Monday, December 31, 2007

Traveling, grief and yelling

Life continues to be full of ups and downs...for both of us. We have mostly ups, but the downs can be really down. One thing I've noticed with Sofie is that anytime she gets her feelings hurt by anyone or anything it escalates and becomes more about Debra's death. My guess is this will happen for awhile. The other thing that's becoming harder to manage with her is the fact that she can't get to sleep at night. School starts in a few days so that's going to be fun!

My fuse is shorter than normal. Late last night after driving in the rain all day and still dealing with this cold, I yelled at Sofie. And of course she yelled back, "Stop yelling at me!!!!!" The situation was stressful...I was trying to get her into bed, she kept saying there was a smell in her room...of course I couldn't smell anything because of the cold. I told her I didn't smell it...then when I was fixing her comforter on her bed, there it was...a pile of cat poop! Well, that was the last straw. I asked Sofie to run and get some toilet paper...instead she kept saying, "See, I told you there was a smell" over and over again. I kept asking for toilet paper, each time my voice volume was escalating until I yelled, "GO GET ME TOILET PAPER NOW!!!" Finally, she brought the TP and I cleaned it off, got the comforter off the bed and got the extra comforter for her bed. She was mad because I was yelling, I was mad because I was yelling...and one of the cats pooped on her bed! Oy!

After running downstairs to put the comforter into the washing machine, I calmed down, went upstairs and snuggled into bed to read. She was over it by then but as you can tell, the guilt is still with me. I don't want to be that mom that yells. In fact, I've been working with her to not yell so much. That was her dynamic with Debra...I don't yell that much(unless stressed!) My normal chatting volume is low. I've explained yelling isn't appropriate. I want her tone to settle a bit. I read, she fell asleep, then I went downstairs to try to go to bed...but alas, I was up until after 1am. Our sleep schedules are shot! Must work on that.

We had a great weekend visiting my mom, my grandma and aunt, and my friend Sandy and her family. It rained most of the weekend which was a welcome site. Sofie and I drove back late yesterday afternoon after stopping for playtime with Sandy's kids. We got hungry for supper on the way home and instead of doing fast food, we decided to stop at a restaurant. The first available was Applebee's in Lexington, NC. While Sofie and I are waiting for service she draws on a piece of paper a picture of me, Debra and her. (She's been doing this A LOT since Debra's death.) When the waitress comes to take our order it goes something like this:

"I just drew my family. My mama Debra died."

The waitress with a combination of a horrified and sad look said, "I'm sorry about that."

At some point I interject, "I'm sure you weren't expecting that conversation, but she's right, her Mama Debra did just die."

"Who are you staying with now?" The concerned waitress asked Sofie.

Sofie points to me as I say, "Me."

"Who are you, her aunt or something?"

"Nope, her other mother."

"Oh, her other mother" with no change in expression.

She looks at Sofie, "Well all I can say is that I'm very sorry for your loss."

Then she took our order and was extremely kind to us the rest of the evening.

The rest of the drive was uneventful. We arrived home, I started laundry, Sofie played with her zoo until bedtime...then the yelling began. Hopefully, as we get settled in to our new routines and life, the yelling will subside.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

San Francisco Chronicle article

With the persistence of friends like Brenda, this article was published today in the San Francisco Chronicle. It's a wonderful tribute to the woman we knew and loved.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Finally...the other shoe!

I was beginning to worry that Sofie wasn't having appropriate reactions to Debra's death. She wasn't as sad as I thought she'd be. She seemed relieved that Debra was in no more pain and that she was having "fun" again. Yesterday, while lunching with a friend, I told her I was hesitantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm here to tell you the other shoe has finally fallen and we're on our way to healing!

