oh New Mexico…you wacky state you…


C.S. Lewis wrote, “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”  I think I am at that age…or maybe never left that age.  One or the other.  Traveling through new places always puts my brain into storyteller mode. 

This was my first time really exploring New Mexico from top to bottom.  It was also the first time my feet have ever touched Colorado soil.  The land was weird, wild, and whimsical to be honest…although I’m sure most of you that read this have been to both states, if not numerous times.  I utterly adore New Mexico now which baffles me because generally if there’s not water and loads of greenery near by I keep on moving asthetically.    

My first impressions of Colorado when we crossed the border included (1) the roads instantly became actually straight….and (2) it seemed like a lot of what I drove through was some weird mix of multiple ranches all on the honor system since it was one giant horse/cow commune with an inconvenient little dirt highway running through the middle of it.  Lord bless free rangery…I was just thankful I didn’t hit anything.  Oh and also…horses are not scared of dogs turns out….along with mountain goats.  Zero fear when faced with 100 pounds of fluff and ears barking. 

I’ve tried to start blogging about my trip several times now, but keep getting overwhelmed at how many crazy stories happened and where to begin.  It was an incredible trip, who’s significance was not lost on me.  I have honestly never laughed so much in my life throughout the 9 days.  A year ago I didn’t think I would be here.  I never could have imagined the thing that took place this year…both good and bad, and I am ok with that.  I’ll attempt to immortalize stories from the trip on here in the next few weeks.  Thank you again all for your thoughts and prayers over this year.  For the record I am very thankful and happy that I am here.   

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  CS Lewis 

P.S.  These are some examples of blog post titles that could each legitimately be a title of a story that happened on this epic liver anniversary trip:

Getting kicked out of a Russian run trucker motel in Merkel, Texas

The tale of officers Swanson and Hildebrand and their pet tortoise Theresa

How to melt pyrex at 10,000 feet


Elk, moose, bear, mountain goat, horse, sheep, giraffe crossing

Why New Mexico has no straight roads

New Mexico, the state of WHY!?!?!

Starting a fire with petroleum jelly and burned biscuits

First impression of Roswell, NM: Aliens do exist….

The legend of the Roswell Cheese Factory

Can we buy that Jesus?

Very Large Array….really?  You don’t say. 

Stargazing illegally and a little girl named Aurora

Jimbo brown, the gator stomper


Oh crap big words…


A year later thoughts – basic principle of life: love others…it’s that simple, but that hard – what’s the point of extending a life a year, gifting a year to someone who doesn’t deserve it, only to spend even a moment of that year entertaining hate.  Thoughts like this go through my head on a daily basis as most of you well know.

What makes hating someone feel so much easier or more natural regarding our gut behavior as adults?

As children, our gut response is happiness…babies in super markets waving at each other from their own mother’s carts.  What makes differences seem so threatening.  The fear of the unknown.  Control freaks are born.  When at any point in your entire life did you honestly feel completely in control of everything happening to you.  It never happens…not entirely.  So, technically what we desire, i.e. control, we never experience and never have experienced it…only the idea of it.  So, we desire the unknown and we both hate the unknown.  Therein lies the proverbial rub.

Love and hate have always been romanticized in literature.  If everyone loved entirely and completely then no one would have what is considered a “good” story.  So, part of us desires that struggle, that opposition, that broken path sign in the dirt pointing the way down the trail that leads to hatred. 

Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote, “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.  Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.  Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”  I agree with Dr. King, but I also think the word fear can be substituted here as well.  Yet, the dichotomy of this necessitates the human existence.  We treat these feelings as novel each time they arise and on a grander scale each time, yet nothing is new.  History is a jealous lady who prides herself on repetition.

Pretty words and thoughts…that’s all this is.  It changes nothing in and of itself.  Small acts of kindness, birthed from one’s soul, bestowed to the least of deserving does though. 

