margarita party


Your life doesn’t stop with bad news. You keep living it and deal. Last night after taking the tots to swim class, Phil headed to the country club for a burger, the sprouts went to kids club, and I attended a friend’s margarita party. "This," I thought, "is why I live in Texas." RSVP margarita parties. Love it. I also wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I needed a big fat drink.

The truth is, I’m not very social. I love going out, but the reality of my world is work, it’s home with the taters, it’s nights of DVR’d programming. And I’m good with that, but when I make a connection with someone, like I have with my friend Leslie, whose party it was, there’s no chance I’d miss it.

IMG_0377 As soon as I arrived, she welcomed me with a warm Texan hug. That’s the thing about Texans. They don’t greet with cheek kisses. In fact, they don’t really kiss hello at all. They’re into hugging. She has one of those faces–angelic. I feel like I’ve known her all my life, except I also know so little about her. It’s an extraordinary feeling, wanting so much more time with someone. To just gab and share and listen. I love girlfriends. Here’s what I don’t love: TALK ABOUT DROWNING TODDLERS.

There was mingling. Nice to meet you’s. And my hair was still wet from swimming class. Just the other day, I was in a doctor’s office being told that if Phil is ever in the pool holding one of the babies, I should always be close by. Because if something happens, the doctor said, "You get the baby out of the pool first, then you get Phil out." Jesus. So that’s where my mind is. And then I find myself suddenly in a conversation about swim classes, that turns on me, and the women begin to discuss TODDLER DROWNS stories, incidents involving a mother going out for a jog while her mother-in-law looks after the kids, only to return to find her three year old at the bottom of the pool. FUCK NO PEOPLE. This is a party. You must stop.

IMG_0374IMG_0372 IMG_0381 "You know, it’s worse with twins," a mother of twins says to me. "Because the one twin always just follows the other. If a twin drowns, you’ll always find the other twin at the bottom of the pool next to him." AND THAT’S WHEN I SIMPLY WALKED AWAY. I couldn’t deal. It’s not that they were saying anything wrong, but I physically could not take it. I turned away mid-sentence and couldn’t engage. Maybe it’s what’s going on in my world now. Maybe I’m just sensitive to it. Maybe anyone would be. It doesn’t really matter.

I was explaining to someone yesterday that what I feel right now is what I felt when I’d walk Linus in New York. Here’s my sweet baby, all is well, but when I’d see someone approaching who was about to go in and pet Linus, my anxiety would spike. I knew there was a possibility that he’d bite off their knuckles. Sometimes nothing bad happened at all, but that rise of anxiety was always there. That’s what it’s like now. Every time Phil gets behind the wheel. When I unbuckle the beans, and pull them from their car seats, I think, "What if something happens to him while he’s in the car with them? What if some officer has to come to my door to tell me my whole family has died tragically?" The thoughts do no good. Why go there? That’s no way to live or think. It’s exactly why I have to walk away at parties where the conversation turns to drowning children. Because I don’t want to drown in my own thoughts. Instead, I choose to turn my attention to the smiles in the room, to the cheese sauce on the enchiladas, to the margarita machine out back, to the colorful linens, and creative details Leslie put into the night. I’m all about keeping that margarita glass half full.

A YEAR AGO: Lost, A Tribute to Hal Sirowitz
2 YEARS AGO: The "Oh, By the Way" Method
5 YEARS AGO: Arithmetic, Misery



  1. What on EARTH worth those women thinking when they said stuff like that? As if you didn't already think those thoughts on your own… you certainly don't need someone else to remind you about it ever, let alone at a party!

    I've only been to Austin for a weekend, but one of my favorite things about the city was the "margarita and fajita" parties.

  2. Wow a margarita party sounds sooooooo gooooooood right now

    P.S We saw you at that BookPeople event a few weeks ago for that book signing. We stumbled upon it by accident, and were quite surprised to see you there

    I missed the cupcakes though..:(:(:(


    I dont know if you or your local readers know about BookWoman, the store on North Lamar(and 55th street I believe) they have a lot of interesting events coming up that are womens issues focussed. Just a thought for an idle evening… :)

    And its a local establishment, so we all need to representtttttt.!!!!!!!!!!!

