Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Survivor's Guilt

A few months ago, I met a lovely lady who came to visit my dad in the hospital. A couple months later, I found myself reaching out to her after her son had been diagnosed with Transposition of the Greater Arteries. The same heart defect Sadie has. I tried to think of comforting things to say. Tried to encourage her and avoid mentioning the horrors of surgery. Tried to assure her that the surgery was usually successful (it is).

Tonight, as I watched Sadie sachéing across the floor in her first-ever ballet class, I found myself perplexed by the tears that were in my eyes. When I stopped to think about the emotion inside, it was easy to pinpoint its source. Four years ago I would have never fathomed that she would be the happy, healthy, hilarious little girl she has become. I wouldn't dare dream of it. Four years ago I sat in the hospital and was told she was the sickest TGA baby they had ever seen, that her kidneys may be failing, that it was so, so serious. But Sadie survived. Not only surivived, but thrived. And here she was, tonight, the cutest ballerina in the class in her bright orange tutu. And graceful to boot. How could I keep those happy/sad tears at bay on such a momentous occassion?

And then I looked down and saw the text message. Baby Zachary had passed. Only 10 days old. The same heart defect as Sadie. Our same town. At the very same moment I felt tragically sad, unbelievably grateful and incredibly guilty that my child survived yet another did not. It's hard to put words around. I looked back up at Sadie, beaming at me as she learned to plié, and smiled through the no-longer held in tears. I'm sure the instructor thinks I am insane.

I don't know what to do with myself tonight. So, I'm going to go snuggle and give thanks for my beautiful soccer-playing violinist and the prettiest little ballerina ever.  It's the only thing I can think of to do right now. Snuggle and breathe in every moment with them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

This New Life...

It's hard to believe a whole month has gone by since my last post. Life seems to move at warp speed these days. Being a single mom takes so much more time and effort than I ever imagined! I have a whole new respect for my fellow single moms to say the least.

Since the last post, Katie turned 8. EIGHT!!! It's hard to believe. I celebrated with my usual tear-fest over her baby pictures, wishing I could turn back time, or at least reduce the speed at which it goes by. I'm so very proud of her - she is an awesome kid. So kind and compassionate, an awesome little artist, very determined and very, very strong. I think people who are close to her forget how very strong she is, in fact. She has gone through a ton of change in the past year - the loss of her favorite pet and a favorite uncle. A family split apart, a grandmother with very grave medical conditions, a grandfather who took a near fatal fall, a daddy who isn't around as much, a new school, a mommy who works outside of the home for long hours. That's a LOT of change in a short period of time, and while others think she's not doing well, I think she's doing fantastic. It's ok to cry, it's ok to question and it's ok to be angry - all natural parts of dealing with change. I still worry and fret over what this all does to her self esteem and self worth, but I think she's getting there and accepting more of it all with every passing day.

To celebrate Sadie's 4th birthday and Katie's 8th, the girls chose to once again have a joint birthday party. This one was held in our home (Dear God!) with more than 20 kids present. I lost track at 20... it's kind of counting guppies in a tank - they never stop moving and they're constantly moving from group to group so you can't get an accurate head count. It was fun for both the kids and adults I think, though as I do every year, I swear not to have another party in the home of that magnitude. Ah well, at least I didn't bring in live animals this year.

The girls' schedules this year are a bit insane. Katie has violin two nights a week, soccer one night and every Saturday and Sadie starts "bawaway" (ballet) tomorrow. Never a dull moment around here. I miss the younger years when activities did not take over our evenings. Our nights off are spent on homework, playing outside with the neighbors and the occassional walk to the park.

In other news, I've started to date a little bit. It's so weird to be back 'out there' at 30-something, and as a single mom. I'm enjoying it thus far, though there are no real connections to be found yet. It's more an opportunity to get out and meet new people, see new places, stuff like that. And it helps me, of all things, to put a focus back on what I want out of life, where I want to go next and who I might be interested in getting there with. If nothing else, I get some great stories out of the experiences, and it's a cheap form of therapy every time you meet a new person and get to tell your life story.

So, that's life in a nutshell at the moment. Work is going really well (I love it!), the girls are adjusting, once again to the latest change that the new school year brought about, I'm adjusting to single mommydom and life keeps ticking by. I'm working on some plans for a (gasp!) vacation early next year I hope - it's long overdue for the girls and I to get away and regroup. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Here Comes the Sun

What an amazing weekend. My kids and I are so blessed to have so many people we love in our lives - their birthday party was this weekend and our house and yard were overflowing with friends and family. So. Much. Fun.

Since my post a few weeks ago when I felt like I was at rock bottom, so much has changed. My position at work transitioned - tonight I got awesome feedback from the client to top off the already perfect afternoon. The girls are back in school and we're on a schedule, which brings peace and process to our home that we had all been craving since the constant turmoil and change that persisted throughout this past summer. And it's fall. I smell the football in the air, and it's my absolute favorite time of the year. The girls birthdays have been a wonderful reminder of how truly blessed we are - healthy kids, happy home, and love abound.

So, I didn't quite get to the drugs. And I may still need them - I'm not counting it out. But I definitely feel like I'm starting to come out of the dark and it feels wonderful.

I'm dying to tell all about the girls birthdays, but will save it for another night when I have more energy and time to sum up their last year with any sort of justice. Suffice it to say, they're happy campers tonight, too.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Like a Good Book...

I love it when I read a really good book with an author’s voice and thoughts I identify with. In fact, if the author really touches a chord I find myself thinking in similar prose; analyzing my surroundings and every day events in that ‘voice.’

It’s not just books it happens with. My friends often rub off on me in that manner. Especially my gay guy friends who have the ‘valley boy’ lingo. Man, that sticks like glue to my brain.  I digress.

Anyway, my neighbor is also a single mom, going through some of the same angst and soul searching I find myself in. We went on a long walk the other day, talking about our shared hopes, spiritual longings, heartbreak and fears. And, of course, bitching about the Ex's. That is what we do best. As we got back to our cul-de-sac, she said, “Kim, you have GOT to read this book. It’s so you.” She went inside and came out with Eat Pray Love.

Now, a disclaimer. I had no intention of reading this book. I’d heard just enough about it to turn me off – it’s about a woman’s quest for God across countries, divorce and (the final nail in the coffin to turn me off to reading this it) it's now a major motion feature. Bah. I have no need for that drivel.

But, I was out of good books. So I opened it up Thursday evening and each night since, have anxiously awaited bed time so that I can read. I feel like the author is putting words to the feelings I didn’t even know existed, but when I read them I think, damn – THAT’s how I feel, I just hadn't gone deep enough to realize the source of my anxiety and sadness. Somehow, I just could not let myself recognize my sadness lately. I knew it was there, eating at me, screaming to be recognized, but I had convinced myself that, if I acknowledged it, I would fall to too pieces like those "spilt milk" puzzles that are all white with no edges and damn near impossible to ever put back together. And I just don't have time for that kind of jigsaw puzzle right now.

But as I got deeper in the book, I began to recognize more and more of myself. The author talks a lot about depression – even giving it a name and persona, coupling it with its old buddy loneliness. Oh, how I loved that imagery. I read that chapter twice in a row. I could so identify with those characters - they are frequents at my home lately. 

The book combined with other catalysts this weekend that led me to a moment of self-discovery. On Friday night a friend told me that I don't "sparkle" like I used to - a simple, harmless thing to say, one expressed truly out of concern, but it cut me to the core. On Saturday another friend mentioned that she’d been worried about me. I’ve fallen off the blogosphere, her way of keeping a barometer on my life. And she’s right. When I stop writing, I’m brooding. And not in a good way at all.

