Saturday, October 27, 2007

When it rains...

it pours. Seriously. Talk about the theme of the week!

It's been pouring literal rain for two days now, greening our lawn, encouraging our puppy to poop only indoors. I'm thrilled to have the rain, even if it has been more than 4.5 inches in the last 24 hours.

Other things have been pouring into my life this week, too.

Last week phone calls began to come in for one of my clients, the International Microwave Power Institute (yes there is an association for everything) regarding a major national recall of a microwave product. It's devoured all of my working hours, and then some. I've found myself researching food safety and microwave science articles of the last 20 years to write a response for the public. There is nothing I could think of that would be more fun than this.

Just when I was feeling like I would absolutely loose what few granuals of brain cells I have left up there, and that my daily life stress levels were about to top the charts, good things started happening. For the first time in over a year.

1. I finally talked to the right person at UVA, and managed to get almost all of Sadie's medical bills wiped clean... in ONE day. This may not seem like a feat to most of you out there, but consider this. According to my records, I have spent 118 hours on the phone with UVA and Anthem this past year (I did not record early hours, so it's actually more, I'm sure). I called them almost weekly for 6 months straight. We have paid fines, penalties, listened to collections calls, fought, cried, begged, took it to an appeal, took it to the state, contacted a congressman... and all we needed was a different phone number and one woman's name. Don't get me wrong - I am thankful. I am ecstatic. I am still waiting to see that paid-off bill in writing though, before I can breathe.

This has consumed almost all of my waking hours lately. Our family's financial health was at stake. We were losing everything we'd worked so hard for, all because of a loophole in insurance regulation. I'd been pulling my hair out each month, agonizing how we'd make it. I went back to work full time. I cut staff hours to increase income for our family. It's been nuts.

Then, with a magic phone number, 10 minutes on a call and a very sincere apology from UVA, I found out it was all a misunderstanding. I am too tired to be angry that they started sending collections after us with a 1 million dollar bill the day after Sadie's surgery. I'm too worn out from it all to even be ticked that they threatened legal action. I'm just done. I feel like I could sleep a year. I may take a nice long nap to celebrate when and if that final bill with "paid in full" written on it gets here.

2. Out of the blue, I got a call from a recruiter in Texas, looking to fill a position in a hospice in Florida. At first I said no, that I was not interested, even though I sounded like a good fit. Then Jason and I got to talking about it. Why shouldn't we consider it? I'm working a bazillion hours a week, so who am I kidding in thinking that this lifestyle of trying to be full-time stay at home mom and full-time working mom wrapped into one is healthy for myself or my children? So, I'm taking a chance. Worst that happens, I get a no. Or maybe I hate it there, and I say no. Or maybe I love it. We'll see. It's a new thought for me, and it's kind of exciting.

3. Out of the blue, about two days after the call from the Texan recruiter, I get a note requesting a bid for a new client. Hmmmm. So I figured what the heck. I'm just going to throw it all up in the air - put myself out there and see what happens. Maybe nothing happens. Maybe I'm in the same spot I'm sitting in now a year from now. Or maybe life could change drastically in the next few months.

I think the big guy up there is sending major waves my way, telling me it's time to shake things up; to shrug off the anger, hurt and pain I've been internalizing and battling all year and to move on with life. Even if nothing comes of this, it's making me think about life in a different way. Of what I could be doing that I'm not now. And it's kind of exciting, I have to admit!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

So in love

Our new puppy arrived last night... all head and paws. She's clearly a German Shepherd/Pitbull mix, with possibly some Lab thrown in for good measure. She's so cute we can hardly stand it.

We still haven't settled on the right name yet - though I'm probably going to try to convince Jason to let Katie have her way and go with "Sparkles". Both of us hate the name, but Katie loves it, and has taken to calling her that already. What can you do.

As mentioned in a previous blog, the puppy was rescued from a dumpster, where she was placed in a airtight tote in 100+º weather to die. Three did die, though four survived - she is one of them.

When Katie saw her at the fair, apparently it was love at first sight. To be honest, I had my eyes on another pup, and didn't even notice this one. On our drive home that night, Katie talked about the puppy with the "curly tail" (I hadn't noticed her tail) and how much she loved her. The next day she told me that she and the puppy were meant to be together, because the puppy had come to her and told her when she met her at the fair. The next day she was in tears, because I had a short temper (possibly from hearing about the puppy nonstop) and told her that we didn't even know which one had a curly tail, and we weren't sure if we'd be able to get that one. Finally, we got the interview (from AARF, the rescue league that saved this little girl's life), and were asked which puppy we wanted. I told them the one with the curly tail. And now she's here!

Last night Katie told me that it was the happiest day of her life. She said, "Mommy, my puppy and I were meant to be together. I love her so much!" And today's quote took the cake. She was on the floor, cuddling with the puppy when she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said "Mommy, I'm so in love with my new puppy!"

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Mending Little Hearts

Two weekends ago, Katie, Sadie and I participated in our first "Poker Run" for Mended Little Hearts, a Richmond-based chapter of a national support organization for families of children with CHD. A poker run, we found out, is a charitable event common in the biking community. About two dozen bikers came out for the event, sporting Harleys and Hondas for a good cause.

