On the Other Side: An Anniversary Post

It’s been a while, I know.

Sometimes, when it’s hard to write or to know what to say, being quiet helps. These months, when I’ve needed to share my feelings amid so much change, this has mostly been kept to conversations with family and close friends. Days have been long for all of us. There’s so much noise already at my house, when I have a moment to think or write, lately, I need just quiet and stillness.

This year has been one for the books, hasn’t it? Pandemic, illness, changes, broken hearts, protests—so many people feeling so many things. My emotions have been all over the place too.

But right now, I want to tell you a story.

Forty-two years ago, Ronald Paul Brumble married Blanca Sanchez Vela. My parents celebrated their anniversary yesterday. My sisters and I wanted to do something special for them—maybe a beach getaway—and we realized quickly that it’s a difficult time to plan celebrations. Places are closed. Restrictions are everywhere. There’s still fear of catching the virus. The closest beach to us is having rioting at the moment and the beach town is under curfew. We have a curfew in our town too.

Many of us—myself included—have not lived through a year like this one before.

Maybe that’s why I keep thinking of my mom and dad. Two years ago, we weren’t able to celebrate the milestone of their 40th anniversary. My dad had been diagnosed with cancer and was in the middle of that battle. There were some very hard days. Later that year, my mom would be diagnosed with cancer as well.

The next year, around the time of their anniversary, my mom was having chemo and her hair was falling out. It was an emotional and difficult time for her and all of us.

And now we’re here in 2020, and they’re both alive—thank God—but this year is strange and hard in different ways.

I keep thinking, though, it’s still important to celebrate life and love. And right now, I want to hold on to the people I love more than ever.

Forty-two years ago, my Caucasian father was marrying my Hispanic mother in a ceremony conducted by an Asian Catholic priest. The rest is history, as they say.

It’s the part that happened before that moment, that I want to share with you. 

In 1977, there had been a terrible situation of police brutality in Houston, Texas, in this case, involving a Latino man. In response to that, people--especially the Mexican-American community--were hurt and angry, and the city was on edge. Tensions would eventually boil over and there would be riots in Moody Park. 

My dad was still very much a rookie cop then. He’d grown up in east Texas, served in the army and been stationed in Germany, and after he was honorably discharged, he got a job as a police officer in the big city.

My mother had moved to Houston several years before from where she grew up in Harlingen, Texas. Harlingen is close enough to the border that even though you don’t cross into Mexico, on your way back northeast out of town, you still have to go through border patrol.

Two very different backgrounds. Two very different people.

Yesterday morning, my dad sent this picture on our family text thread. It’s the corner of Franklin and Crawford Street, where he first met my mother.

(Enter a collective Awww! from my two sisters and me. Along with heart eyes and affection for the two people who mean so much to us.)

As the story goes, my mom worked near downtown and was on her way to pick up some lunch, and while stopped at a red light, she saw a police officer standing next to an older, smaller man. The man was hunched over, sitting on the sidewalk. He was bleeding.

My mom pulled her little white mustang over and parked close by. She got out of her car and walked up to the police officer.

I think back to the scene of my mother—a young Latina woman—in downtown Houston, seeing something, and feeling worried enough to pull over and get involved. I don’t think I ever realized how brave she was in that moment. I realize it now.

(I should add that my mother is all of about five foot four inches. My father is closer to six foot four inches tall.)

My mother was and is a courageous woman.

She tugged on the cop's jacket and asked, “What are you doing?”

(When they’re telling me the story, at this point, my dad likes to add in that he noticed how cute my mother was, obviously.)

He explained to my mom that the man (who’d been drinking) had fallen down (my dad still remembers his name after all these years, but I won’t mention it here). The man had broken his nose and was bleeding. My dad had called for an ambulance.  

My mom turned to leave, and my dad walked her back to her car. He asked for her number (remember, she’s cute and he likes her!) and she promptly said no. (Remember, fiery Latina woman!)
So, my dad asked to see her driver’s license. He read her address and they talked for a moment about where she lived, then he asked for her number again. It’s a no again, but this time she decides she’ll give him her work number.

