PUT IN A LIVE SOCKET!”

I didn’t know!

What I did know was my right arm felt like it had been smashed with a baseball bat from fingers to shoulder.

I was banished to the couch that had just been brought in. I quietly smiled, grabbing Meghann and sitting on my side, nursing not only my baby, but my really hurting right arm.

Potatoes

We cleaned as best we could, the place looked normal again, but there were lingering smells we just couldn’t seem to get rid of.

One night, while I was sitting on the right side of the couch nursing Meghann, Tristan playing on the floor, their dad had had enough of the growing stink. I told him it smelled like rotting potatoes and maybe we accidentally left some in a box somewhere in the closet.

He set out to find the horrid stench and pulled the boxes out, throwing stuff wildly around the room. I yelled asking if he couldn’t please be neater? He did not answer. I just heard him as he went from room to room, under the bathroom sink, into the kitchen, under the cabinets… digging digging… and throwing things, many of which ended up on the hall floor.

He came up empty. Then looked at me menacingly.

“Get up.”

“What?” I was still nursing Meghann.

“GET UP NOW!!!!”

I jumped up, Meghann  still attached and he pulled off the cushion I always sat on and there, on top of the mattress mechanism, was a rat. A dead rat.

A SQUISHED FLAT AS A PANCAKE DEAD RAT.

It had been under my ass! FOR MONTHS!

My former husband began laughing his head off. Reliving the rat’s last moments.

“I can see him! ‘Oh, some peanut butter and jelly leftovers!’ Then SQUISH, you flattened A LIVING RAT!”

He jumped around the room, doing the killing-the-rat routine half a dozen times.

Yeah. Me and my fat ass had killed a rat that had been 3 inches from my lap and my baby. I started crying which made him laugh even harder, telling me how funny it was.

Then he said he was going to get something to get the gross flat thing off our sofa. I begged him to throw the couch away. He refused, loudly reminding me we had no money for furniture and it was the only place I could nurse. He came out of the kitchen with Playtex yellow gloves on and a spatula. I could not watch.

He laughed and laughed as he scraped the disgusting animal off our couch’s pull out bed top, then danced outside to the dumpster and threw it all in.

The room still reeked and he looked in the kitchen, finding the Carpet Fresh. He came back and sprinkled the carpet fresh where the rat had been squished to death by my flopping-on-the-couch butt.

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To this day, the smell of Carpet Fresh reminds me of that horrid stench. The smell that lingered until we were able to throw the couch away a year later.

Potatoes Revisited

As you can imagine, I hate rats. I can barely write it without shuddering with revulsion. Because of my rat-phobia, everyone in my life has agreed to call them “Potatoes.”

And damned if that flat rat didn’t smell like rotten potatoes.

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Our Trip to Lubbock (food is involved)

Heading to Lubbock

Meghann had worked in our Holistic Healthcare Center for the summer and Zack and I were driving her back to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Zack was driving his F250 and we had a new washer and dryer for Meggie in the cargo bed. The path from San Diego to Lubbock is one of the most visually boring trips in the country. Lubbock is in West Texas, in the middle of nowhere.

Now, I cannot pee outside. When I have tried, I have had it running down my legs and into my shoes. It’s just gross.

But then there is the issue of finding a bathroom that doesn’t make me gag. Unfortunately, sometimes gagging is involved with urinating in a public toilet.

The Stop

We stopped at the smallest gas station on earth to fill up and let Meghann and I go to the bathroom. When we walked inside the tiny building, the man behind the glass counter…. Yeah, the man behind the counter.

He had no teeth and was holding a half-cooked greasy hamburger (without the bun) in his hand. The grease was dripping down his arm. Lots of grease. A river of grease. Dripping off his elbow onto the newspaper he seemed to be perusing.

It was revolting.

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We knew the bathroom was not going to be pristine.

Meggie and I took turns in the bathroom, one guarding the other because there was no lock on the door. And what if that man wanted to wash his hands. (As if.)

Walking out, we took one last look behind the counter as the man took a gummy bite into his burger, the grease oozing down his arm.

When we got in the truck, we laughed hysterically, partially from fear release. We kept asking each other if what we saw was real and validated each other over and over. That remains one of the most surreal experiences in my life.

BBQ in Lubbock

Once we delivered the washer and dryer to Meghann’s new apartment, we headed out for some Texas BBQ.

Walking in and sitting down became an adventure in staring; them, not us. Zack is transgender, but had not come out yet so people saw him as a very butch lesbian. I’m guessing that LGBTQ people are not a big part of Lubbock or Texas Tech. The whole walking in experience seemed to be in slow motion, every step taking 5 minutes before taking the next. I swear the place went silent.