Combine all of this, and when Sunday morning came I awoke feeling bruised and battered, desperate for help that I, for so long, have tried to deny needing. My immediate reaction was not to call a doctor (well, it was Sunday, anyway, so wouldn't have done any good), but to lace up for a run. It helped me to step back and take a look at my life and my general psyche right now. Three miles flew by, and I decided to double my distance, which was really stupid since I only run about twice a week these days, IF that. In mile 4 my knee began to hurt. By mile six I was limping back toward home. And I felt more down than ever. I mean really, can't I make myself better? Can't I run it off, read it off, rationalize it, face it head on and conquer this anxiety, this depression on my own?! My knee yelled back at me that no, unless I wanted to get a knee replacement next time I awake feeling that way, I should not tackle this alone. My heart agreed wholeheartedly (ugh, I had to write it), and offered up a heart attack if I do not address this. Stupid body always trying to undermine me.

I hate depression. I hate to think of myself as being there. I’ve been surrounded in one way or another by loved ones who battle depression and other mental illnesses all my life, and to me, it’s terrifying. Long before the loss of so many people I loved in the recent past, before Sadie’s life-or-death battle at birth, before the end of my marriage I began my own epic battle with it. It really, I think, started even before high school, but was most prevalent in the year following, and never quite went away.

The worst of it came shortly after having Katie, when I found myself alone in a college town with an infant, a spouse who completely shut down, two jobs and a full-time student schedule. At that time, I felt a tightening in my chest, something that felt like a heart attack I thought. I could barely breathe. The pain was stabbing through my chest and abdomen when the episodes occurred. It was scary, and these feelings began to happen more and more frequently, at odd times. Usually when I laid down to sleep for 2-3 hours before starting the next day. When the searing pains and lack of breath were not present, I would have argued that I was content (perhaps more content than I am now?) in life. But when they came they would last anywhere from 5 minutes to 45, and they were excruciating. It took EKGs, a few scans and blood work before I landed in a psychologists office with the diagnosis of panic attacks. She told me in the very first session that I suffer from ‘generalized anxiety disorder.’ She suggested medication. I vehemently refused, but did agree to follow up appointments to work through the condition without the aid of drugs.

I left the office and armed myself with self-help books, vitamins and began a regimented diet and exercise routine. Within two months I had a handle on the panic attacks – I’d lost weight, I felt better, I was stronger and I was much more knowledgeable about GAD, postpartum depression (my self diagnosis that the psychologist never agreed on – she said it was current-marriage-in-crisis syndrome instead), panic attacks and self reflection. But I still couldn’t get past those blues. So I finally caved and took the minimum amount of medication to help me get over the edge. And it worked. I was calm and cool and... well, numb. And to be numb meant not to hurt. So that felt good.

But I was scared of the meds. They aren't natural, and the lack of emotions began to wig me out (the psychologist rationalized this as 'leveling my emotions.' Hardly human in my book - we have emotions for a very good reason, and sometimes, they should not be kept in such close check). I didn't like being numb and merely 'content.' I wanted to be 'happy.' So six months after starting the regemine of drugs, I weaned myself. I had been much faster to wean from the psychologist (who took less than three months. I still remember the last time I saw her, when she said she felt she was no longer of value to me because my marriage SHOULD fail because it was so unhealthy for me, and that if I was unwilling to admit it, then she could not help. How dare her, I thought?! Now I'd like to go back and hug her...). A year later I had even weaned myself from the self-help books, and I could manage a panic attack if I felt it coming - I'd address it, have a little mental conversation and tell it to f* off, which was really quite effective. And I was OK. I was better, really.

Fast forward about two years, and I found myself once again battling the same demons, minus the panic attacks. But the depression was so much worse this time. I was in a new city, again. I’d gained weight, again. My husband was further than ever from me, and the last marriage counselor we had been to analyzed our relationship to be “over the edge, barely clinging. There’s little, if any, hope of saving it, and to be honest, at this point, it’s best to just let go.” We both left in a huff. But we both knew he was right, even though we couldn't admit it then. 

Anyway, once again, the anxiety returned, but it chose this time to manifest itself in new ways – obsession with work, finding the right school for Katie, focusing on Sadie's survival, a crusade to help other families 'victimized' by heart disease, etc. Anything, ANYTHING to avoid paying attention to what was hurting. Anything to avoid the emptiness inside. Anything to avoid going back to a shrink’s office and getting on drugs.

A year later and I was back in on a chaise lounge, eager for a new 'script to make me numb. I wanted a magic pill to make it all better. I wanted a pill that would make me happy since I couldn’t seem to find happiness anywhere I turned. I took them for all the wrong reasons, which the shrink (who was fantastic) quickly realized and worked with me to address. She told me I shouldn't use the drugs as a crux (well, no DUH, that's why I avoid them until the last minute, I told her) and that numbness was not a state any human belongs in. And I agreed. I didn't want to be on them either. And talking to her made me feel better, gain some new self-help skills, and again, I was quickly off of them, off my need for her, back 'on track.' Kind of. 

Fast forward two years to now, post failed marriage, post post-partum years, post allowable grieving period for losses of loved ones.  I find myself thinking, more often than not, if I just get through this hurtle I’ll be happy. If I can jump through that hoop, and the stars are aligned, and my winning lotto numbers come up that day (impossible, since I don’t play), then, THEN, I will feel better. I’ll be happier. I’ll be a better mom.I don't need drugs to get there. I'm meditating twice daily using the '10 minute miracle' method. I'm breathing, I'm eating organic lunches (mostly), I'm reading new self-help books (and apparently this self-help autobiography that spawned this post). I'm trying to focus on my kids, the great new things about my job, the lawn, the wide-open future ahead that I get to mold into whatever I want it to be.

Yet I'm sad. And anxious. And lonely. And I want to be whole again.

Truth is, I don’t know what whole is. I’ve been pieces and parts of everyone else for so long (at my own choice of course) that I have a hard time being alone and thinking about what I want, who I am, what I want to do next. Instead, I spend most of my time devising ways I can be so busy that I won’t be annoyed with my dwindling self. Kids! Bills! Lawn! Businesses! Volunteering! Friends, family, cleaning! But please, please don't make me sit alone for an hour with nothing to do, please!

Some of that goes with the territory – when you’re a mom, everything else comes second to your children. I get that, and I embrace it. But a big chunk of that is mental, and of that chunk a lion’s share can be directly my nemeses Anxiety and Depression. Screw them and the horse they rode in on.

It’s so hard to admit that there’s something broken within you. At least for me. I hate talking about it. I hate thinking about it. I hate that I can’t control it on my own. But I also don’t want to be unhealthy for my girls, unhealthy for myself.

My friends, bless their hearts, have not abandoned me during these times of turmoil. Well, a few have, or I have abandoned them perhaps, but they were peripheral. My core base of friends have held me up and supported me, bringing me soup when I’m sick, cheery messages, shared bottles of wine, commiserated and laughed over my recent misfortunes (some self-brought, others truly the roll of the dice). And I can not even begin to express in words how much they mean to me – actually, most of you that read this ARE my close friends, so to make it more personal, I can’t tell you how much YOU mean to me. And I have to apologize. I know I’m not myself lately.

So there it is - a long ramble about a book that I’ve halfway read that for some reason opened the floodgates I’d been holding barred shut for so long brings me to this – the crux of the post. I think it’s time to look into medication. I don’t think I need the psycho babble (though I did enjoy the mandala-drawing hypnotherapist I saw for a while a few years back and may seek him out if nothing else than for art therapy). I can easily identify my problems and potential solutions (non-drug) that will help me. But when you've gone this far off kilter, sometimes, I think, you need something to help you push the reset button. 

I hate the idea of drugs. I’m scared of them, actually, after the last round with Cymbalta, which left me in cold sweats for three weeks with migraine-like headaches when I was weaned off. But I also realize that I have to be better at life. I have to take control again – because I’m getting swept up in the hurricane of change without an achor, buffeting from one drama to the next, soaking up unnecessary rains of pain and sadness and spilling it, despite my best intention, on others along the way.