Last night after her first session, post death, with her therapist, Sofie laid in her bed and cried and cried and cried. She couldn't stop thinking of Debra and that made her cry more. Going to sleep was nearly impossible. I stayed with her through it all, reassuring her that I was going nowhere until she was soundly asleep. She couldn't stop crying or thinking, so I tried to get her mind off of Debra. We did a visualization of sledding down a big hill...unfortunately I was so tired that I kept drifting off into that dreamy twilight place! I would be describing our sledding adventure then suddenly slip into a dreamish state and pop out with a phrase like, "we moved the wire from the wall." Huh? So I finally explained to Sofie that I was almost dreaming so if I said funny words to ignore them! The sledding adventure worked and we both drifted off to sleep. I got up, moved myself to the makeshift bedding I'm sleeping on until next week, fell right back asleep..for awhile. Now it's almost 4am and I'm up blogging...with a sore throat!!

Do you remember back in college when you stayed healthy for the entire semester...especially during midterms and finals? Then, suddenly when all the stress of school was over and you were back home for a few weeks you had the worst cold ever?!? Well, yesterday my throat started feeling pretty scratchy, my sinuses were achy and my ears felt clogged. Oy! I'm getting the "end of semester" cold!! Doesn't my body know that even though a major stressor has been relieved there are others waiting to pop up? I don't have time to get sick! Oy, oy, oy.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas, Chaos and Clutter

It's Christmas morning and all is quiet around the house. Sofie isn't a morning person, so even with the excitement of Santa's arrival and what he may have brought for her, she'll sleep until she's ready to wake up. (Which is a really good thing because Santa and the elves were up until nearly 3am assembling the zoo that Sofie wanted for Christmas!!)

Then why am I up this early? Well, I've actually been up since before 7a, but tried to sleep a bit longer. Unfortunately my mind started swirling in the chaotic manner it's been living in for the past several months. No amount of warning can prepare you for the amount of "stuff" you have to do once someone dies...especially if it involves a merging of two fully stocked households!!

I've been very grateful that Auntie B(Brenda), Laurie H and Aunt Nancy have been here the past few days. They've tackled chores that I don't have the heart or gumption to do...going through Debra's personal things, as well as her office. I would be screaming from the rooftop if I had to do all of this stuff. And in a week or two, Fairygod Barbara will be joining us back here in Durham to start a major purge and allocation of Debra things. I still feel overwhelmed with the tasks of getting my stuff from the condo to the house. I can't move things yet...there's simply no room.

I was grateful to read my horoscope from Christmas eve after waking up, head spinning. It sums it up best and offers great advice...except for that damn breathing part again!!

You have been given more time to figure out what's best for you, yet you still might think that you have to make a decision right away. If you feel an overwhelming sense of urgency, take a few deep breaths and step back from the situation. Hasty actions won't be productive, so think through your options before you act. There's no need to rush; everything is unfolding according to schedule. Rick Levine's Daily Horoscope

I am very fortunate to be able to take off the next two months(and still get paid) to get our life in order. The company I work for has an adoption benefit that this situation falls under the guidelines. This will allow me the space and time to orchestrate (with the help of many others) the merging and purging that needs to occur before Sofie and I can truly settle into our lives.

I am so ready to be a full-time mom to Miss Sofie. The chaos of the last year has afforded us the opportunity to bond and trust one another on a whole different level. I've had much time to trust that my parenting instincts are good..actually they're better than good. There was a time where I felt I did everything wrong...and I'm sure there are times to come when I'll still feel that way! The situation of the last year has strengthened my resolve as a parent and although you can't fully prepare for this situation please know that I'm just ready to settle in and watch that little girl we know and love grow into the strong, smart and beautiful woman we all know she'll become.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Life for today

A big THANK YOU to all of you sending the kind words and thoughts our way. I've saved all the voice mails and emails and will respond to all later. Right now, my focus is to make sure that Sofie has a great holiday season.

Sofie and I are starting a new chapter of our lives together without Mama Debra. We've had some very sweet discussions. Sofie's really not that sad now because in her words, "Mama Debra is in Heaven with her cat Lily, her Dad and other friends and family. And she's having as much fun as she did as a kid!" I have no idea where Sofie heard about Heaven...I haven't used it, but she must have picked it up somewhere. I'm glad it gives her the comfort she needs. Her biggest stress right now is all the people that are here.