Am I talking about the election last night and subsequent response today?  Maybe.  Am I talking about myself deserving a new chance at life?  Maybe.  Am I rambling?  Probably.  It just seems to be a theme that has been building in my mind over the last few months.  People applaud me for being honest.  People attack me for being too open minded for their taste when they thought I was “on their side” of an issue or aspect of religion.  I’ve wracked my brain this morning sitting and thinking of who and where the most hateful words come from that I’ve experienced in life and the answer shook me to my core.  The very heart and soul of where love was supposed to be shown unconditionally failed me. 

I’ll admit I do not like arguments or contentious discussions because I truly don’t see any benefit they have other than letting both parties flex their egos and regurgitate thoughts and ideas someone else wrote in a book that they skimmed over once.  As the Buddha put it, “what we think, we become.”  As a lover of his philosophies on life and humanity in general I truly hope that is not true today for much of this country.  And as an aside, no offense Mr. Buddha, that dogma is typically true only for bad qualities and thoughts – not the good ones.  I’ve tried exhaustively this year to be upbeat, positive – take everything, every trial on my recovery in stride and prance around #blessed everywhere, but in reality it’s not that easy.  Maybe what we think, if we think it continuously over a long period of time we become for good, but what we think, briefly in a thoughtless hate filled second, we also become. 

That being said…maybe we all just try this and hope for the best:

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Or more colloquially, as my Nana used to say (and probably most of our Nanas), “if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say it at all.” 

My silly and wonderful Mom


Mom has been gone two long years now.  Maybe the longest two years of my life.  Rather than post something sad or tearful today (even though privately I may feel that way today) I decided to make a list of random and amazing facts about my mom that ya’ll most likely did not know about her.

Random Mom/Mary Anne Facts:

  1. Wanted to be a forensic handwriting expert when she was younger at one point
  2. Was a history buff and wished she had a degree in it
  3. Did not like studying
  4. Took ballet when she was little
  5. Spent a summer at the University of Hawaii with a friend taking 2 easy courses in the morning and spent the afternoons at the beach
  6. Spent a summer in Europe with a friend traveling in the 60’s
  7. Ate peanut butter out of the jar constantly
  8. Favorite music was Christmas music and Patriotic music
  9. Loved watching sports, especially baseball
  10. Went to the first World Series game ever played in Texas
  11. Had a college degree in Special Education
  12. Her favorite sweet was fudge, especially peanut butter fudge
  13. Hung every ornament ever given to her by a student in the 20+ years she taught on her Christmas tree every year
  14. Collected Hummels
  15. Had the same 4 best friends since childhood
  16. Had 2 half-brothers and 1 half-sister
  17. Her favorite book series was the Elsie Dinsmore series which was written from 1867-1905
  18. Her favorite colors (especially to wear) were brown and green
  19. Her favorite song as a child was Little Bunny Foo Foo
  20. Never pierced her ears even though her grandmother had pierced ears
  21. Was left-handed
  22. Kept and had every wiener dog gift from student’s over the years displayed around the house…ALL OF THEM

Mulishness & Surprise Spreadsheets


I apologize for the gap in posts, I’ve been sick (at home, not the hospital), had Captain Man-Bun break his arm, had a little visitor for a week who answers to Charli, and then was sick again this last weekend.  Fortunately, I’m feeling human again just in time for my one year labs/scans for my liver anniversary! 

I was cleaning up files on my computer this morning and I came across a rogue excel sheet.  Anyone who knows me well knows I love to make lists, especially if they are color coded and on a spreadsheet.  Don’t judge me.  But I found a list of questions I made for my doctor at UTMB late last August during the week and a half I was discharged.  (To recap…I got sick late August, started looking yellow and was in the hospital at UTMB for a week and a half, then they discharged me.  Then they had me follow up in 2 weeks and was readmitted then for the long haul).  So this list was me at home…swollen with edema, bright yellow with jaundice, weeks from death (to be blunt) trying to make sense of my condition. Trying to figure out how I could fix it with questions and still very very concerned with convincing myself, along with everyone else, that I was healthy, had no problems and could continue with my school work.  Because as we all know, if you can convince everyone else there is no problem then the problem doesn’t exist right?  Yea, nope.  Hard nope.  As I’ve said before I was raised my stubbornness was a good quality and would motivate me in life to succeed, but I let it get the better of me and has become one of my absolute worst qualities.  I’ve let stubbornness almost kill me and kill relationships romantic, platonic, and familial.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, don’t be me. 