We were seated at a large table against a wrought iron room separator. Zack sat next to the fence thing and cooed a hello to a baby hanging over a mother’s shoulder. The mother shot up out of her seat and tromped to the other side of the table and sat down for the duration of her meal. I’ve always wondered if she thought the baby would catch The Gay from Zack.

We could not miss the hushed volume compared to when we first walked in, and the stares continued. Looking around, we saw many men in cowboy hats and Zack made the comment that if we were in San Diego, they would be the ones being stared at. True, true!

The next morning, Zack and I hightailed it out of Lubbock. I was never so happy to leave somewhere, barring leaving my daughter behind, even though there was the greasy hamburger man a few hundred miles ahead.

It seemed more than worth it.

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Photographer: Kyle Polzin

 

 

Napa Rose at Disneyland

Ahhhh, Napa Rose at the Grand Californian at Disneyland/Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, California.

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Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa, Disneyland, Anaheim, CA

So Many Stories

Napa Rose is my absolute favorite Disney restaurant. Besides the exquisite food, the staff is one of the most unobtrusively attentive.

I’ve eaten at Napa Rose with my family (several times), just Zack and I (several times) and by myself (a few times). I can remember almost every dinner, too. That’s gotta say something.

Michael Jordan, Master Sommelier

The very first visit, Zack and I were in awe. The decor of the restaurant, how it overlooked Disney California Adventure… and then there was Michael Jordan.

Jordan isn’t at Napa Rose anymore, but we were blessed to experience him during his 8-year tenure. He’s a Master Sommelier, 1 of 15 in the world!

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Master Sommelier, Michael Jordan in the Wine Room at Napa Rose.

When we were seated, we studied the wine list, then decided to ask Jordan for his recommendation. He came up, a delightful smile on his face… one of the most humble men I’ve ever met. We talked for a long time and when he learned I was a midwife, he said his mother was a midwife and she’d delivered Frank Sinatra (who was 13.5 pounds and had an incredibly difficult birth) in Hoboken, New Jersey. Apparently the birth was so difficult, they called in a doctor who used forceps on the baby Frank Sinatra, scarring him for life. And then he said that Dolly Sinatra delivered him! What a fun story that bonded Jordan to us within minutes. And he did, indeed choose an awesome bottle of wine for us. That night and every other night we ate there.

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Napa Rose interior, overlooking the wolf (or bear) inside Disney California Adventure.

Mushroom Soup

After my gastric bypass in 2001, a woman in Anaheim wanted to meet to talk about my experience. I was eating tiny bits of food at the time and did worry about what I was going to eat. I didn’t need to! The chef blended up some of their mushroom soup for me and I took my first slurp with him standing there, loving the soup so very much.

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Napa Rose Mushroom Soup

About 10 spoonfuls in, I began to feel ill. The mushroom soup was incredibly rich with cream and my new gastric bypass body could not handle it. I began to dump (when the body cannot process sugar or fats and floods it with insulin to try to metabolize the offending food… called Dumping Syndrome).

I excused myself from my new friend and hightailed it to the bathroom so I could moan in peace. The hypoglycemia was so bad (and I did not recognize it at that time), all I could do was lay on the cool floor, curled into a ball. Someone heard me and went to Jordan who called EMS. They got there fast, while I was still clinging to the ceramic floor and kept asking me if they could give me an insulin shot. I was in a daze, but haltingly explained the gastric bypass and the dumping that comes from it. After 30 or so minutes on the floor, the distress slowly lessened. EMS stayed to take care of, or transport, me. I remember when I could sit up again, realizing I was laying on a bathroom floor… one of the grossest places on earth. Blessedly, the restaurant had just opened so at least it was still clean and I wouldn’t have nightmares about acquiring germs and laying in filth.

I said goodbye to my friend and drove the hour back home.

Dining with the Kidlets

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I can see us eating at Napa Rose right this moment… as if it was yesterday.

The 4 kids (Zack’s son included), Zack and I and Napa Rose. Michael Jordan would choose us a nice bottle of wine and we would settle in for some great food and fun conversation.

One particularly hilarious conversation occurred when I was on-call as a midwife. San Diego was 90 minutes away, so when I went, I asked my ladies to give me an earlier heads-up than they might have otherwise. So when one of my moms called, I excused myself and went to talk in the bathroom, away from the table.

When I came back, the kids started peppering me with questions: Did her water break? Does she have gloppies? (Gloppies are when women are getting ripe, losing their mucus plug, etc.) Is she engorged? (If she was nursing.) I could hardly talk from laughing so hard at how my entire family knows so so much about childbirth and breastfeeding… through osmosis!

Our Favorites

We ate here so often, we all had our constant favorites.

Zack’s son loved the Sizzling Beach Rock Appetizer.

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Sizzling Hot Beach Appetizer

The rock under the shrimp was hot as fire and the food on skewers would be laid on the rock to cook. It really was an awesome display of creativity.