Even as I write this, as ashamed as I am to admit my shortcoming and need for help, I can feel the storm turning back toward sea. It’s time to dry off, pick up the pieces of my life and move to higher land.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

An overdue, very fun, relaxing weekend!

I have to admit - I was really looking forward to the every-other weekend off from parenting thing when I first moved out. It was going to be AWESOME to have free weekends. Well, I quickly found out, not so much. The girls miss being home, I miss having them with me and I'm just, well, LAME. I don't want to do much but clean, work and unpack these days. If they're here, it forces me to stop and play.

This weekend was a fun reprieve from the go-go-go lifestyle we've been having. Yeah, I still worked, but only a few hours today. I had some one-on-one time with each girl on Saturday, which was a total blast - to multiple parks with Sadie (my back is killing, though, she was tiring and out of breath a lot out there in that humidity), and to get a (gasp) cell phone for Katie. That's another story for another day. Don't judge. Shut up.

We had a great time with Kerinda and Spencer, who chilled with us a good portion of the weekend. We went to an inflatable-jumpy place with friends, had a houseful of new friends over Friday night for an impromptu cul-de-sac party, spent a couple hours at the salon today to get new cuts and ate out way too much. It was fantastic. I feel so much more... me. Yay for free time with my babies!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Single Parenthood

I think I'm finally coming to terms with it. Well, kind of. I'm starting to assimilate at least.

Katie and Sadie, on the other hand... not so much. The single parent thing was fun for them the first month. New house. New friends. New lives. Less drama.

And then came Carl's death. Sadness. New dog. New drama.

And my new job.  Long hours. Stressed out mommy. Less quality time.

And less time with their dad.

So while I've begun to settle out and find a routine, they're only now feeling the full ramifications of divorce. They see their dad a few hours every week and every other weekend. They have less time with me than ever before. And, to be honest, I'm not half the mom I was. I'm tired, I'm stressed and I've forgotten how to play. Well, mostly.

Last week I really noticed it the most. One day I looked over at their pictures on my desk and realized I hate where I have let life lead me. I missed my babies. And it was everything in my power not to walk out of the office at 1:30 that day to get home to them. But I stayed.

On the way home I was in full meltdown mode. My life, I realized, was never going to be a white picket fence, fixing dinner for the family, hanging laundry on the clothes line with countless daytime hours with my children. And it's fine. I know. But it's not what I envisioned. This is not what I pictured at all. And I have to allow myself time to adjust, to let go of old dreams and to refocus and find new ones.

And with that last sniffle, I decided to start reclaiming and quit the pity party. If I spend the few hours I have with them drowning in regret and sadness, then I'll miss out on the best parts of now. And I feel like I've been missing out on a lot lately thanks to my pity party. So, pity party is officially over.

I'm a single mom. I work full time and then some. I have an insane schedule and demands. And I'm going to kick butt as a mom despite all of that. Time to put the big girl pants on and make the most of the time we have together.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My New Life

I should be settling in about now, adjusting to my new life. The new dog. The new house, new yard, new job. But to say I'm settled would be a bit, well, overboard.

I am starting to get more familiar though. I recognize a few faces at work. I finally located the box with my important files. I'm starting to set into a daily routine as a single mom.

My new life, in reality, resembles nothing of the old one beyond the same friends, family, kids and one of the dogs. Everything else is very different. While it's too early to feel totally comfortable in it, I feel better, despite the stress of the past couple of months. I feel more like, well, me I guess. I've gone without TV, conveniences such as trash service or an evening sitter, and while I miss those things, they have given me time to find a bit more of myself. And work harder than ever. But the work is somewhat gratifying - it means I'm on my way, I'm learning, I'm emerging from the shell of a life I've been living for so long.

In the past month I've done a few things I haven't done in years. Sketched a picture. Rode a bike. Ate dinner at midnight, broken out art supplies in anticipation of new projects, sat outside and just looked at the stars. I'm on my way, I think. Now to figure out where it is I'm going...

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

It will get better.

When, I'm not sure. But I'm ready for life to get better. Somewhat easier. Something's gonna give soon. And hopefully it's not my brain.

Another tough, tough day. Another long week of work ahead. A week away next week for more work in Denver, while I try to juggle the other job. Closing two businesses - who'd have thought it to be so stressful? New job? Still on a major learning curve. U. G. H. And don't get me started on the personal numbers I've been through the last month.

I heard it was over 100 today. I had no clue it was hot. I spent my day inside a cube or a business building downtown. I did drive, and I think it was hot, but I was on calls, so really didn't pay attention. I was gone 12 hours, and worked about 18 thus far. I should get in 2 more before calling it quits and gettig up at 5 to do it again. But I think I'll slack off, take the heat for not getting everything done tomorrow and get a few hours of sleep.

Sorry to those I'm ignoring/not responding to/missing. I hope to come up for air again one day soon. I miss you. I miss daylight. I miss laughter and fun. I hope to find it again soon.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Funeral Songs

I've had way too much time this year to contemplate funeral music. And so, to save others the time, here are a few I'd like at my own funeral, which I hope is not for 100 years. In case it's not, here's a head start. None of that Wind Beneath My Wings, Dust in the Wind crap for me.

- Enter Sandman - Metallica - I want my urn to be carried in ceremoniously to that. Hokie Stone optional. Oooh, ooh - an urn made from Hokie stone. There you go. Hopefully I don't go any time soon as this may scare the crap out of my children.

- Spirit in the Sky - Norman Greenbaum - goes nicely with the "mount on wings of eagles" scripture from the Bible.

- My Way - Frank Sinatra - a nice photo tribute piece

- Blackbird - Beatles - because it's my most favorite song ever

- Another One Bites the Dust - Queen - to go out to post-ceremony

- Down in a Hole - Alice in Chains  - as I'm lowered down or scattered wherever.

So there. Easy enough. Now you don't have to spend 10 hours searching the internet for the right songs for me. Not that that is what I've done all night...

Classic rock (late 60s early 70s) songs outside of the norm. Email me if you have suggestions. So far I've got "Long as I can See the Light" by CCR. Need 2 more. I love "Everything I Own" by Bread, or "Can't Cry Hard Enough" by the Williams Brothers (I know, not classic rock, but my God, can't get it out of my head right now), but find them to be too, too sad.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In a Phoenix Phase... again

I've battled with depression in the past. That hopeless feeling you get when you feel you're stuck in a situation you just can't get out of. I haven't dropped to that level yet, but good God, I'm having a rough time lately.

My sister put it into perspective for me this past week in an email. It was hard to look at, but so true. My entire life has changed - 95% from what it was less than six months ago. I'm burning again, and I know there's major rebirth - there's some hard seed deep within that's just beginning to crack open to new possibilities I've never considered. I get that. But philosophy aside, this period of my life sucks. It really, really hurts. And I don't feel like I can take much more. Here's a snippet of the changes:

- Single mom
- New house
- Loss of brother-in-law, who I loved dearly
- Major financial changes
- New job
- New job isn't what I'd hoped for
- Loss of a business, built from a dream
- Loss of steady child care thanks to the loss of the business
- Many, many upset families thanks to said business loss
- New dog, again. A puppy that chews, to boot.
- Health issues
- Closing down the second business
- Failing a client for the first time in my life
- Living in a house starting from scratch. No furniture. No cable. Constantly breaking appliances.
- No place to go to to relax, calm, renew
- Missing out on the time I had with the kids - narrowing from 5+ hours to 2 hours a day of free time with them, IF I'm lucky. I'm half the mom I was. Hell, not even half. I'm tired, I'm cranky and I don't friggin feel like playing Barbies. Sheesh.

And so, yeah, I'm down in the dumps. I haven't been out with any of my friends in over a month. I haven't had my regular girlfriends over on our regular nights, who I never realized made me so much saner. I've made plans, but every time I do, I end up having the kids, dealing with a crisis or emergency or working a trillion hours that won't allow me to get away for a moment of peace.