    Love the stories and the wisdom.Just bought a copy of your book, need to get to it over the long weekend.

  3. I'm going thru nothing as serious as what you're experiencing but I too am wearing my rose colored glasses. Turning my back to what might be. Life is too short and tragic to spend the good times worrying about what could go wrong.
    Yes, tragedy could strike. It could all come down like a house of cards but for now, I'll go on enjoying what I have and preparing for a future; whatever that entails.

  4. I'm sorry to hear about Phil.

    On the issue of the party, I'm female but I just do not understand women. I know a lot of them like that scare-mongering gossip shit, but WHY would anyone think that's appropriate party talk? Seriously, this is why I like men better – they say a little about the game or Star Trek, grunt, and then you go back to sipping your drink. None of this Scary Mom of Doom stuff. So wrong (and I also don't want to hear about their prolapses or nipple problems or whatever else). I walk away too.

    I wonder if the Scary Mom routine is passive aggressive? You know, don't express your own issues, but freak out other women (maybe preferentially the younger ones with less child experience). A hazing ritual. Still wrong.

  5. I am really sad for you and Phil and the kids. Sigh. I'm not really good at saying the right things. I don't have religion as comfort cause I don't buy most of what I'm told, so I'm not one to pretend to speak on behalf of God. But the toddlers drowning thing is very real. Your anxiety is warranted. It's probably not comforting, but death is coming for every single one of us. And it does not care what age you are or what you have planned. It has happened in my family and to my friends. There was a time in my life when just the really old people died. I am not that lucky anymore. You just really never know what someone has been through or where they are in the cycle of life. I no longer have a "sick" sense of humor like I used to.

    And I can't tell you how many times I've been at parties and something morbid and depressing comes out of my mouth! The last time it was my cousin's 40th bday party and I went on and on about the current recession and job loss. Yeah, bummer. We were drunk and all worrying about our jobs. I finally stopped myself and let out a YEEHAW! That made everyone laugh and saved the party mode. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer at a party!

  6. Why dont you just not have Phil holding the tots in the pool ever? They will be swimming in no time, cant you or someone else hold them to mitigate the risk?

  7. Good for you for being able to walk away from those conversations and turn off those thoughts in your head. You can drive yourself insane with the would've/could've/should've and it's as pointless as rocking in a rocking chair – it'll occupy your time for awhile but you don't get anywhere. Personally, as a mother of twins and a single, I've had plenty of scary thoughts about what MIGHT be – and if you get caught up in them, you miss what IS.

    And, on a totally different train of thought – I LOVE the flowers. Beautiful color combo!

  8. I can't believe someone would say something so careless. Good for you for turning away.

  9. my mom never let my dad take all of us in the car at the same time when we were little. "Thats my whole life " ; she'd tell us. Its natural.
    I'm so sorry. I keep praying and hoping that the next appointment will be fine. You have had some awesome miracles; and I dont belive that God will stop delivering them for you.

    That whole storm before the rainbows crap.

    You're prayed for daily. Blessings!

  10. Unfortunately, I think part of being in a relationship and/or being a parent is always having the "what if" thoughts floating somewhere in the back of your mind. For the most part, I keep them shoved back there but every now and then they come to the surface seemingly of their own volition. And they scare me because they are things that realistically could happen. But I'm determined to live my life believing they won't…and if they do, well, I will somehow keep moving forward.

  11. I've lived a lot of my married life waiting for the other shoe to drop (husband has health problems and is terribly accident prone). It's not fun, but friends and parties and tequila do help.

    Not to change the subject, but did anyone else notice that the ottoman in the pic up there looks like a giant chipwich? Just me?

  12. Ugh, damn straight you should drown your sorrows in a margarita. Stupid, tactless woman. That's just BAD mingling.

  13. Good for you for walking away and reclaiming it as a freakin' party. Happy to hear you're not at the transplant bridge and I pray you never get there. But after reading the post and wondering about transplantation for him, I finally decided to register as an organ donor and overcome my crazy superstition that if I registered I would soon die. Ridiculous, I know.

    I really do keep you all in my prayers even though I don't know you. Now rock on with your margaritas and Texas-sized parties and hugs.


  14. I remember the absolute horror I experienced when I was at one of my baby showers, and all the biddies (they were friends and lovely ladies before that) were discussing every scary aspect of birth/delivery/death/dismemberment/ultimate degradation/revulsion and shame…

    My mom very sensibly came and took me by the arm, led me to the kitchen, and reassured me that there was simply nothing I could do that would ever surprise a baby nurse/doctor and to ignore them. It was hard…but I did. And you know what? Ignoring them works.

    Sometimes it seems like sensitivity is a lost trait. Where is civility? So – take it for what it's worth, but I advise you to ignore the nonsense. You are doing great. The babies are great. They will soon be swimming on their own.

    Here's to margaritas.

  15. Is it not possible to avoid the situations that are making you so anxious? Would Phil disagree that he shouldn't drive or swim or do anything alone with the kids that could result in harm to the kids if something happens to Phil? I really feel for you — I could not let him to do it. I don't know anything about his condition other than what you have said on this blog and it seems quite serious. Why take the risk; do everything you can to keep your husband and your children healthy and safe. And if it reduces your anxiety a tad, too, then all the better.

  16. If I'm reading the post right, the hostess is the one Stephanie knows, not many of the guests. From her description of the "nice to meet you's" I'm pretty confident in my conclusion that many of these women probably didn't know much or any of what Stephanie and Phil have been dealing with health wise. And while I do raise an eyebrow at the morbid subject of drowning toddlers (that is, toddler's accidentally drowning and not purposefully drowning toddlers) I don't think any of the women deserve to be called "stupid, tactless women," or be accused of having lost their sensitivity. How could you lose something you didn't know you were supposed to have?

    I certainly can't claim to have been an angel with regards to my conversations at parties. If I tell a bad joke about accidentally getting knocked up, ha ha, and there is someone there suffering from infertility, how am I to know their personal, private struggles and pain having just exchanged "nice to meet you's?"

    Are we to be sensitive to every single possible plague a person may be dealing with? If I make a slightly insensitive remark about overzealous moms who insist their kids are allergic to everything from dairy to peanuts to air, am I to be vilified b/c I didn't know that Susie "New person I've never met" Smith has a child who suffers from a dairy allergy? I mean, aren't saying these women are "stupid and tactless" the same as them saying something off-putting? Let's not throw stones in glass houses.

    I'm sure the women Stephanie just met are loving the judgment coming from the strangers who are calling them insensitive and tactless. Ironic, isn't it.

    P.S. I haven't ever actually gotten knocked up accidentally and I know peanut allergies can be a very real and serious (even deadly) aversion to have. Those were just examples. And really, If i make one lousy insensitive joke and UNKNOWINGLY hurst someone's feelings or set them on edge, I figure I'm doing pretty f'in good in life.

  17. Maybe the margarita glass is neither half full nor half empty….perhaps it's too big. Hang in there.

  18. I was thinking the exact same thing. The women, for the most part, don't know Stephanie and don't know what's she's been through/going through. None of us do. People aren't avatars that you can click to get a life story. It would be nice if we carried over our heads, like SIMS, icons that indicated which topics were off-limits. But we don't. People are people and talk about stupid macabre things.

    Stephanie handled it right. The women in the convo aren't cold-hearted evil bitches, they are just people.

  19. Glad you had a chance to your friends' party! But what I really want to say is: If you're that worried about it, have you said anything? Did you ask the Dr. whether he'd advise Phil to be driving with the kids in the car alone? I mean, if he shouldn't swim alone with them, then is driving even on the table? And I'm really not trying to be an insensitive ass or deprive another person of their independence. It's just, he knows he's at an increased, highly increased, risk of having a heart attack or stroke, etc. If he's driving, he could not only hurt himself or the beans, but someone else and their beans. I think your anxiety is warranted and not to be brushed off. Living life is one thing, exercising caution in warranted situations is another. And I really really hope I didn't offend you or Phil. I wish him a miracle recovery and you all a lovely weekend.

  20. Yeah, this.

    With a hearty dose of, "Please do not try to make Phil feel like he cannot hold his children in the pool anymore if he really loves them, as some of the commenters seem to be suggesting." Anyone could drop dead at any time; you can't live your life anticipating it, and it would be cruel as hell to Phil and the children (who would not understand why dear Dad-a-roo won't hold them anymore).

    Along those lines, kudos to you for going to the party.

  21. I must second Lori's comment. While we all feel for you and your family and hope and pray for a full recovery, it is an obvious risk to have him drive. Why take the chance of injuring your family or someone else's family? Sure, he should live his life without obsessing about the negative possibilities–but, this shouldn't include being in denial about the very real danger to himself, his family, and the families of innocent bystanders by driving while medically impaired. It’s a small concession when compared to the possible outcome of a heart attack behind the wheel.

  22. Danielle, were you at this party by chance? Just wondering what compelled such a protracted response.

  23. I'm glad you walked away. Some people are just toxic and it's best to keep a safe distance. Who talks about such morbid things at a party? Not people I would want to be around.

  24. Couldn't have said it better! Too many women together go into 'hen' mode..the worry mongering churning, etc. Instead of walking away I approach it head on and directly and just say 'this isn't appropriate and just upsets people'. I've done exactly that and it throws people off. Granted the direct approach seems more appreciated (and practiced) by my male friends and my only my closest, long term female friends (we're most alike perhaps) but I try and address it. Some people don't know they are doing it but some do, absolutely. They know it's a way to engage people. get their attention. As human beings we're all drawn to the morbid (rubber necking, anyone?) so it happens a lot.

    Just do all the driving when the kids are in the car at least.. and do not have Phil drive them alone. Same for need to handle that now. It's impossible not to worry but making those changes has to be done for the childrens' sake.

    With all that is going on I would want to be closer to home/family.
    It's a terrible time to move I suppose (with all of the stress involved) but it seems to me like you are trying to convince yourself with how much you like Texas.

  25. Marilyn,

    I was not at the party, just a regular reader. I want to make it clear that I think Stephanie did the absolute right thing by walking away. The comments just rubbed me the wrong way and, being quite lengthy in speech naturally, I just responded with what I felt.

    It's impossible not to judge. We all do it, all the time. But it's one thing to be understanding and compassionate towards Stephanie (that's a tough situation, what an odd topic of discussion, glad you walked away), and quite another to call someone we've never met, who is probably a perfectly nice, if maybe a bit rusty on their mingling skills, stupid, tactless and insensitive.

    I know when I get together, over alcohol, with my girlfriends, the last thing on my mind is Peggy Post's etiquette guide. We get silly, we get goofy, we say things we probably wouldn't say in the company of someone like your husbands boss at a work dinner party, but we let loose around other women! And I love that. Sure some situations can lead to uncomfortableness, but I wouldn't trade talking to my girlfriends about tactless subjects like blowjobs for polite tea sandwiches and weather chit chats for the world.

    Also I'm in law school so I'm trained to read everything with a thinking and somewhat critical eye. After 2 years of school, it's now a habit. They've finally beaten it into me! I'm a highly flawed person, as all people are, so I don't look down at other people for their flaws, but having been trained to spot the flaws in people's arguments (mine and others), I see it more readily and can't help myself in pointing it out in a forum like this.

    Sorry to be so long winded (again). Bottom line, no I wasn't at the party (I live in Georgia, just FYI), and it wasn't so much a visceral response as a wondering why some commenters didn't take this obvious fact (that the women didn't know of Phil's condition) into consideration before they proceeded to name call.

    Stephanie is always saying you don't have to lift one woman up by belittling another. She's always talking about how women should support each other and not bash one another (this coming, I suppose, from a woman who has taken her fair share of criticism from other women about her abortion, her former marriage, her current marriage, her "exploitation" of her children on her blog, etc). I just find it funny how some commenters applaud her sentiments on that subject one day, yet will display the very behavior she speaks against in the name of defense for Stephanie, the next. It's slightly amusing to me, but I have a sick sense of humor, and I like to call out people on their B.S.

  26. What was the point of the drowning toddler conversation anyway? Was it to impart useful information? Doesn't sound like it. I would have quietly walked away also.

  27. I disagree with some other people; don't take away phils time swimming with the kids or infantaluze him about driving as if he's already on his deathbed. Don't have your problem but I do have an lederly father, and no matter how justified the worry you can't stop living, or be reminded of the vulnerability at every second

  28. My father is now legally blind, but his eyesight was always very poor, even before he chose to give up his driver's license (knowing he couldn't possibly pass the eye exam). He never hurt anybody while driving (thank God) and kept doing longer than he probably should have in order to be able to work and support his family. I realized when I got a little older that my mother NEVER let my father drive if my brother and I were in the car. He only drove by himself, and even then only when it was necessary for work (construction related). He eventually chose to pay for an "assistant" out of his own salary to do the driving from site to site.

    The point of this rambling mess is that I never thought about this when I was little because my parents made sure I was not aware of it. When I was old enough to get my learner's permit, they spoke to me about it and I was able to pitch in and help out picking up my little brother from school, etc. after my dad stopped driving, but as a kid, my parent's protected me from what might have happened, and I never knew the difference. You can do the same for yours without frightening them needlessly about their father's condition.

  29. I can't understand this response. That is knowlingly putting other peoples' lives in danger. Sometimes our feelings have to get hurt when faced with reality. We're all grown-ups and deal with grown-up issues. This is a serious grown up issue that involves 2 ton vehicles going anywhere from 2-70 mph. WHAT IF something did happen and he plowed into a sidewalk or a school bus? Is that worth not hurting his feelings by not letting him drive?! What if he does take them in the pool and somehow he does the electrocution thing. Will that get the beans too? Would that be worth an afternoon swim? I don't think he needs to live in a bubble but there are ways to decrease the odds of BAD things happening when you KNOW they COULD. Ya know, instead of overlooking reality.

  30. It was appropriate for your mother to not allow your father to drive with you and your brother in the car, but what about all of the other people on the road? If she felt it was necessary to protect her own children from the possibility of an accident from an impaired driver, wasn't it necessary to protect others who may encounter the driver as well?

  31. Kat,
    I have to say that I think your comment is selfish. It is not 'infantilizing' Phil by not allowing him to drive; it is taking a necessary, mature precaution. His doctor has already said that he should not be left alone with the children in the pool because of the very real danger of a medical emergency that would incapacitate him. How safe, then, do you think driving is? It not only puts himself and his family at risk, but anyone else on the road at the time. It has nothing to do with putting him on his deathbed. It reduces the risk of putting everyone else on their deathbed. He (and your father) can continue to live without potentially taking away everyone else's chance to live. I'm sure you wouldn't suggest that a person impaired by alcohol, or loss of vision, or a seizure disorder should continue to 'live' by being able to drive. This is the same situation. Unfortunately Phil is impaired by a heart condition that could incapacitate him without a moment's notice. Is this someone that should be behind the wheel of a two ton moving object? I think we are guiltier of infantilizing Phil by pretending that it is not a danger.

  32. Stephanie, keep that margarita glass more than half-full — keep it three-quarters full, and throw in a shot of amaretto for good measure. Hang in there!

  33. I agree that it's a risk, but I think it's phils choice when it becomes great enough to limit what he does, not stephanies and certainly not a strangers. I simply think that saying 'don't let him do this…' is the wrong way to look at it.

  34. Well, I just thought it was funny. I guess I can see both sides. Sometimes people just want to support someone even if the response defies logic. Since Stephanie is going through something major, maybe other readers were just merely commiserating with her. I don' t think it's such a big deal. I don't think a simple post on a blog is going to bring someone down.

  35. Well written. And there is absolutely no need to apologize for writing what you feel especially if it's thoughtfully and cogently articulated, devoid of put downs, etc. Us women need to stop apologizing so much! :)

  36. When the risk affects Stephanie and strangers, they have every right to limit or comment on limiting that risk.

  37. There are lots of risks we take in life every day, mostly we evaluate them, but sometimes we get them wrong and just crossing the road could easily end us prematurely one day. It isn't possible to protect against all eventualities, it is only possible to live your life and hope for the best. There are no guarantees in life.

    The party talk sounds really odd (macabre) to me but then I don't live in a place where houses have pools.

  38. Kat, I agree with you. I don't consider it infantalizing, but I would consider it treating him like an invalid. Take away a person's ability to be autonomous and it creates depression and anger. Life can't be lived in fear and in a storm of "What if's?" Let him live and let him enjoy, for God's sake.

    Everyday when we get behind the wheel something horrid could go wrong. Everyone in vulnerable to stroke, heart attack, a blown tire at a high speed, a fatal bee sting, whatever it may be. Should we all not do something because there's a chance of harm to others?

    The reality is: if you take away his ability to drive and to be autonomous, you create a toxic environment. I watched it happen with my dad. There is nothing worse than a depressed man who feels like he can't contribute. And no, making sandwiches and doing laundry don't always count.

  39. Am I the only one distracted by the coffee table(?) looking like one big delicious stuffed cookie?

    Oh, and Stephanie, you did the right thing.

  40. Jeneria, Do you feel the same way about someone who, perhaps, is impaired by alcohol? Should someone with an known impairment, whether it is medical or alchohol, be considered at the same level of risk for driving as someone without a known impairment? Sure, any one of us could go at any time–but if a doctor has diagnosed a medical problem that could cause complete incapacitation without warning don't you think that increases the risk many many times over the average person? It seems like the lives of his children deserve more consideration (not to mention the lives of innocent bystanders) than Phil's ability to drive. We all make sacrifices for our children. This one would be a loving, self-sacrifice for the beans.

  41. That's a lovely slippery slope argument. Alcohol and medical conditions are not in the same category.

    Stephanie doesn't have to let the kids ride with him, but she can't make that decision in a vacuum without discussing it with Phil. That's a recipe for disaster.

    As for innocent bystanders, that's just paranoid talk. You can't live in constant fear like that. It's insane.

  42. I don't think anyone said anything about Stephanie making this decision without Phil's input. In fact, I would hope that Phil would come to this conclusion on his own. As far as being paranoid, if you don't think of the safety of others when you turn the key of your ignition, you may want to do a little soul searching. (This is true even if you don't have an impairment.)

  43. Good for you Stephanie, walking away and always keep that glass half full. I know what you are talking about regarding that anxiety and the what ifs…right I am giving you advice when I always have that anxiety, but for other reasons. What I am learning is that you cannot live your life wondering when or if those bad things can happen. I know what new drink I am making when I get home! Thanks for the recipe.

  44. Listening to others so casually discussing childs' deaths due to drowning does not sound fun to this mom of 3 (two of which are twins). Hope after you stepped away from the nasty discussion you started your own on how wonderful the kidlets are and are doing.

    The intense FEAR you experience now in relation to your children does lessen in time. You just fear other things but hope you have instilled the mores and ideals you believe in.

    My kids are now 16, and twins 11. All great kids and the worrying considerably lessened. All have good brains and manners between their shoulders, not worried about learning they have gotten up to the nasty stuff their mother was up to at their ages!

    Be thankful and positive about all you have Stephanie. And keep on enjoying it all :)

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