My favorite was the Lobster Martini. I can taste it right this second.

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Lobster Martini

Lobster, avocado, mango and a pinch of something spicy combined to delight me every time. If I went to the restaurant and it wasn’t on the menu, the chef would make it for me anyway. I sure would love one now!

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Heirloom Tomato Salad

Michael Jordan had an enormous garden at his home and when the heirloom tomatoes came into season, he harvested them and brought them to work. Organic, so so so sweet, with a light mango dressing. Delicioso!

While the desserts at Napa Rose were amazing, sometimes I wanted the Cheese Plate. Exquisite cheeses and breads, always something new each time I went.

Diligently Selected Cheeses @ Napa Rose Lounge
Cheese Plate

As I said, the desserts were amazing.

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Dessert Sampler

This Sampler Plate has 3 of my favorite things at Napa Rose: the Vanilla Crème Brûlée, the “World’s Best Hot Chocolate” (at $13 a cup!) and the crunchy lacy thing standing up on the Chocolate Mousse in the back.

I loved the crunchy lace cookie-like treat and would ask for a big bowl of them. Yum! Especially with the Hot Chocolate!

Zack, on the other hand, liked some dark chocolate while he finished off our delicious red wine that Michael Jordan had chosen for us.

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Dark Chocolate Discs

heavy sigh

I would love to visit Napa Rose again. Tonight! Instead, you go for me!

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Rolo

Unwrapping-Rolos

I think the calorie intake of eating Rolos is equal to the expenditure opening the damn things.

All is even-steven.

Reviewing Disney Dining (for a book)

Back a long time ago….

Food Writing

I’d been writing reviews of meals for a long time, publishing them on Disney websites (for free). I got great feedback, so kept going.

One of the folks that read my writing was Susan Shumaker. She and her partner Than Saffel were working on a book on vegetarian dining at Disney World and surrounding areas. They asked me if I would like to collaborate by eating in a slew of restaurants they couldn’t get to because they didn’t live in Orlando and had to make trips back and forth to taste test for themselves. I jumped at the chance!

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The end result!

Dining Partners

I was in a poly relationship at the time with a woman and my former transman partner (who had not yet come out). We scheduled 3 weeks to hit all the restaurants on our list, staying in different Disney Luxury Resorts chosen randomly. Even though I was the one reviewing/writing, all three of us were fed for free. And, except for breakfast, also given fine wine, per course, at lunch and dinner.

I was the only one of us three eating vegetarian or vegan; they were meat eaters… and were served meat dishes throughout the tastings.

All of us loved red wine and drank copious amounts. (A separate post in the works.)

Memories! Like the corner of my mind.

Meeting the Chefs

It was a matter of course for the chef to come to the table to ask what my food preferences were. (No green/yellow/orange/purple/jalapeño/etc. peppers. Not terribly spicy. Love mushrooms.) We 3 had eaten (and paid for it) in most of the restaurants, so knew many chefs ahead of time. Sometimes, they’d sit with us and we’d talk about food and wine. Fun!

Sitting here almost 20 years later, I cannot recall even one time I was disappointed by food made by a Disney chef… on either coast. And I’ve eaten in Disney’s Fine Dining easily 200 times.

Restaurants We Visited

We did not just eat in fancy restaurants and I did not eat just at Disney restaurants. We ate at restaurants in different Disney Resorts, from Value Hotels to Moderate ones, and of course in the Deluxe Resorts. When I ate off-property, those places were ghastly! No vegan food at all and Stouffer’s Veggie Lasagna was almost always the meal I was given. I ate at about 8 different locations off-property, but close to Disney World. I got to see some fun shows the tourists flock to, but the food sucked.

Where it did not suck was at Walt Disney World!

Whispering Canyon Cafe, Wilderness Lodge Resort

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Whispering Canyon, Wilderness Lodge

We had breakfast at Whispering Canyon. Endless family style food. I was a vegetarian, so didn’t want the sausages. It was no problem at all. They asked what each person wanted to eat and if they wanted meat but were sitting with vegetarians, the meat was served on a separate plate. The food at that restaurant was yummy!

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Whispering Canyon breakfast, Wilderness Lodge

Flying Fish, Boardwalk Resort

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Flying Fish, Boardwalk Resort

Besides being a lovely restaurant, food at the Flying Fish was awesome. I wish I had a picture of the foods I’d eaten at each place, but I do not.

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At a separate time, one of my friends having dinner with us was a Supertaster. He sat naming the ingredients in his dish… spices, too! We asked the chef to come over and test him. Amazingly, he was spot on with everything that was in his meal. The chef was impressed. I was stunned.