A couple of days after, he called her at work and asked her out for a date. She agreed, and they went out for pizza. My dad tells me that, like any good cop, he followed up on the situation a few days later and stopped by where she worked to see her and meet her friends.

More than four decades after that date, they have three daughters, three sons-in-law, and four grandchildren. 

They raised a family. My parents eventually moved from Texas to Virginia. But before that, they spent several years where my dad worked overseas for six months at a time. They've experienced good years and difficult years. They’ve faced illness by each other's side. Their own parents have passed on now. 

My parents are people of faith who love God and love each other. They’ve helped countless people and have touched so many lives. They aren’t perfect, of course, but the truth is, you don’t have to be perfect to love people and make a difference where you are able.

It comes down to this:
They built a life together.

I’m especially reminded of their story right now. But along with the fact that people who look different and are different can come together and live life together in beautiful ways, is the knowledge that sometimes love can follow brokenness.

Sometimes change is on the other side of pain.

That’s what we need right now, I think.

It can happen. One person at a time. One life at a time.

Beauty for ashes.

Praise for fear.

Gladness for mourning.

Peace for despair.

If we're brave enough to speak up. If we see each other as beautifully diverse human beings who are intrinsically loved and valued by God. If we recognize each other's pain and fear and try to help.

If we love each other like we're supposed to.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. 

Thank you for everything. I love you both with all my heart. 

A Little Bit of Brandy

Hello, loveys. How's it going out there?

I've been scrolling through Instagram, looking at all the mom posts of what people are doing while currently home with their kids. So many good ideas on ways to keep the kids learning while they are out of school. Nature walks. Online tutorials. Chore lists. Schedules.


So . . . I literally just clicked off my phone and came upstairs with a Cadbury egg and crawled back into my bed.

I figure we all have different parenting styles. Mine is eating all the Easter candy early when we're living in high stress situations.

Seriously, the last few weeks--before COVID-19--my kids had been going nuts. Spring break over here is about fifteen minutes before school is out for summer (who knows why) and my kids have been desperate for a break. Maybe next week I'll feel differently, but this week--this week we are chilling like villains. This week we are staying in pajamas and playing video games and watching Netflix and taking a little break because we can. I need it like my kids need it.

These are strange times. We've never experienced something like this before so it's hard to know the right way to react. But here we are. I already miss normal life, and I really hope hunkering down helps slow this virus.

Still, there are good things too. As my Lily points out, there are signs of spring everywhere. Last night my kids were playing outside in our yard and it was starting to feel chilly, and I was thinking of how I'll be so happy when summer gets here. I'm ready for lots of warmth. And I'm hoping, by the time summer arrives, we'll be closer to getting back to normal life and the virus being contained.

While I'll be glad for all of this--the fear of catching the virus, the fallout of the economy, the worry about what comes next--to be behind us, I think slowing down can be good. I'm one of those people who likes a slower pace of life. And for someone like me (who's prone to anxiety), a little breathing space from homework and after-school activities and pick ups and drop offs is an opportunity to take a moment and breathe.

It's not the same for everyone of course. My husband works in finance, and right now is a really high-stress time for his line of work. I know for so many people, their situation is even more frightening--worrying about jobs, childcare, maybe loved ones who are sick, then there are the nurses and doctors and police and everyone else who don't have the option to work from home.

I keep thinking, this virus is new and different and scary. But it won't be like this forever. And as long as we have each other, we're okay. 

There's a Rich Mullins quote I love so much that says, And everything that could be shaken was shaken. And all that remains is all I ever really had.  

Those words have always reached all the way to my soul.

Things feel shaken right now. I feel shaken, to be honest.

It will get better.

Every family is different. We do what works for us over here. Loveys, I've never been an over-achiever. I know I'm not turning into an amazing homeschooling mom overnight. I also know I'm not suddenly becoming someone who is arts-and-crafty. My goal for my kids is happy and healthy and alive. Honestly, I'm anxious enough without adding any more pressure.

So we'll take every day as it comes.

I love being close to my people. This is very close--you're probably feeling the same. But still, the Jeffster and these kiddos are the loves of my life. We can do close when we need to.

And maybe we'll throw a big party when all of this is over.