Also, as a side note and as a more weathered hospital patient.  This list shows me how naïve and how much I just didn’t pay attention to anything the doctors and nurses told me the first stay in August.  I knew nothing of what was going on in my body, didn’t care, didn’t listen.  I just wanted to convince everyone I was ok, and wanted to know how I could spin my condition into something that didn’t verbally sound serious.

So here’s the list I found…   

Questions for Doctor:

What is my official diagnosis?
Is brown pee still normal until the swelling and all the excess liver bile leaves my system?
Are the spots on my back the same as what was on my arms and face in the ER – bile leaving my system?
Am I safe to return to my normal school duties (describe school duties)
if the edema is from alcoholic liver disease that is normal and will go away with time correct?
if the edema is not from my liver but from sitting that will go away with time and movement correct?
note: the edema is painful, if I sit without my legs up too long they swell up to sausages
is there anything I can do to help the edema go down faster?
I need a note for my chair and dr. nichols regarding returning to school duties and vaguely describing my hospital stay/length and problem
note: I don’t want the official diagnosis or mention of alcohol in it per my hippa rights and my chair said I did not have to disclose anything I wasn’t comfortable with
             they just need something to get an understanding of what went wrong, what is being done to fix it and if I can be cleared for school work
            trying to avoid a forced medical leave of absence next semester
what is going on with my spleen – why is it swollen, how does it de-swell, how long will that take?
what were my liver enzymes?
they said I was anemic – does that go away?

Pictures can be jerks sometimes



        This post is a follow up on my quick one last week about finding a roll of film from a loved one that has passed away…I also hand wrote this in my doctors waiting room this week, good times 

I’ve read surprisingly little about suicide in terms of recovery, self-help, guilt, etc.  Instead I’ve taken a more childish, you could say, approach to blindly dealing with new suicide/mom/death situations and subsequent conversations as they arise.  Most of the time it just comes out as verbal vomit on some poor unsuspecting soul who just wanted me to say “oh I’m doing good, you?” and we both keep moving along in our intentionally separate ways.

This might sound weird to you guys, but until today I had forgotten about mom’s erm…”death anniversary”? ( … there has to be a better term for that).  I think I exerted so much emotional energy on her birthday, then spent the following two weeks in the hospital that I thought somehow that was the “big day” emotion wise for a while and I could resume forgetting she was actually gone and referring to her in the present tense. 

My last post showed a wonderful picture of mom smiling and playing with her grandchildren.  That photo is on my refrigerator now.  But something has changed in the last week.  I pass the photo, look at it, and still smile initially at the happy memory, but then I find myself wanting to scream at her.  I want to tell her in the photo that in 3 years she is going to do something that none of us will ever truly recover from.  I’m sure that even applies to some of you reading this that knew her in the classroom.  Where you can’t even begin to make sense of the bubbly, happy, sing-songy Mrs. Dierking you knew, with the woman she was when no one was watching.  A woman who was capable of committing such a violent act.

Every happy memory of her I have, every picture, now bears with it a tinge of sadness and suspicion… was that smile real?  Was she scared thinking dark, depressed thoughts before that smile?  Did she know she was always going to do this?

On good days I have a completely different answer to this than bad days.  Today I am comfortably on the fence.  No answer.  One comment of hers that always comes to mind when I think about her and her choice of exit strategy will always confuse me as well.  For as long as I can remember, she always would make the comment, “I hope your Dad goes first when it’s time because I don’t think he would survive if I went first.”  ….Great mom, where was that thought when you pulled the trigger?  All disagreements or quarrels you had at the time with Howard or I, both spoken and unspoken, aside…where was that thought at least…

All that to say…memories are complicated and sneaky.  It is almost as if they have their own agendas to bring happiness, sadness, or fear depending on the moment. 