The best part of the event was that one of the riders that day was a man named Dr. Peeler. It just so happens that Dr. Peeler is the surgeon who saved Sadie's life when he performed the aortic switch and VSD repairs on her heart. I can't tell you what it feels like to see the man who held your daughter's tiny heart in his hands and have a few non-hospital moments to chat. In the hospital he appeared to be cold and aloof, and, frankly, a real jerk. In our real-life encounter, however, he was candid and even funny, telling stories of how he swindled his wife and UVA into allowing him to escape for a weekend bike ride.

I had written him an email several weeks earlier, in my mass-thank-you efforts around Sadie's birthday. He commented on what it meant, and how little correspondence or news he receives on his patients. You can bet that I've added him to my holiday card list!

Check out Sadie's first attempt at pigtails in the pic. :)


The husband and I took off this weekend for a long-overdue road trip to Blacksburg for a weekend, leaving our kids in Kerinda's (my sister) able care. It was Jason's fraternity's 40th anniversary, and brothers from the class of 69 on up were all there to celebrate. We had a great time seeing a lot of friends we hadn't seen in ages, hanging out and making fun of freshmen chicks.

On the way into town on Friday night we enjoyed a beautiful sunset - something I'd seen a hundred times or more while living in the mountains, but not once since moving to Richmond. We both enjoyed seeing the almost flouresent colors of the maples just beginning to drop their leaves. As night fell and we drove into town, I gazed up at the ultra clear sky, and enjoyed picking out constellations I'd forgotten in the two years we'd been gone. I felt like Dorothy, revisiting Oz with it's colors and vibrancy. I kept thinking how everything looked so ALIVE, so crisp and clear. I could breathe better, I felt lighter, and I was able to clear my head and just take a moment to exhale.

On Saturday I took off by myself for the day to visit my old haunts in my favorite town. I took a quick drive through the mountains, visited campus and fed some ducks at the pond... visited the old neighborhood, stopped for the obligatory trip to the bookstore for more VT crap and wandered down Main with a cup of Mill Mountain steaming in my hand. I couldn't have asked for better weather or a better season to make my first return to the Burg in over 2 years. I came back with scraps of paper jotted with a million ideas for my clients, the office, a new business that I've been pondering for a few years, and generally making my daily life better.

I also came back with a renewed pride for my alma mater, and Blacksburg. The town has come together incredibly since the tragedy on April 16. The town has always been friendly, but seemed even more open and embracing than ever.

It was incredibly emotional to see the memorials and signs that has been placed throughout campus and the town in memory of the victims of that fatal day. The town of Blacksburg had placed flag poles for each victim lining Main Street, in the only open area downtown has - on a strip of grass that was donated by a church. It was beautiful to see the flags (each one representing the nationality of the slain individual) lit at night.

On the busy, bustling drillfield the students had chosen the most beautiful spot on campus to create a memorial, which was made permanent by the university several months later. A stone was placed with each victim's name, carved from the same "Hokie Stone" that is the very foundation of our campus. I was struck by the way in which students lowered their voices when passing, the variety of persons paying tribute at the memorial, the notes left by the stones for friends and loved ones, and a single rose, laying in the middle, next to the stone proclaiming "We are Hokies. We will Prevail." I took the time to go through it, reading each name, and the gravity of what the families and friends of these victims must have, and still do, experience really sunk in for the first time since that fatal day.

I left Blacksburg reluctantly today. While I was incredibly anxious to see the girls and get back to my daily life with them, I couldn't help but notice the haze, the dimmed colors and the diminishing natural beauty as we traveled Eastward. I'm happy to be home with our family, and ready to move onto the next adventure, but I think I may have left yet another piece of my heart back in the 'Burg.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Be careful at the fair...

For the first time in well over a decade, I headed out to the fair... this time with the family in tow. The Virginia State Fair is held only minutes from our house, so I figured it was worth checking out. We had a great time - Katie rode every ride that she could manage to convince the carnie's to let her on; Jason had funnel cake, which is one of his favorite things in the world; Sadie jammed to the loud music and lights on the midway, amusing passersby with her astounding dance skills.

We saw it all while we were there - the biggest pumpkin ever. Some fancy eggplant from NoVa. A giant bin of corn to play in. A winning kumquat. Prize winning bulls. World's smallest woman. More mullets than I even realized existed. Then we hit the Young McDonald's area. That is where we got into trouble.

Our state fair adventure ended with:
- A sleeping baby in a stroller. For the first time ever. She never sleeps in her stroller. Ever. Apparently she needs massive stimulation for 4-5 hours straight to do the trick.
- A light saber that is constantly left on, changing colors and blinding me.
- An empty wallet and heartburn due to bad fair food.
- The little girl in this photo

Yes - she's ours!! We'd been watching for puppies for a while. I made the mistake of looking online recently, and found that a litter of lab/pit mix puppies had been abandoned in a Richmond area dumpster 7 weeks ago, locked in a plastic tote in 105 degree weather. Three had died, four survived, and are now up for adoption. And they were at the state fair. We saw them there, and that's where our biggest splurge was made. We had to apply for adoption of one. HAD to.

This little gal will be joining our family early next week!! I'm not sure how Darla (our 10 year old hound/cocker mix) will take it, or if the cat will tolerate her, but we'll see. Wish us luck! And be careful if you're going to the Va Fair this weekend. Those puppy dog eyes will get you.