So, I guess it's just a funk. My temptation is to go to the doctor, to ask for something to make it all feel better. To find an easier way out than getting up each day, battling through it, coming home defeated. But I won't. Not yet. Given that long laundry list of changes, i think it would be abnormal not to feel unhappy, unsatisfied, forlorn. I will get there, and I will mark each day off the calendar until I get to that day where I can once again wake up, knowing I can make it through the day and that it will, indeed, be a better day.

Until then, burning down to ashes, awaiting my reawakening.

Monday, June 21, 2010

He's Gone

Rest in Peace, Carl, free of pain at last.

I love you, brother.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In Awe of the Firefighting Brotherhood

I spent yet another weekend of my year at a hospital, this time with my brother-in-law Carl. For those that know him, he's been battling colon cancer for several years. This weekend, as the cancer moved with brutal force forward, I watched my friend and brother head toward the other side. He's still with us, but each breath takes him closer.

I was not alone in the vigil, of course. Carl's wonderful girlfriend, Cindy, and my sister-in-law, Kim were there right along side me. And they are still there, and I'm here at home, feeling awful that I had to leave, but knowing I had to come back to my babies and get to the new job tomorrow. Time, it seems, waits for no one.

Many others were there, too - family coming by to say goodbye for hours on end, friends galore. But what stood out to me, the most, was the brotherhood of firemen that stood by Carl's side, easing his way, easing his mind, sharing memories and openly crying over the impending loss of their colleague and friend. So many of them were trained by Carl, motivated by him, even saved by him. And they told their stories - ones full of oohs and aahhhs, others with lots of laughter, some that brought tears. I can not describe the beauty they brought to the desert landscape of death. They brought the story of Carl to life, and I know they will continue to do so for years to come for family and friends, for each other and for rookies who will doubtlessly be subjected to many of Carl's famed pranks.

The men and women of the fire departments of Dale City, DC, Occoquan/Woodbridge/Lakeridge (OWL), Fairfax and Manassas were all there to offer comfort in so many ways. Some came and simply quietly sat for hours at a time. Others brought goodies to share. Many spent time alone with Carl, saying goodbye. And many, many, many are planning his departure services, raising money to ensure his children are well cared for, ensuring all is in order when he passes and easing the burdens usually bore by immediate family alone. There is no better gift nor support that could be asked for.

Brotherhood can not be a more apt term for those in the fire departments that serve our communities. Thank you, brave men and women. For watching over your communities, for saving lives, for what you mean to Carl, and for what you mean to all of us who Carl is leaving behind. You. Are. Wonderful.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Survival Mode

A lot of times I write a blog, only to delete it all and post some sunshine covered piece of crap that doesn't really represent what is happening inside. Not tonight. I don't keep a journal anymore due to lack of time, so this is the only record I have of daily life, so I'm laying it out straight. Life, right now, is not easy.

The new job has required killer hours so far. I worked more than 70 last week, with more to go today. So. Very. Tired. I love the job, and the people, but hate the hours required to get my job done. I'm sure it will reduce as I get into things, but for now, I feel like I'm drinking from a fire hose during the days, and working at night to make up for my lack of productivity from that day.

And I'm extremely emotional right now. Closing down the school is harder than I imagined. I have no place for Sadie yet, and I'm heartbroken that the school I built for her - quite literally - will not be her base through first grade as planned. I'm really angry about it too - at myself for not seeing the writing on the wall with one staff member, and at that staff member. It sucks that one stupid incident and the lack of one's ability to control emotions resulted in a $40k loss for me over a two year period. Not to mention the hours I put in. And never, once, did I get paid. Not once. So I'm bitter, sad, melancholy and frustrated. That just kicked in last week, when I began to inventory the materials I love so much to sell off to pay back parent deposits. This. Sucks. I feel like I'm selling part of my heart.

I'm also struggling to keep up with the remaining client with my company, and not doing well with it. I brought in someone to take over, but it's not an easy transition, and many things fell between the cracks in the last few months. They haven't paid me in two months, so it's hard to want to work for them in my spare time after putting in 60+ hours on a job that pays.

And the transition to being able to choose my own hours has been a difficult one. While I'd love to just go to the office 9-5 or whatever, my days are never like that. I go from 8-7, or 7-6, or whatnot and that cuts into those precious hours with my girls that are oh-so important now that I'm a single mom. I hate that I see them a couple of hours a day. I have close to soul custody in terms of time with them, and it's very, very hard to be perky with the hours I'm putting in. I feel like I'm failing them, too.

It all makes me feel like the last 7 years were a waste. How hard I worked to be able to be with them, only to end up working ridiculously long hours away from them. How hard I tried to make that school work, so that Sadie could have the education Katie was afforded. I'm tired of working like a dog, and missing out at the bone at the end of the day.

So yeah, I try to keep it light and keep that smile on. But to be honest, between working a million hours, failing with the businesses and finding myself in the toughest financial situation I have ever imagined (hello ramen noodles, old friend), it's been a rough few weeks. I can't even come home and crash on the couch in front of the TV - I have no couch, no cable. I know, I know. So many have it worse than I do. I get it. And I know I just have to keep my nose to the grindstone and this will pass, and shortly for that matter. But that doesn't make the current sting of the mornings, when I wake up from 3-4 hours of sleep to do it all again any easier.  This is definitely one of the hardest times in my life. By far.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Not my picture, but too relevant not to share.

I'm working a bajillion hours a week, so will post when I have room to think again.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The New Gig

I've officially completed my first week at the new job, and have to say, so far, so good. I feel like I'm on a steep learning curve - especially in terms of health care reform, which is what my current contract covers - but I also feel like I'm already starting to get into a groove with the new schedule. I like the people I work with, and am loving all the West End has to offer for lunch options. Yum. Gotta get back to running before that takes its toll. Especially Jimmy Johns. Man, those subs are addicting...

I digress. So anyway, I'm loving the new job, and having an ok time transitioning from working flexible hours to doing the 8 to 5 kind of gig. I miss seeing the girls as much, but feel like our evenings are a nice smooth pattern, and we're all very happy in the new neighborhood.

This weekend I had a house full of kids (yet still, no furniture... which actually works out well when you have 7 kids in a house). The neighborhood kids come and go from yard to yard and house to house, and the parents all seem great so far. I didn't get much accomplished on my cleaning agenda, but it was a fun, relaxing weekend full of kids all the same.

So, things continue, for the most part, on the up and up. I've had some sadness crop up here and there for external reasons, but feel fairly peaceful with life at the moment and the direction I'm heading. Now to figure out what to do with the kids for the summer!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Sac

So far since moving into the new house I've counted 4 seven-year olds, 2 4-year olds and, I don't know, about three or four 2-year olds that live in our cul de sac. The kids can't wait to get home from school because they are sure to be met by at least 2-3 eager friends just waiting to play. Katie's suddenly interested in learning how to ride her two-wheel bike she's always been fearful of, Sadie is enjoying the dogs that live in every single yard around the sac and I... well, I'm just trying to adjust. I love the friendliness of the neighborhood. I love the stories of the previous tenants where I lived (apparently they had 2 repos, 4 dogs and a good knock-out drag-down fight at least weekly - the neighbors were disappointed to find I was "normal" and ruined their Friday night entertainment). But wow, overwhelming after always being a fairly private person. Kids are at the door, in the yard, on the driveway, EVERY WHERE.

I'd been cordial thus far, but frankly, haven't felt very talkative this week. A lot has been going on and, dammit, I'm sick, I'm tired and I just need a minute to breathe/adjust. But tonight I couldn't resist the draw of "Thursday Ice Cream night" and headed out to the sac where a chair awaited my arrival. The zillion kids ran around the sac, laying in the middle of the street to outline each other in chalk. The adults meanwhile sit on the sidelines, chatting about lawns (or in my case, making fun of the weeds and overgrown trees), new beverage concoctions and sipping cool drinks while awaiting the arrival of The Ice Cream Guy. Not to be confused with The Ice Cream Man. This dude is definitely a Guy they tell me. Turns out it's my same Ice Cream Guy from the old house (and yeah, he's a nice guy).

 The neighbors are great, everyone's already offering to help out with this, that and the other and I feel at home, but I also feel that the privacy isn't what I'm used to. But the shear joy I see in the girls right now in the midst of all this change, well, it's worth it. They are already planning sleep overs, play dates, whose yard to meet at and how to use morse code from bedroom windows.

I am feeling good in the new house, and feel "home" already even though the boxes aren't unpacked and I cringe at the brass gleaming at me from every door fixture and cabinet. I've been down on the floors at night scrubbing baseboards with a toothbrush after putting in about 15 hours a day of work right now, but I feel at peace. And that, at the moment, is all I need.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Good News Round 2

I've officially moved! I ended up with a super nasty virus this weekend, but thanks to friends and family was able to get almost everything moved, the girls rooms set up and my sister and her fiance unpacked and put away the kitchen. My house is cute, but furniture bare at the moment. Can't wait to fill it in as we go with all the stuff I like. Yay me!

And on to the next round of good news - I've officially accepted an offer with a consulting company in our area. That's right folks, no more work-at-home three-trillion hours a week. Hello benefits, daily interaction with adults and a job I just can't wait to start! I'll be working on a health care reform strategy-based project, and can't wait to roll up my sleeves and get dirty - it's right up my ally.

So many changes so quickly. Last week there were definitely some bumps along the way that I can't mention but suffice it to say, I was reminded that small business ownership isn't all it's cracked up to me. I'll take it as a sign that I'm moving in the right direction - onward and upward!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Good News Round 1

So, time to spill some of the beans - Saturday the girls and I are moving! I found a cute little house in a subdivision literally crawling with children. The girls are excited, and the boxes are piling up.

Add to that that I just returned from a fantastic trip. I don't usually say that about my work travels, but this one was lots of fun. I enjoyed visiting with my clients (many of whom I've known for years), had some down time to check out local sites (well, it was Minneapolis, so there wasn't TOO much to check out, but I did tool around Mall of America today), hours of conversation with an old college friend who happened to be in town and ended it all by having a "me" day to kick back and really relax for the first time in quite a while. I got on the plane to come home feeling eager to begin the next chapter in this crazy book of life.

I have much more good news, but don't want to jinx it, so will fill it in as we go. Hooray for new beginnings!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Love Grows!

Just after informing Katie that her aunt is now engaged, she started gushing about the wedding. And then she told me that she was very excited, because very soon the love would start to grow in Kerinda's uterus, and that then she and Spencer would have a baby.

So she knows what a uterus is, and why it's there. No clue how the baby gets there. And I intend on it staying that way for a few years yet to come.


Talk about the ride of a life time. This week has held it all - excitement, adventure, romance, sickness, disappointment, angst, frustration and countless doors opened I never thought possible. Seriously life, couldn't we take one of these a week, or at least spread them out a bit over each day? My nerves are a bit ragged.

I can't report everything yet, or the changes happening, but there's some exciting stuff going on. Big stuff. Really big. I can't wait to see where I am three months from now.

In the meantime, Sadie's sick. Again. This time with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (or a virus very similar). Poor thing has blisters on the inside of her mouth that spread into her nose and are starting to appear around her lips. I'm to expect them to go to her hands and feet too. She's got a fever and wants nothing more than to be held. Constantly. While I'm trying to juggle two businesses, a sudden onslaught of interviews and packing.

Yes, packing. Like I said. Can't share everything yet, but life is pretty darn exciting at the moment!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

At Long Last...

I'm getting the younger brother I ALWAYS dreamed of having.

Congratulations to Kerinda and Spencer on their engagement! I've been weepy with excitement/anticipation/sheer joy all day long. So happy they found each other, and so thrilled to see the future unfold for them.

I am one happy camper today! :)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Three and A Half Horrors

I have this theory that kids hit the "terribles" at their half-year birthday mark. I think that they gain new levels of independence about that time, but with my kids, every half-birthday marks a major shift in behavior - emotionally, combined with a greater desire for independence from me. Sadie is further proof of the validity of my hypothesis.

I give you, for evidence, my last three weeks with Sadie:

  • The Cupcake Incident. The night before we needed cupcakes for our school St Patty's Day party, the assistant teacher at school got very sick. So, I ended up making last minute cupcakes. At midnight. Until 2 am. I left all 24 of them on the kitchen counter and stove overnight. This was a fatal error. In the morning I found 4 cupcakes. Upon further inspection I found a green child that looked somewhat like Sadie once had and an engorged pit-herd. I counted only 8 cupcake wrappers. The rest have yet to be found. And likely never will be.
  • Hair Cut. Apparently Sadie was tired of waiting for a haircut. So she did her own. Of course she couldn't be like every other child that does this. She took a big chunk of the top, back section of her head. Which means she will be wearing a pony tail for at least 2 years.
  • Potty Fun. Yesterday I got a call from school. It was the preschool teacher. Apparently Sadie had decided to go to the bathroom. While in there, she removed her shirt. And began to dip it in the toilet and drip it around. I asked what I should do. Without hesitation the teacher suggested a new shirt. Ummm, yeah.
  • Morning Rounds. Sadie has once again decided sleeping is for fools. So she wakes around 3. And again, for the day somewhere between 4:30-5:30 each morning. At which time she informs me she's hungry. Starving. So I give her food and go back to bed. She wakes me up 10 minutes later having devoured said food to exclaim she is once again hungry. Starving. So I feed her again, and try to sleep for another 15 minutes before... well, you get the drift.
I've been abnormally angry over her impish endeavors lately. I realize if I step back, I can laugh. It's just hair. It's only cupcakes. The shirt was likely dirty anyway. And we all know sleep is overrated.

Maybe it's the short temper from the stress I'm under (I won't bore you all with details). Maybe I'm just not a perfect mommy (say it isn't so?!?!). Or maybe this kid is driving me batshit with her shenanigans.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

New PR for 10k

64.5. I'm bummed I didn't make my 61 minute goal, but what the heck, it's 7 minutes off of last year. And I'm totally not feeling well this morning, so that may have something to do with it.

Next year's goal - 54.5. Time to kick up the training and sign up for more races!

Mad love sent to the Amos and Reynolds families.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I'm having a hard time wrapping words around all the emotion I feel today. I'll try a bit, but it's not going to be pretty.

Two years ago, almost to the day, Amanda came by to drop off stuff so that I could run in my very first 10K. I'd never run before, but was doing so for another friend's daughter as a fundraiser. It turns out I was too late to register. Amanda encouraged me on, and suggested I take her bib, since she had been feeling bad for so long. When she and her husband stopped by to drop off the running packet I thought, my God, she looks gray. Cancer gray. But still, I never imagined that my childhood friend could be THAT sick.

The next night she collapsed in the shower, and a few days later the leukemia diagnosis was made.

Fast forward to last year, and it was time to run the race again. I remember training the weeks prior, running and crying, pissed as hell my friend was being taken away. Even more angry that she had to leave behind her gorgeous son who was only three. On March 25, one year ago today and two days before the 10K, Amanda passed. And I was devastated. I ran the race, pushing myself like never before and managed to take 10 minutes off of my time, but passing the finish line did not carry the same rush of joy over my accomplishment. It brought a rush of grief. Thankfully, a good friend had run with me, which helped me keep my emotions in check, but when I got to the car, alone? I lost it. Totally lost it.

One more year has passed. It's time for the 10K again, and this year I'm running, of course, to honor Amanda's memory, as well as the memory of a beautiful little girl, Charlotte, who entered and left  life way too briefly. I'm trying to do something Amanda would be proud of - beating my previous times, though I'm still nowhere near the runner she was.

This year running almost hurts more than last year. It provides time to think and feel, and the emotions of everything well up to a point where I feel like I will just fall to pieces. So I try to balance it with memories and snapshots in my head of the 20 years of friendship we shared. I am so thankful she was a part of my life - she was one of those friends that I could go months without talking to and then we could pick right back up where we left off. She could make me laugh and spill my deepest darkest secrets. She was someone I admired and looked up to - her example and friendship taught me how to be an individual and good friend. It is because of her I learned to be comfortable with who I was as a teen, that I ran my first race, that I wrote my first blog entry. And it's her loss that weighs on my heart so heavily today.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I'm on a bit of an emotional roller coaster these past two weeks or so - watching my ex-mother-in-law suffer so is terrible. Horrible. I wouldn't wish what she's going through on my worst enemy. I hate not being able to help - just having to sit and wait.

And the divorce thing is still a stress maker. I can't wait to move on it.

And the businesses. Ugh. The businesses. Some days I want to throw in the towel on them both and hit the reset button.

Yet despite it all, I've had some FANTASTIC days mixed in. Full of friends, my babies, life and spring, oh glorious spring. My forsythia in the back yard are in full bloom, surrounded by daffodils and I go out several times a day just to see them. My God, how I'd missed the sun.

I once read a book that describes this phase as the Phoenix process - a time of death and rebirth, burning to ashes and waking up or opening to a new reality. The author of that book said that you can choose two things - to ignore it and continue to smolder into nothing, or embrace it and take the lesson that life is giving you to create something new, bold and beautiful. That analogy seems all the more poignant at the moment. I'm not sure when the burning stops - it's still in full force, but I'm already beginning to sift through the ashes of what was to figure out what the lesson was. What I can take from it. How I can grow. I'm getting bits of it, but I know I've got a long way to go before this process is over.

"Tears are words the heart can not express"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Other Mother

Most people can't stand their mother-in-laws. But my mother-in-law, well, she's great. She's was a second mother to me for more than 15 years, and even as my marriage to her son ended, has been a steadfast friend and constant in my life.

I love this woman.

Unfortunately, she had a tumor in her head. Which required surgery. Which led to complications, leaving her in critical condition. She's now got clots throughout her body, and I just found out moments ago that there is now a second infection in her head, requiring immediate surgery again. I won't get into details, but it's serious.

Please pray, send good mojo and all of that. This morning has not been a good morning.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Effing Dog

Lucy continues to perform acts that would astound Houdini on a regular basis. Last Saturday I thought it was all over - she'd run away on Friday, and my sister realized that her name tag had fallen off her collar. I thought, darn, even though she had the worst behavioral issues ever, she was a sweet dog. And I figured she'd find her way back.

Sunday passes, no Lucy. I call the pound. She's not there.

Monday I don't call the pound because it's the worst day of my life (ok, not the WORST, I have fantastic friends who made it bearable - thanks Molly and Tina), so I don't feel like playing "Where's Lucy?". Yes, bad pet owner. That night I have a terrible nightmare about her dragging herself back to the house from 295, hind legs mutilated from being hit by a car. I wake up and throw up. My dreams have been insane lately.

Needless to say, I called the pound the minute they opened on Tuesday. They say they don't have her. Again I describe her in explicit detail. The receptionist doesn't care. I explain she's microchipped and ask if they check that. Oh, sure they do, but she doesn't take my microchip number when I ask if she wants it. I say she's got a bright pink, sparkly collar. She puts me on hold five seconds then picks back up - nope, she doesn't think she's there.

On a whim I call again Tuesday afternoon, and this time actually get an animal control officer. She goes back, says she doesn't see the dog I describe. I ask if I can submit a picture and report, because no one has asked me to do that when I've called. She's shocked, takes more info, and then mentions... (drumroll...) there's a part of the website hidden in there that shows photos of all the strays. I follow the 30 links to get there and, first dog on the page? Yep, Lucy. In a pink collar. With her microchip number beside her name. Seriously.

So I drive out to far Hanover to pick her up. She reaks and the conditions are appalling. Concrete floors, no beds, no food and water bowls in the cages. I know they get fed and the county does the best it can - but they view it, quite obviously, as a short stop between return to the owner, release to a rescue group or euthanisation. I walk in holding back tears and identify Lucy. Forty dollars and an hour later she's on her way home with me, once again cowering and submissive peeing all over my car. She was terrified, and I felt HORRIBLE for her.

When I got her home she started to pee everywhere again. The dog pees on my floor about 5 times a day on average. She's also eaten the edge of my remaining untouched couch. (Carly ate the other one). And she wouldn't come to me. I'd call, she'd go the opposite direction. Just like when I got her. I spent extra time yesterday with her all day, trying to re-establish trust and retrain what I'd taught her. Her response? Pee, cower, run against her leash so hard she escaped my grip twice in the back yard. I finally caught her 20 minutes after the first escape attempt and 10 minutes after the second (she hadn't gotten out of the yard yet).

This morning I'm exhausted. Total insomnia all night, for the third night in a row. I just can't sleep at night, but that's another story entirely. Sadie gets up at 5:10 and I give her breakfast, set her on the couch in front of the TV and go back to bed with the alarm set for 20 minutes. Bad parent.

Twenty minutes later I wake up, and Lucy is gone from her crate. A quick search and I ask Sadie where she is. Sadie has let her outside. And she's nowhere to be found. And guess what's on the porch? Her name tag. WTF. How does the dog manage to get it's name tag off? This time I used pliers to make sure the new ring holding it on was tighter than the last.

I. Officially. Give. Up. On. The. Dog.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Davis Family

Three years ago, about this time of year, I was coming up for air a bit from the trauma of Sadie's birth and whirlwind medical circus. Mostly, I was dealing with bills that had accumulated from a million different providers under a trillion different umbrellas. Medical bills suck. But during that time, I found a wonderful resource and friend - Christy - who helped me to navigate the insurance waters. She, quite literally, saved us thousands of dollars. Thousands. I've never been able to repay that kindness - probably never will be able to in any significant way. And I'm not the only person she helped. In our tiny community of CHD folks in Richmond, Christy leads the way through her involvement with Mended Little Hearts and her steadfast support for families in crisis. Her husband, Steve, rounds up men with kids with CHDs for support and friendship. This family is awesome and an inspiration to many. Yes, I have mad love for the Davis family.

Christy's daughter, Sydney, is the reason she became such an advocate in this community. Sydney is three, and has Tricuspid Valve Atresia (TA) ---meaning her tricuspid valve did not form and she essentially has a three chambered heart. You wouldn't know it by looking at her most of the time - she's full of energy and OH SO Cute.

Today Sydney's family got some news that was definitely not what they had hoped for. The answers aren't in yet - a catheterization will provide more information on Thursday, but suffice it to say it has left the family reeling. And everyone in our community who loves Sydney. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers, send good mojo, or whatever you do to send love her family's way. Thursday seems like forever when you need answers yesterday.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What to do?!

So, the job I thought I had in December never worked out. Poo. I've been applying more and more since, convinced I no longer wanted to do the same thing I've been doing for the past seven years. And then the tides once again change.

Sudden renewed interest in the school is bringing visitors every week. And they like what they see. We have a nice start to a waiting list now for next year.

And I got a call today about a potential client.

But I wanted change. I'm so ready for it. So what to do now. Throw everything into the businesses one more time? Break and find something new? I don't know what will happen. The suspense is about to kill me!

PS - Please keep our friend Sydney in your thoughts and prayers. She's three and has HRHS (half a heart, essentially) and has been having a lot of medical issues recently.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Full Range of Emotions

Those who know me know I'm not an overly emotional person. Sure, I'll tear up like any other chick over 'The Notebook,' but when it comes to having a good cry or feeling overly elated, those emotions are few and far between. In fact, when trauma and drama hit, it takes me weeks, sometimes months or years to dig down deep enough to understand how I'm truly feeling.

I've found this week, however, I'm teetering constantly on the edge of emotion. Giddy about the new paths opening up in life - everything's about to change, and I'm ready to open and embrace it. I've been living in the shadows for years, it feels like, and it feels good to begin to feel more a part of the world again.

But there are also some deep, sad emotions that I neglected for too long that have been brewing into a very strong concoction. The last year (well, really, the last few) was a tough one - lots of loss, on many levels. All year I kept plugging through thinking something new, something great was around the corner if I could just keep my chin up. And for the most part, I did. Only when January came did I really begin to think about the path of the previous year. And for some reason it makes me sad to think about it. I'm missing loved ones I lost, I'm missing some small components of life that will never be the same and more than anything, I'm bummed about how much the girls grew and changed without my seeming to have noticed it. It just all happened so fast.

That's not to say the year was not without great things. Of course my girls and the joy they bring me every single day are the most important part of that, but there were also the wonderful  friends that I grew closer to than ever, and who are constants in my life now. I felt surrounded by love and friendship in my worst moments, and was thankful to be able to return the favor. Many of these friends had even worse years than I did. Yet we all find a million reasons to laugh each time we're together. And I renewed a lot of old friendships that had been neglected for years, too. It felt good to reconnect - it's been hard working from home for more than 7 years and feeling so... alone.

The other day I put a quote on FaceBook that sums up where I am right now...

"And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anais Nin

I'm ready to open up and embrace life fully again. So, if I'm suddenly teary around you for what appears to be no reason at all, bear with me. I'm kind of digging these new found emotions - and am trying not to put my feelings at bay any longer. For years I tried to stave them off - like they were a sign of weakness. It's time to let go and bloom.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Bonding with Sadie

It's CHD Awareness Week, which I have been actively involved with for the past three years. This year, however, I did nothing to prepare, and I have to admit, I've let the CHD Blog run far behind in posts. But it's for a good reason. I've been bonding with the very reason that brought me into the nightmare world of CHD.

Having a baby you can't hold in the early days has a huge impact on your ability to bond. Ask any parent of a premie who's hospitalized a long time, or anyone who has a child with a chronic, life threatening illness in the early days. Sadie missed out on those early caresses - I couldn't touch her for more than a week beyond brushing a fingertip across her hair without her heart racing. I didn't hold her until she was almost three weeks old. She could not tolerate touch, really, for months, unless she was bundled tightly to minimize it, and bounced to draw her attention away from the fact she was being held. It's difficult to bond under those circumstances.

And that's part of the reason I have been such a 'warrior' about Congenital Heart Defect Awareness. I felt so robbed. If she had been diagnosed, as she SHOULD HAVE been prior to birth, I wouldn't have lost as many days as she stabilized. I have felt that the lack of knowledge, the lack of simple tests, had cost me the bond with my baby. And I was pissed about it. And when I get pissed, I take action to make changes. I don't know what caused this to be my genetic makeup, but it's what happens when I'm faced with something I can't understand, or I think is wrong, or I feel I can make better.

I always felt so awful about not having that special bond with Sadie that I had with Katie in her early years. I craved those moments I'd had with Katie as a newborn - when she'd gaze up from nursing into my eyes and just stare. How she'd snuggle into me and fall fast asleep. How she smiled in those early weeks. With Sadie, it just didn't happen. Every day was a battle. I was, to be honest, disappointed. Let down. Sad.

That's not to say I don't love Sadie more than I can express. I love her so very, very much - coming so close to losing someone makes you realize how much you want them to be in your life. I would content myself with watching her sleep (when she did). Time marched on, and month by month she became a little easier to deal with - allowing me to touch her without crying. Eventually making eye contact. Hugging. Kissing. She became a fairly normal toddler - full of moxy, highly temperamental, but funny and sweet. Still, we didn't have "that" bond.

All of a sudden, three and a half years later, it has finally happened. In fact, I can almost name the moment. We went out on our first mommy-daughter date to the movies a month or two ago, and we sat. We chatted. And the communication began to grow. Now she's attached to my hip (literally, she's sitting her on the couch beside me, on my hip as I type), snuggling constantly and telling me how much she loves me a hundred times a day. And each time I tear up a little bit, so thankful for these moments that were so long in coming.

As for CHD Awareness, I will continue to promote the need for better testing - simple tests can save lives, and maybe even just one mom can have more of a bond with their baby than I was able to have. So I'll champion it. But I won't be putting the hours into it this year. It is time for me to step back and be thankful. To hang up the gloves I've had to keep on to fight for so long for Sadie, and just enjoy her and revel in my new found bond.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Worst. Dog. Ever.

I don't know what decision process I used when I decided that we should have a new animal in our house. After all, we have a plethora of fish and a Pitbull-German Shepherd mix that take up a large portion of our tiny Cape Cod. But Carly (the German PitHerd) was so sad after Darla passed, I just felt bad. She moped. She quit playing. She hated going outside alone. And so I looked. And looked. And looked for the right dog. As I looked I came to realize why I couldn't find the right dog. None of them were Darla. And man, I missed Darla. She was such a great dog. I loved how her tail was always wagging, up until the very end. I loved how she loved everyone. I loved her love grunts, her playful spirit, her gentle ways with the girls. She was the best dog ever, and I finally realized I'd never find a replacement for that.

So, I finally caved when I came across a hound rescue. She had long ears and sad eyes, much like Darla, but the semblance stopped there. This new dog was timid, submissive, clearly had been abused and/or neglected and was big and skinny. I liked her ok, but frankly, wasn't sold when I met her. We came home and talked about it, and Sadie wasn't sold either. But for some reason, we ended up going back the next day to get her.

Since coming home we discovered that the new dog, which we named Lucy after a Beatles song (the stars were shining when we met her), is in fact an American Foxhound. Apparently a full breed. Which means she'll be big, she isn't a house dog and she's hard to train. In fact, here's the description I found on a breed site.

This breed can be difficult to housebreak. Be aware, the American Foxhound will take off after an interesting scent if they get a chance. They like to bay and have a melodious bark, so much so, in fact, that its tones have been used in popular songs. Foxhounds don't always make good house pets, due to their history as outdoor pack kennel hounds. If you are looking for a pet, whom you are not going to take hunting, try show lines rather than field types. 

Of course I had no idea she was a Foxhound. In fact, I didn't know what a Foxhound was, to be honest. I only read this after two weeks of absolute hell with the new dog. She pees indoors at least 3 times a day. She escapes and runs for miles every chance she gets. She can jump a 6' privacy fence. She eats and drinks nonstop. She will not come when called. In fact, she runs in the opposite direction as fast as she can - and she is F.A.S.T. I resorted to buying an aerial run line for her to keep her in the yard. She resorted in chewing through her harness and escaping, chewing through the metal wire braided tether and escaping, or baying at the top of her lungs until my neighbors were yelling at her and I was ready to beat her to death. Not that I'd really hurt her. But the thought definitely crossed my mind more than once this past month.

Just what I needed during this time of financial stress, emotional upheaval and change. A stupid dog that doesn't listen and destroys my home. She's about to push me over the edge. So much so that I ended up calling the SPCA to see if I could surrender her or get some help with doggie rehab. They gave me great literature and guidance, and dropped the bomb - they think she is a feral dog. Her submissive behavior, fear of men, lack of social skills with humans and overall bad behavior are all signs of a dog that has not been raised by humans. Coupled with her breed's lack of "home manners" it's the perfect storm for a bad dog outcome. Awesome.

So I have a feral hound that is going to be twice the size of what I had thought I was getting. She's younger than we thought (5 months or so), which is good - because she may be trainable, but bad because we aren't even CLOSE to the conclusion of the chewing stage. Today, for example, it was one of my favorite childhood stuffed animals the girls left out, one slipper, a hat and a glove. Oh, and another gigantic hole in her doggie bed. She rivals John Grogan's infamous Marley.

I'm giving this animal two weeks, using the SPCA guidelines and assistance for training. She's being crated whenever she's in the house and not under my direct attention. She's being walked on a leash about eight times a day. I'm running her with Carly 2-3 times a day. We're going through a million treats as we work on the simple commands, "come," "sit" and "go to your crate." She's taking hours of my day that I didn't have to begin with.

But, I did discover she gives love grunts (gives an ooooumph when you hug her and leans into you). And she's extremely gentle and loves children. She loves to cuddle. Much like my dear departed Darla. It's the only reason she's getting another chance.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I'm not supposed to talk about it...

I'm close to the final stages of divorce, but I'm not supposed to talk about it. I guess some people who read this (hard to imagine there are many left as infrequently as I post) are upset about it, or found out through the blog instead of being told. Or that it shouldn't be shared with the public. But I'm tired of censoring myself.

Tonight I had dinner with another single friend. I desperately wanted to ask what it's like on the other side. On the 'recovery' end of it all. Granted his situation is entirely different then mine, but I wonder. I'm not ready for dating, even if everything is finalized with the divorce in the next few months as hoped. But I'm starting to get those pangs of loneliness. Sometimes the pangs make me remember I'm alive, I'm still a woman and I have (ahem) needs. But other times they're a bit deeper. I'm scared of being a single mom of two girls. I don't take the responsibility lightly. But I'm ready.

The holding pattern right now is what's driving me insane. I feel like my entire life is on hold.

Career - have two businesses. Bored with one, can't make a profit off of the other. Found an interesting job, thought I had it, only to find out it was never there to begin with. Ready to go back to working outside of the home and dropping the 80 hour weeks down to something more normal, yet not really wanting to miss those small moments I can steal with the kids once and a while during the days.

Love - marriage is over.  Living in the same house with the 'ex' because financially it's the most logical thing. Hating every minute of it. Wondering if I will ever find love. Wondering if I will ever trust enough to fall for someone if I do find it. Wondering if my "irrational" decision to move in the next week if the situation doesn't change will ruin the children.

Education - had hoped to go back to school this year. Not happening. Not sure when and if it can happen. But need that masters degree to get to the 'next' level.

Finances - yowza. The start of this year has been a wake up call personally. Sure, you hear about he economy all the time, but now... well, now it's REALLY hit home. Really, really.

So there. I shared entirely too much personal poo with total strangers (and many friends, too, I know!) on mass media. And strangely enough, my angst is slightly relieved...

Monday, January 18, 2010

One of my favorite days. Ever.

Nothing makes you appreciate your own children more than after the loss of another's child. I've been mourning Charlotte's loss for some time now, even before she was gone. Yet I felt shut away from the girls. Almost guilty for loving on them, when my friends' child was dying. I know that makes no sense - especially since Charlotte's father's instructions to me every time I saw him was to "hug your babies" but it was just hard to think of how healthy they were, how unfair it was to the Reynolds. But I'm moving on.

The memorial was absolutely beautiful. Thanks to all my friends who helped out with it, donated or were there for me to commiserate with. I love you all, and the Reynolds thank you too.

The service was so touching. I've been singing "I'll fly away," gospel-style for the last few days. It ended with "Let's go fly a kite!" as we headed out to the balloon release (eco-friendly ones of course). It was such a beautiful site, and was a wonderful act of letting go. The reception actually went well, even though we crammed 700 people in a space for 250. The bands were hopping, there was laughter and tears, hugs and friends galore. I even ran into some old high school chums I hadn't seen in years, which was a bonus boost. I felt a great sense of closure - not necessarily for me, but as a collective group. And I am in awe of the Ashland community. That little town truly is the "Center of the Universe." I'm proud to have called it home during my high school years.

But to be honest, I was so busy preparing, obsessing about making it all right, that I'd neglected my babies all week. Yesterday I crashed and burned - a complete pajama day, lounging on the couch, finally showering in the late afternoon and snuggling with the girls all day long. It was bliss to be so lazy (though I did feel very guilty).

Today was back to business. Thankfully it was a school holiday, so I had a fantastic day with the girls doing everything they could possibly want - breakfast at McDonald's playland, shopping for new Schleich animals, playing with said Schleich animals, playing outside, going to the park, making home made pizzas together (my white pizza is the BOMB!) and just relishing the little moments with them. The sun was out, it was a glorious 58 degrees and I felt alive and happy like I haven't felt in weeks. My God I missed my girls. And the sun.

I had the most awesome time with the kids. I laughed at Sadie running from spot to spot in the volley ball court to make sand angels. I had a long talk with Katie about Martin Luther King Jr and his impact. (She brought it up - this morning she told me she wanted to make MLK's wish come true for his birthday and she was going to be kind to every person and treat everyone the same no matter who they were, where they came from or what they looked like. Atta girl!). I teared up when the girls took turns shouting from the playground mountain climbing rock "I love you Mommy!" at the top of their lungs. I was just plain and utterly happy today.

So, I'm ready to embark on the next adventure in life, and where ever it leads. I will never forget the lessons taught by Charlotte and her brave parents. I will forever be changed by this experience in living and dying, and I am the better for have being graced by being a part of the conclusion of Charlotte's life. I would give anything to have learned in a different way, but am thankful for the lesson none the less.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Memorial

I realized I never posted much about the memorial service. Many friends have been asking how that went, how it worked and whatnot. And so, here you have it.

The family asked my friend Meredith and I to plan the reception end of the memorial. We wanted to make it extra special, to put a smile on the face of everyone as they walked in and revive a warm memory of Charlotte in their hearts. We covered the room in butterfly art donated by local children, created a butterfly chandaler to hang over a giant chocolate fountain brimming with fruit, pretzels and marshmallows (chocolate was one of Charlotte's very favorite things!). Rachel, Charlotte's mom, came up with the great idea of tying custom made M&Ms in to tiny organza bags with a tag "chocolate makes everything better." We had a balloon release that allowed children and adults alike to say one final goodbye by filling out a tag to attach to the eco-friendly balloon. We had tons of food. Crafts for the kids.  It was a great way for the children to express their grief creatively.There was even face painting donated by the local Stretch and Grow group. I know, weird, face painting at a memorial? But it was perfect.

It took a lot of planning, but was one of the best events I've ever done. And I've planned a LOT of events in the past. Why was it so great? Because of community. The Town of Ashland (Center of the Universe!), RichmondMommies.com, RichmondMoms.com, St. James the Less (especially their youth group - amazing kids!), Duncan Memorial and total strangers to the family who gave monetary and in-kind donations to help the Reynolds give Charlotte a send off that would give us all the strength to let her go. That's not to say it was without tears. There were tears. Many. But there were also smiles and laughter, memories and hugs. It was a beautiful gathering, overflowing with love and sadness simultaneously.

I think a writer for the Ashland Herald Progress captured the day extremely well with her blog post. It was a day no one wanted to arrive, an event no one ever wants to attend, but was a great moment of healing and a grand show of human compassion and of love.

What was the best thing to come from this tragedy was something that I hope the CJSTUF foundation can expand upon - creating an extended support network for a family in crisis. With new advances in technology these past several years (yes, social media, there, I said it) there are new opportunities for nonprofits to give back to their beneficiaries in nontraditional ways.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Heavy Heart

Just watched the news on the earthquake in Haiti, and I'm feeling pretty sad tonight. I mean, I was feeling a bit melancholy before, but this tops it off. I want to jump on a plane right now and go and help.

Mad love to Haiti. So devastating that people who have nothing should be hit with such tragedy.

Yet another reminder of how very, very much I have.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Poem that found my soul tonight.

A Butterfly Lights Beside Us

A butterfly lights beside us, like a sunbeam...
and for a brief moment it's glory
and beauty belong to our world...
but then it flies on again, and although
we wish it could have stayed,
we are so thankful to have seen it at all.

Author Unknown

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Butterfly is Free...

Charlotte Jennie Reynolds: July 9, 2005-January 7, 2010