Today, she's in her first play. It's at our Unitarian Church where they are acting out the story of Jesus' birth...Unitarian style. Not to offend my Christian readers, just know the story is told as that. In Unitarianism, we're open to many beliefs, so that fact that Sofie is playing a dog in the manger wouldn't be strange...however, she's wearing her friend Tay's Scooby-Doo costume so that might seem a bit odd to many folks. There's no poking fun, just storytelling.

Yesterday, Sofie and I tried to have a normal day. We went to Biscuitville, hung out with friends and family at the house then went to a movie. We saw Alvin and the Chipmunks, which is quite charming and funny. Afterwards we went to Red Robin with Donetta, Taylin, Jamie, Emma and Jacob for holiday festivities. After that, Sofie and I went to Donetta and Taylin's for a relaxing early evening play date and hanging out. It was just what we needed...low key, relaxing and fun.

After the play and church we head to my Dad's for an overnight. I'm sure there will be good food and laughing and loving.

We continue on, life as we know it for today.

Friday, December 21, 2007

In Memoriam

The Winter Solstice is often associated with death and rebirth. How very appropriate that Debra exited this world to be reborn into another this very morning.


She was being held energetically by so many of you and I'm certain that made the transition to a pain free and loving place so much easier for her.

Be assured that her death was painless and a beautiful relief. Her mother and other friends were with her at the time of her death. Sofie and I sat with her after her death, told her we loved her and we will miss her very much. Sofie said that she's becoming an angel right now. We cried and kissed her goodbye.

A local memorial will be in January and the San Francisco memorial will be in the Spring. Details to follow for both.

Sofie and I are a bit overwhelmed right now so we're taking time to ourselves by staying at my condo tonight. We both appreciate all the love and kind thoughts that are pouring our way. We love each and everyone of you and are glad you've been part of this part of our journey.

Tennyson said it best,
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

I think we were all very lucky to have loved and been loved by Debra.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

What makes a Mama proud

Yesterday I received a call from Sofie's therapist encouraging me to do a few things. First of all, move Christmas up a few days if we can. Secondly, to have "the" talk with Sofie. "The" talk included a few layers but it was "the" talk nonetheless.

After a long day at work I had an appointment with my therapist who had been out of town for a few weeks. It was great to be able to have that support before I went home to chat with Sofie.

I arrived at Debra's just as Sofie was settling in for a bath. I had planned to have the chat in her room as we were settling down for the night, but something told me to go for it while she was in the tub. That something was SO right!

I sat down beside the tub to be as close to her as I could be. First thing we talked about was why Grandma Mimi came to visit. I told her that it was because Mama Debra was getting sicker and Grandma wanted to be with her. I made sure she understood that's why there were so many people coming in and out of the house, too. That admission brought tears to both of our eyes.

The next step was THE hardest thing. First a little background. I have an angel that hangs from my rear view window that belonged to my MawMaw Bess(for the southern impaired, that's Grandma to you.) I made a beaded chain and put the angel on the end. Sofie asks about it often so we've talked about angels that were once on earth are now protectors of their loved ones. She obviously "got" it because she's used it in her own therapy sessions. So using angels as a metaphor for death was encouraged by Sofie's therapist.

After discussing Grandma Mimi's visit that was followed by little 7 year old pleas that she wished Mama Debra weren't sick and that she'd feel better. Perfect segue to the next part of the story.

"Honey, we've talked about how Mama Debra isn't going to get better. In fact, (tears are rolling down my face by this point) Mama Debra is preparing to leave us to become an angel. Which means you won't see her unless she visits you in your dreams or thoughts."

Tears are welling up and the lower lip is pooched out in Sofie. "But I want her to get better!"

"Unfortunately that's not going to happen...but once she's an angel, she won't be sick anymore. We just won't get to see that."

"Can I stay home from school tomorrow with you and Mama Debra?"

"Absolutely"

"Can I spend the night with you in the condo?"

"Of course!"

The next part is what makes this Mama so very proud of my girl.

Laurie, who's visiting from CA, came in to the bathroom and I filled her in on what had just happened.

"Mommy, can I say the "S" word?"

"Sure honey, you can say any bad word you can think of" (In our house, the bad words are stupid, dumb, hate among others. We're allowed to HATE only two things...she hates mosquitoes and bamboo...the bamboo is another story at another time)

"STUPID CANCER!!!" "STUPID DUMB CANCER! I HATE CANCER!!!" at that point, she stood up in the tub and grabbed her tub crayons. She drew a house with Debra, Sofie and me inside. Then she drew a smaller house(in yellow) with Debra in it as an angel. Then she drew Debra in a hospital bed. Above the two houses she wrote good times and beside the hospital bed she wrote, bad times.

"How to you spell stupid?" "S-T-U-P-I-D" "How do you spell Cancer?" "C-A-N-C-E-R" She wrote the words out, underlined them, crossed them out...got a lot of anger out towards them! Then she found a little piece of crayon and squished it into the side of the shower wall..."THIS is Cancer!! I HATE Cancer!!"

You can't imagine how proud and relieved I was to witness her emotions so profoundly exhibited. That interaction made me realize...she's going to be okay. Sad, but okay!

The rest of the evening was spent cuddling, talking. Me answering questions. Before we left Debra's to come to my house, she did go in and talk to Debra. Debra was awake so she got to tell her that she wished she'd get better. Debra reinforced that wasn't going to happen and to remember that she loved her more than anything. Sofie went through a litany of "I liked it better when you weren't sick because..." statements. Those reasons included, no longer getting to cuddle, no longer being able to play, and basically no longer any fun. Debra understands. Then just before we left, she gave Debra a big kiss and we told her we'd see her tomorrow.

If I haven't said it enough...I am so grateful to have a kid named Sofie as my daughter.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Quick check in on Debra

It seems like forever since I've posted. I wanted to post about the adventures Sofie and I had over the weekend, but I feel I need to update everyone on Debra's condition. I'll post some happy post a little later.

Debra is not doing well at all. Pain seems to be controlling her life right now...so much so, they've just started her on oral Morphine. I worry that the end is much closer than any of us ever anticipated.

Please hold our little family unit in your thoughts and prayers as we help guide Debra peacefully to the next phase of her journey.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A somewhat better day

Thanks to everyone for their support during my mini-meltdown yesterday. I have to say that writing the last blog posting was very therapeutic! After writing it, I felt tons better. Apparently all those people bugging me to write all these years were right. I just should have listened sooner.

Debra came home from the hospital today. She's still pretty weak. It'll take her a few days to get reoriented to life at home. The troops are arriving, so life will be easier for our family as we ride this roller coaster. I won't bore you with the schedule, but suffice it to say, we're covered through the New Year! We're going to try to have a great remainder of the year and create more memories.

Many are asking how Sofie's doing. I'd say today she had a major breakthrough. She apparently started sobbing at school during recess. She went over to one of her teachers and said, "I'm worried about my mommy!" sprinkled between sobs. After a bit of consoling she called Debra to check in on her. That made her feel better. Maya came and picked her up early from school, took her to Locopops for a frozen treat then to Whole Foods to get some flowers for Debra's return home. While at Locopops, Sofie informed a woman there with her dog that her mom has Cancer. The woman told her she was sorry. Sofie didn't stop there. She said my other mom had Cancer, too. And because of that I get to go to Camp Kesem! The lady said, "Well that's a way to find a silver lining out of something bad!" That's our girl.

Fortunately, Sofie had therapy tonight. Lots of good advice shared. She was encouraged to talk about stuff even if it makes her sad since the bad stuff doesn't go away even if you don't talk about it. Well that must have given her the permission she needed. After reading a few chapters in her book and turning lights out, she reached over, gave me a huge hug and said, "Mommy, I LOVE you!" and then she burst into tears and we talked for a long time about Debra. She cried, I cried. It was good. She had a bit of trouble falling asleep, but after crying, she said to me, "I got all the worries and sadness out!" Such a sweet girl she is. Her fear is that Debra will get sicker and have to go back into the hospital. She said, I miss her when she's in the hospital! Then we talked about Mama Debra and cuddling. "She won't get to cuddle and watch Jeopardy with me since she has the new little bed." Awww, poor kid. I wish I could make this all go away, but I know we've got a long road ahead of us.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Breathing is NOT working!!!

Between 9a and noon today, five different friends ended their emails to me with their variation of telling me to breathe. I've done mindfulness meditation and even took an 8 week class, however I'm here to tell you, right now "breathing" isn't relieving any stress for me. I'm feeling the most stressed that I have ever felt in my life. I don't know if I'm coming or going, standing or sitting, or smiling or crying. Apparently I'm so stressed out, I'm stressing Debra out...she just told me that, so that's not good. I'm drowning here.

My work environment has been ridiculously nonsupporting this week. I feel like they'd just as soon give me one swift kick out the door instead of dealing with what's to come in my life. No one as even asked how Debra's doing...or for that matter how Sofie and I are doing. Compassionate, eh?

I haven't stayed at my condo since before Thanksgiving...glad I decided not to move in to Debra's...yes, that sarcasm. My shoulders feel like they're touching my earlobes. Sofie's stressed, too. She's had her 2nd outbreak of herpes near her eye in less than a month. This time instead of being beside the eye, it was on the eyelid...of her GOOD eye!! Poor kid. She's going to start prophylactic acyclovir to keep these outbreaks from occurring. It's stress...all of it! Sofie and I have always had a fairly even keeled relationship...not so right now. She's yelling and throwing tantrums and I'm right there with her, wanting to yell and throw my own tantrum! Well, I am yelling, but no tantrums...yet.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Whirlwind Weekend

For an update on Debra, please check her blog for the latest posting here. It's been a tough few days, fortunately we had Joanna and Naomi visiting from CA to keep us all occupied and busy. We had a very fun weekend. They arrived on Thursday evening while Sofie and I were attending the Duke Women's Basketball WIN over Rutgers!!! (As an aside, this was one of the worst played games I've seen in a long time...by BOTH teams!! We're fortunate that we came out on the winning side of that one!) A big shout out to Beth and Jan for picking the girls up so Sofie and I could have fun evening out with friends.

The girls picked up like they'd seen each other last weekend. Since Sofie was staying home from school the next day, we let them run a bit wild before trying to calm them with a joint bath...something started when the girls were wee ones.

As you can see, the tub was quite full!

The next day I headed to work while Joanna had the girls all day. They visited Debra in the hospital and had a pretty low key afternoon(that included trampoline jumping!) Later in the day, they ventured to Cary to meet me at work. The amphitheater next to my office had a Winter Wonderland with an outdoor ice skating rink. After skating and Sofie checking in the the big guy in red, we headed out for dinner to Sweet Tomatoes.



Sofie, Naomi and Joanna enjoying a spin around the ice


The big guy in red


Hamming it up by a tree decorated with animals for adoption

Saturday was Biscuitville for breakfast...I know you're shocked!! Naomi was less than impressed with our Southern cuisine. Sofie and I enjoyed the usual! After breakfast we headed back to the house for some playing and trampoline jumping. Then the highlight of the day...High School Musical on Ice!! A very "Disneyfied" version of the movies...on ice. The girls enjoyed it and don't tell anyone, but the parents did too! After leaving the arena we headed to the hospital with 2 cranky, hungry and overtired people. (You thought I was talking about the kids, but it was really the moms!! Okay, the kids were cranky and hungry, too.) We grab a snack in the hospital cafeteria, then up to see Debra. That lasted about 10 minutes before I felt a meltdown coming on...again, mine...not Sofie's! So we headed out.

Proof of the every popular Biscuitville!!


Bouncy, giggly girls

Sunday brought a little bit of respite for me. I really wanted to go to ERUUF, so Joanna stayed with the girls...and even ventured out on a grocery shopping jaunt! After running a few errands, I came back to house and swapped cars. I drove to RDU to pick up Maya from her flight from Boston. Maya, lovely young adult that she is, offered to fly down for a few days to help with Sofie. Her mom, Laurie, will be here on Monday to stay for a couple of weeks. What an incredibly fabulous family!!

After picking up Maya, we raced back to the house, dropped Maya off and picked up Joanna and the girls. We were heading to Vertical Edge for a classmate of Sofie's 9th birthday party. The girls had a blast climbing and swinging from the ropes! Sofie has decided this is where she wants to have her 8th birthday party.

Cute girls in their gear!


Naomi was a natural!


Sofie cheesing it up!

After the party, I dropped Joanna off at the hospital so she could have a quiet visit with Debra. I took the kids back to the house and they jumped on the trampoline...shocked, I know! Joanna and I tag teamed when I headed back to the hospital, she took the car and I visited with Debra. We left the girls home in Maya's capable hands.

On my visit with Debra we chatted, pondered life and I read a few chapters of Eat, Pray, Love to her. That book was a joy to read the first time, so it was nice to be able to re-read some passages to Debra. It was nice to have quiet time with her...that hasn't happened in a very long time.

Physically, mentally and emotionally I'm about as wiped out as I can be. The troops are coming in for back-up soon, so I may actually sleep in my own bed in the near future! Thanks to everyone for all the love and support and healing, loving energy you're sending our way. We can sure use it!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Status on Debra

Many folks have written to me saying they're concerned because Debra hasn't blogged lately. I wanted to give you all a brief update on her situation. For the past few weeks, she's been fatigued beyond any one's comprehension. Hopefully it's residual from radiation treatments. Next week, she'll be seeing the oncologist for a follow-up/check-in visit. We'll know more then.

As far as blogging goes, her computer is downstairs and she's mainly upstairs. A laptop with wireless would be nice, but one hasn't magically appeared on the bedside table!! She checks email once a day...usually first thing in the morning(sometimes more if energy allows.)

Thanks for all your emails lately. It's been a tough few weeks, but we're all hanging in there.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Every three months, like clockwork

Around this time last year, I had finished radiation and had just completed my first two rounds of chemotherapy. I was bald and loved wearing all the warm, cozy hats. Now I have a head full of darker hair that's possibly loosing the curls that came with regrowth(ie, chemo perm.) I hope so, I wasn't doing well with the curls...although people seemed to like them on me...just something different, I guess.

Today was my 3 month check-up with my oncologist, Dr. Valea. I alternate every three months between him and my radiation oncologist, Dr. Jones. The appointment was pretty uneventful, although I now have to have a colonoscopy to see how much damage the radiation from last year actually did to my digestive track. I've been having symptoms ever since I had radiation, but didn't really think that much about it...until today. I assumed it was something I was just going to have to live with. Well, I was wrong! Fortunately there's treatment for the condition I have...chronic radiation proctitis(or colitis)...unfortunately I have to have a colonoscopy to determine amount of damage to help decide course of treatment. On a troubling note, none of the treatment options are pleasurable! Let's just say I have to take steroids...but not by mouth. I'll leave the rest to your imagination!

If you're fascinated by the topic, please do read the Wikipedia entry on radiation proctitis...beware, there are pictures. As a librarian, it's my professional duty to provide information, yet it's up to you, the reader, to decide to read it. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cranky Mom Monday

Man I'm cranky today. More so than the typical Monday blues. I'm not sure how much more of this emotional roller coaster I can take. Up down up up down down down extreme drop down slight incline up up dramatic drop! That's my emotions and that's only in a day! Nah, not really, but close and I am allowed to take creative license with my feelings, right?

Weekend went by much too quickly. It's a blur. Don't remember much of it, either. Sofie and I put Christmas lights outside at Debra's. It was fun watching her hammer with such intensity. (Hammer was for the nails we wrapped the lights around...although I did smash a light, causing havoc in the flow of things. Tape fixed it right up!) I also took my very cool fiber optic tabletop Christmas tree to Debra's, too. I figure Santa will show up at her house this year since the zoo has to be set up on the train table.

Fortunately Debra had a visitor the last half of the week giving me a tad bit o' time to myself. It was great having Susan Q here. We relived some funny moments, had a nice dinner out and just had nice time. She was a great person to be there for Debra. Their friendship goes WAY back, so Debra felt very comfortable opening up to her. I'm grateful for her visit. Next on the block will be Joanna and Naomi visiting from Oakland. We have a weekend full of fun things for the girls to do...High School Musical on Ice is the big outing, thanks to Donetta for getting tickets through work. The girls(Sofie, Naomi and Taylin) will have a blast, but I think the moms will, too!