The common sentiment to make sure your loved ones know you love them because you never know what will happen is not exempt from this.  We’re taught that this should bring a magical peace, when in reality it doesn’t.  Mom loved me, and she knew she was loved in return.  Despite what area(s) of my life she disagreed with and vented about to some not-so-discrete individuals, I know she loved me.

Yet …here i am…good memories, a loving mom gone, and more questions than I know what to do with.  My next-step on this logic train is the question that when i look out at everyone in my daily life (especially on Facebook – where we tend to only show the highlight reel of our lives on what is literally called a “Wall” so our real selves can stay safely hidden behind said Wall) …is wondering who is dealing with the same demons my mom was but outwardly looks like Captain Has-My-Shit-Together to everyone else ...

A picture is worth a 1,000 somethings


I was going to post a different blog a few days ago, but I got sidetracked by something that I’m still mulling over in my mind.  On Friday I got a roll of film back from being developed (yes they still do that) from Summer 2011.  The roll of film contained pictures of my mom, dad, me, Howard, Jenn and their kiddos at the children’s water park at Moody Garden Galveston.  The pictures kept me pretty nostalgic all weekend thinking about how much fun we all had that day and how happy mom looked in the pictures.

The pictures made me think about this question:  If you could leave your loved ones a random roll of film for them to find after you are gone that would make them smile and be filled with wonderful, happy memories – what would it be of?  What trip, event, family ritual, etc would it be?

Mine would be twofold….for my dad and brother it would be pictures from our road trip across Texas when we were little and dad kept driving into these giant safari parks for us to feed animals out of our car…usually when we had fallen asleep.  And for Sean, it would be pictures from our first camping trip putting up our summer tent while it was snowing in shorts and flip flops at 2am.

Good times…good question though, what would ya’lls be?


Donor Letter Thoughts, part 2


(Artwork: Van Gogh’s “At Eternity’s Gate”)

“The hour of departure has arrived, and we to go our separate ways, I to die, and you to live.  Which of these two is better only God knows.”  Apology, from the Dialogues of Plate, Volume 2

I haven’t written in a few days for which I apologize.  This letter to my donor’s family has been weighing heavily on my mind.  I don’t want to keep putting it off, but at the same time I don’t want to rush it and make everything sound manufactured.  In reality I am writing this letter to thank my donor’s family, but really I am thanking my donor through them.  When I think about it, it always ends up with me weighing my actions this year and leading up to this moment.  There is some dark humor in a former addict trying to defend their bad decisions with clever rhetoric and attempting to make promises to lead a pure, better life after their child’s gift to me.  My life was my donor’s last action on this earth.  They gave me the gift of life. 

So how do you truly thank someone that has already left this earth for what they did for you?  Traditionally families and friends pay for permanent markers, gravestones, monuments even as a physical place to feel like they are still connected to the person they have lost.  Others, like my father, leave little hints still in place around their home to remind them that the person is not entirely gone, and definitely not gone forever as they believe will see them again one day.  To this day my dad still hasn’t moved my mom’s purse from where she left it in the kitchen the evening before she died.  Some people leave their loved one’s entire room untouched for years.  What are we afraid of that we require so many visual cues of those that have passed away?  Do we believe that if we have something tangible to see and touch then the person will still be here in some way?  What will our loved ones leave around to remind them of our impact on their lives?   All questions that keep circling my mind as I work on my donor letter.  

I wish I knew what kind of person my donor was.  Not that it would change anything, but an article I found online that a heart and lung recipient wrote to her donor made me think about it.  It also reminded me of the movie Seven Pounds.  Great movie if you haven’t seen it.  I know that alot of people check the donor box without thinking or because they don’t want the person at the DMV judging them.  Or they buy into the urban myth that if EMT’s see that you’re a donor when you’re in an accident they will let you die.  It’s probably too much to ask, but I wish everyone that has checked the donor box to really, truly understand what that means and how that one action will be one of the greatest things and impacts on this world that you could do.  

Here’s a link to the article in case anyone’s curious: