Birthday Surprise

You may perhaps remember a previous post that began with a picture of birthday cake.
Some of you thought that I might have decorated that cake, but sadly, it was just a picture I grabbed off the internet. Here, in all its glory, is a picture of a birthday cake I actually made and decorated myself. The barely legible scrawl, the carefully-constructed icing border sliding down the ganache and off the side of the cake... this is why I'm not a cake decorator. Oh well, at least it was yummy.

My schemes for Max's birthday went off without a hitch. Secretly, I conspired with his brother to come up from Austin and surprise him on his big day. When Rob showed up at the door, Max was shocked! He had no idea! Also, I had covertly organized (via facebook) a small gathering of friends at the Flying Saucer, one of our favorite haunts. I gently suggested to Max that we could go there for dinner, making him think it was almost his idea! When we arrived, all our friends were waiting for us, and when Max walked in, they all yelled "Surprise!".... it was great. The "party" was really informal - just a bunch of friends getting together to drink beer and hang out. I think it was exactly what he would have wanted had he planned it himself. At any rate, a great time was had by all, Max was totally touched that everybody turned out for him like that, and I was just floored that it all worked out so well.

But alas, every stroke of clever genius in my life is balanced by a moment of abject stupidity. On Monday, I was practicing front-kicking drills in the mirror in the bathroom (like a good little martial artist). I was wearing socks, because it was COLD in the house. And every time I kicked, my base leg would move a little, inching me closer and closer to the bathroom counter... and my doom! I was concentrating on my form, so I didn't notice that I was moving forward ever so slightly... until I kicked the bathroom counter with full force and exploded my big toe. Luckily, I didn't break anything, but the very tip of my toe is badly bruised and I have a 1/2-in. long tear in my skin from where the pressure of the impact ripped through my toe. It bled a lot at first, but now it just kind of weeps occasionally. It's healing nicely now, and fortunately, there aren't a great deal of nerve endings in toes, so it doesn't hurt as much as it looks like it should.

That being said, it is SOOO inconvenient! I really took my big toe for granted before, but it's completely vital for things I do all the time, like walking or wearing shoes. Even though the tip of my toe is not a walking surface, I still can't walk on it because when I put pressure on the pad of my toe, it compresses a little and moves the skin just enough to re-open the wound. Anyway, it's really gross looking, and I haven't been able to train in almost a week, and I feel retarded.

Moral of the story? Practicing at home is good; being aware of your environment is better.



Yep, there it is, the Eye of Sauron. Max's Xbox 360 finally quit, as it seems they all inevitably do. So it's at a Microsoft repair center, being fixed, and we're without Assassin's Creed for at least a month.

Other things are broken, too - Max's computer (probably the power supply), my car (battery and the Ghost in the Transmission) - I guess when it rains, it pours.

And then I found out yesterday about a broken LIFE, or perhaps it qualifies at this point as a whole broken family. My cousin, Amber Martin, died Sunday night of a drug overdose. She was a year or two older than me.

I haven't seen Amber since I was about 10, but I remember her being smart, pretty, and very cool (you know, she was older!). Amber and her younger sister Andrea had a rough go of things, though. Their father was my dad's brother, my Uncle Clyde.

Clyde struggled with heroin and was in and out of prison and rehab for most of his adult life. His relationship with Amber and Andrea's mother Darlene was rocky, as far as I could tell. He contracted Hepatitis and died earlier this year.

What I don't understand is this: After years of observing first-hand the devastating effects of drug and alcohol addiction, how could she have gotten involved with all that? We can't say she didn't know better. I could see Uncle Clyde's downward spiral from half a continent away - it's not like it was subtle. Watching my dad ride that roller-coaster of having a loved one with a serious addiction problem was heart-wrenching. People say drugs are a victimless crime, but they're dead wrong. Drug abuse puts the friends and family through hell.

Knowing that - and she must have known it - how could she have ended up with a drug problem? You'd think she'd be the LAST person to mess with that kind of thing. I keep chewing it over in my head, looking for some sort of answer, but really there isn't one.

A few months back, after my uncle died, I thought about writing to Amber and Andrea. I talked myself out of it because I figured they had their own support networks of people they know. My dad is far and away the most successful of the 6 siblings, and myself and my sisters were kind of resented as the "privileged cousins". I decided that sending my thoughts and sympathy to Amber and Andrea might offend, so I just let it drop. Maybe it was the right thing to do, maybe it wasn't, but I can't let myself fall into the trap of wondering if things would've turned out differently if I'd just sent that letter. Amber's problems didn't start with her dad's death. And they haven't ended with hers.