Artist Point, Wilderness Lodge Resort

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Artist Point, Wilderness Lodge Resort

Artist Point was my go-to restaurant, even having my entire family eat there with me several times. The food was fantastic and their wine list was a delight. I remember sitting in Artist Point for hours, slowly eating course after course, then having a dessert made especially for us. One of our favorite desserts was dark chocolate wafers with a dry Cabernet.

Mmmmm!

The chef got to know my poly partners and me and never made the same vegetarian dish twice. Always delicious! When I was eating for the vegetarian book, the chef made especially awesome dishes for us all. (One thing I remember about almost all of my meals was the pine tree-like rosemary sticking up from one mashed food or other.)

I haven’t been to Artist Point in at least 10 years, but know if I sat down there tonight, the meal would be amazing.

Kona Café, Polynesian Resort

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Kona Café, Polynesian Resort

Kona Café used to be the best place to get coffee at Disney World. The coffee beans were from Kona, Hawai’i and they really did make the most delicious coffee.

Researching right now, the space is actually a “casual dining” restaurant! With a sushi bar! The coffee is all but a footnote on the menu. I am sure it is still the best coffee in the World.

Cítricos, Grand Floridian Resort

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Cítricos Restaurant, Grand Floridian Resort

I’ve been to Cítricos only a handful of times. They serve seafood and Tuscan Italian food, which isn’t my favorite. It’s a gorgeous restaurant with great service and am sure my veggie dish was good (as I said I can’t think of one meal I didn’t like anywhere on Disney property.) and I don’t remember anyone complaining about their food but me. I do remember having Italian wine and missing the California wines I was used to.

Yachtsman Restaurant, Yacht Club Resort

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Yachtsman Steakhouse, Yacht Club Resort

The Yachtsman Steakhouse, obviously, serves steaks. Huge, giant slabs of beef. I cannot remember what I had, but do remember using a menu to hide Zack’s plate that had a pool of blood underneath his steak. Blech. Carnivores love the place and I might even like it now! I do have my steak medium well and eat it with ketchup. (I know… why bother?!? Kind of what I said for a long time as a vegetarian!)

Maya Grill, Coronado Springs Resort

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Maya Grill, Coronado Springs Result

I loved Maya Grill! And had a crush on Beatriz, the chef at the time. Beatriz took me back in the kitchen a couple of times, letting me photograph her hands as she prepped for the dinner crowd. One of the things she made was chimichurri, a dip I slurped up hungrily… until I saw it was made with green peppers. Then I couldn’t eat it anymore. Isn’t that silly? I know! But it just messed with my world view of hating peppers.

Mexican food is easy to make vegetarian and when we were food tasting for the book, my dinner was delicious… and very different from the other restaurants.

California Grill, Contemporary Resort

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California Grill, Contemporary Resort

Ahhhh, now the California Grill. I’ve eaten there dozens of times… as a vegetarian, vegan and carnivore. Never ever ever have I had to send something back. As the name suggests, the cuisine is California-oriented, and it is delicious.

If you are lucky enough to eat here, you must ask for Walter. He opened the restaurant and is still there 22 years later. He is worth waiting for, I promise.

Besides the food, the restaurant overlooks the Magic Kingdom. In the picture above, you can see the fireworks over Cinderella Castle and how lovely Space Mountain is covered in lights. While watching fireworks from inside is nice, I prefer the catwalk outside. In the olden days, very few people knew about that 15th floor perch and I took friends out there to impress them. And they were impressed!

Used to be you could just go up for the fireworks, but now you must have reservations to be allowed on the elevator up. So, make reservations! Eat dessert and coffee if your budget is on the small side (you do not have to tell the podium folks what you are going to eat… keep it to yourself!) or dinner if you’re wanting to spend some money on magnificent food and wine. Reservations around firework time are harder to get, so we usually made reservations either far far in advance or about 6pm and just eat several courses slowly. Tip your waiter damn good if you stay at the table for 4 hours!

There was a Dessert Chef we knew up there at one time and we’d sit at the small area overlooking the making of the desserts. Watching them being made is magic! Incredible soufflés, wondrous crème brûlée and then the most creative desserts for kids! From rice cereal sushi to bowls of dark cookie dirt with gummy worms hidden inside.

For the food review, I know we had an amazing time, a window table overlooking the Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon, with peeks at the Polynesian. That meal I can remember like it was yesterday. Exquisite.

I last ate at the California Grill with my daughter Meghann her family and my mama. We had a beautiful time! And yes, Walter was our waiter. As he was for Meghann’s honeymoon meal 10 years earlier and the server for many, many of the great meals I had on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort.

Serendipity

It was pure luck that I was able to go around the World and eat and drink so well for 3 weeks. We had so much fun! I think everyone should be able to do the same.

It’s your turn!

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Vegetarian Dish at California Grill