In the meantime, it seems like a good time for hobbies. One of my goals for this year was to put more time and effort into my Instagram account. I really enjoy Insta--especially book feeds and travel feeds--and wanted to be more intentional with what I post. If you're on Instagram, come find me @alittlebitofbrandy. (https://www.instagram.com/alittlebitofbrandy/)

You guys know that last year I turned forty. Forty seems like a good age to worry less about what other people think, and spend more energy enjoying what we love. For myself, I really enjoy pictures. I love scrolling through Insta and seeing books people are reading or places they've gone or even seeing their fashion style. (My own fashion style is 99.5 percent pajama pants and sweatshirts.) Who knows why, but seeing pretty pictures of books and coffee and pastry shops in Paris makes me very happy. :)

There's something special about all of our different ways of self-expression and it's awesome how social media let's us explore our own and appreciate others. It's a great way to keep connecting with people, even when we're quarantined.

Even for someone who doesn't mind time alone (like me!), I start to feel lonely after this much time cooped up. I picked up lunch at a drive-through yesterday just because I needed to see more humans! My kids seem to experience so many different emotions all throughout the day--so do I. We're all going through this together. All feelings and emotions are valid. 

One thing is for sure, when this time has passed, I will be so incredibly grateful for things like getting together with friends and family, or running to Target, or going out for coffee.

For right now, I'm grateful for home, health, love, my people . . . and Cadbury eggs.

How are you doing, loveys? What's it like over at your house?

Living Whole in the New Year

Loveys, I'm a dessert kind of girl. You know this about me. I love cheesecake and chocolate pie and brownies. The holiday season, of course, brings gingerbread cookies and pumpkin pie and  peppermint kisses. All of which make me so happy.

Then came January first. I decided to try Whole30. Really, I had a feeling I could do with a reset from my deep love of all things sugary.

So here I am. (I've never eaten this much fruit in my life.) And I confess I'm thinking of turning Whole30 into Whole21 and stopping early. Seriously. All these fruits and nuts and eggs and All Things Healthy are somehow making me gain weight.

The goal wasn't to lose weight, but certainly it wasn't to gain. So. I might slowly reintroduce a piece of cake into my life soon.

Food is such a part of togetherness. There's something about sitting around the table with close friends, eating something delicious, pouring glasses of wine, talking late into the night--those moments are some of my absolute favorite. For me, they are life-giving. But equally life-giving is the need for less after indulgence. A cup of coffee and a quiet morning, time for reflection. A clear mind and a helpful to-do list. I need both. Connection and the beauty of food and wine together. Then a break.



I feel like I need that in so many ways--not just a reset from sugar. I've been a little bit of a homebody this month. Some of it has to do with the fact that if I'm going to eat somewhere, I pretty much need to bring my own food. But also, I've slowly been organizing cabinets and drawers. The terrible part of this is that things always seem to get worse before they get better! Still, afterward, I breathe easier. Yesterday, after chaos for weeks, I made myself organize Lily's room (well, as much as I could before I fell over from exhaustion). It was time. Too much chaos makes me start to twitch until I have to do something.

Balance is hard to come by, especially in the thick of family life. This is definitely true for me. But whether I'm over here re-setting for 30 days or 21, I think it's good to just know ourselves. To be in tune with who we are and what we need.

Do you ever feel the need to explain or apologize for the things you enjoy?

To enjoy dessert. To enjoy food. To enjoy music or dancing. To enjoy TV and movies. Or maybe to enjoy taking pictures. Or shopping. Or clothes. Or being alone.

I think sometimes we feel we have to temper down who we are or what we enjoy, maybe so people know (or assume) our lives are balanced. The older I get, the more free I feel to just enjoy what I enjoy. To strive for balance always (and make a change when I know I need to, like this month), but to be okay with the fact that the things I enjoy might not be what someone else enjoys and that's okay. It doesn't invalidate my feelings. It just makes us all more interesting.

There are a lot of difficult things that come with getting older--but the freedom that comes with age is, to me, one of the good things. I think living whole is more than just the food we eat. It's embracing who we are meant to be.

For this year, I want as many life-giving moments as possible, for myself and my husband and my children. What about you, lovey? What are you passionate about? What needs more time this year? What needs less?

Let's get to it.