Saturday night I was hosted by Angela and Annette for a fabulous steak dinner. We dined, chatted by the fire and just hung out. They're a great couple and I'm lucky to have them in my life. Angela and I both love this time of year...College Basketball season!! I'm so fortunate to have a wonderful group of friends who support me in all I do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Teaching moment gone awry

Last night as I was doing my last check of email I noticed an influx of messages from parents on one of the listserv groups for Sofie's school. I read the first message and had no idea what letter they were referring to, so I ran back upstairs, rummaged through Sofie's backpack and found the offending letter in question. After reading the memo, I went back to my email to see if the other parents were as upset as I was becoming. Indeed they were. The gist of this memo was to inform the parents that a Freshman Dorm at Duke has taken our school on as a "service project." There are so many great ways this could have been handled. Unfortunately, the "service" is to buy our kids gifts!

Setting aside the general assumptions made about children who attend public schools, let's think for a moment how many other ways that money could be used. Supplies for the school, playground equipment, sponsoring some sort of assembly or guest that the kids might learn from and enjoy, let the kids come up with gift ideas for kids who are in need...the list goes on. I'm sure there are families at her school that will welcome the gift, but our family isn't one of them.

Debra and I both have been working on teaching Sofie about giving and sharing instead of acquiring more things. In so many ways, Sofie has a huge heart. She's compassionate, loving and gets pleasure out of helping people. So what is it about "stuff" that makes her turn into a big selfish brat?!?! Debra thinks it goes back to her orphanage days and not having stuff. That may be true to some extent but I think it has to do with the fact that we SPOIL her. I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to giving Sofie too much stuff. It started early and it's apparent it's going to be a hard habit to break.

Over the past couple of years while dealing with illness and other stuff, I've gotten into a space where "things" don't matter and I'm tired of all the clutter those items cause. It's partly spiritual, it's partly a change in a way of life. It's the way I'm choosing trying to live and I'd love to instill those values on my kid.

This morning became a battle of wills on the subject. In my quietest, most sincere voice I attempted to explain to Sofie that she's a kid living a great life and that there are so many other kids who, through not fault of their own, live in situations that might cause them to not have a happy holiday season. (As I was saying some of this stuff I was hoping beyond all hopes that she didn't say, "Why doesn't Santa just bring them toys!!"...luckily that thought didn't occur to her. Whew, I escaped that one by the skin of my teeth!!) In the the over dramatically way that she can be, tears welled up in her eyes and she said in a long drawn out moan...NOOOOOOOOOOOO!! Theatrics at it's best! Well, that just annoyed me, so the quiet, sincere mom clammed up and the loud, self-righteous one reared her ugly head. After getting nowhere, I sent her upstairs to start breakfast while I got dressed.

While downstairs I heard stomping, slamming and arguing. I guess she'd told Debra of my evil plan to give away all of her toys...well, one of them anyway! After getting dressed, I went upstairs to continue the lecture. She argued, but didn't have any good points...it was mostly selfish. My point was that we could let Santa know that instead of the gifts she was supposed to get from him, she decided that she'd rather have the ONE gift from the Duke students and to please give those gifts to kids who were nicer and needed them more than she did. (Manipulative, yes. Effective...yet to be determined.) Bottom line, she WILL give up that toy to Toys for Tots or something like that. Will she learn a lesson from it? Again, yet to be determined. All I can say is we're trying to create a giving person instead of a selfish, wanting little person. Maybe it's too much for a 7 year old, but at this point my will is stronger than hers and I'll win this one!

Was I too harsh? Will she forgive me? I told her to tell her therapist tonight that Mama Jamie was evil and making her give away a toy! She laughed and glared at me in a fake evil look. At least that'll take some of the focus off of Debra's illness. I can be the bad mom, I can take it!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Laugter and tears

After picking up Sofie and Debra from the airport we headed back to Debra's for a low key afternoon and evening. I could tell that Debra was feeling pretty punk when I first saw her at the airport. She had a couple of good days in Chicago, but seems to be feeling pretty much like she did before they left. We arrived home, she went to bed and Sofie and I had a good rest of the day. I was glad to be there. I had really missed Sofie and wanted to spend some time with her.

While I unloaded the car and did a few things downstairs, Sofie became reacquainted with her plethora of animals. At one point she asked me to dig out her Singing Santa Scooby Doo. We searched high and low and she found it tucked behind an otter in the guest room closet. A few minutes later she wanted the other snakes that were packed in checked luggage. She informed me that all the animals were gathered around and they were going to listen to Scooby sing Christmas carols. I just cracked up and walked downstairs.

A bit later she got to jump on the trampoline with the neighbor kids...I heard them say, "You went to a water park?!?" I could hear the doubt in their voice...if I didn't know she'd gone, I'd doubt her too. Apparently this was a mega indoor water park. She told me she went on an "upside down in the dark and out of the dark slide"...whatever that means. She had fun, but the "worstest" part according to her was the ankle bracelet they made her wear...it rubbed a blister on her heal. Nice souvenir!

A bit later, we played with her Webkinz, Snowy the polar bear. After becoming bored with that she wanted to watch the second live action Scooby Doo movie. I convinced her that showering and getting in her new warm, fuzzy, squirrely pajamas would be best for the flow of the evening. As I was brushing her hair after her shower, I asked what she wanted for dinner. I offered up mac n cheese or something else. She said, "I wish we had a supperable to eat." It took me a second to realize what she was talking about. And when I did, I busted out laughing...loudly. Then she realized she'd made a joke without even knowing it.

For those of you without kids, there are these things called "Lunchables" that are prepackaged lunches. We have a few to use for emergency lunches or snacks. However she was referring to the Kid Cuisine Meals that we used to keep around mostly for babysitting nights. Since Debra's recurrence, we've used them once or twice for "supper" on those nights that either I wasn't available to help out or both of us were just too wiped to cook. So, you can see why "supperables" made me laugh hysterically. So we created our own version of supperables...chicken noodle soup with a fruit rollup...then popcorn for movie time.

After the movie, it was time to read. I was looking forward to bedtime tonight because I stumbled upon a series of books I'd never seen before while on a shopping trip to Target. When I read the title of the first book in the Judy Moody series, I knew I could relate...and when I read the intro paragraph, I knew Sofie could relate, too.

Judy Moody did not want to give up summer. She did not feel like brushing her hair every day. She did not feel like memorizing spelling words. And she did not want to sit next to Frank Pearl, who ate paste, in class.

Judy Moody was in a mood.

Not a good mood. A bad mood. A mad-face mood. Even the smell of her new Grouchy pencils could not get her out of bed.

“First day of school!” sang her mother. “Shake a leg and get dressed.”

Judy Moody slunk down under the covers and put a pillow over her head.

“Judy? Did you hear me?”

“ROAR!” said Judy.


That's Sofie...to a T!! Her new nickname...Sofie Moody, but only at the times she's flinging attitude! I sure did miss that girl...and that sense of humor.

After reading a lot of the book, I turned off the light and started the bedtime back rubbing routine. Sofie was preoccupied...I could tell. I asked her what was up..."I don't know. I'm tired but I just can't go to sleep." I tried all the tricks and when they all failed, I got up and told her she needed to try to get to sleep. I walked into Debra's room to check on her and a few minutes later, Sofie stormed in, burst into tears and said, "I CAN'T GET TO SLEEP!!" I suggested she climb into bed and cuddle with Mama Debra a little bit. She lay there sobbing. Debra and I asked what was going on..."I don't want to talk about it." "Are you sad?" I asked. Her sobbing head nodded under the cover. Debra asked what she was sad about? "I don't like that your sick!" More tears and talking. She cuddled and cried a bit more. When she settled down, I asked if she was ready to try it again? "Will you rub my back?" Of course I did. She was sound asleep in 5 minutes. I guess that release needed to happen before she could settle for sleep.

I suspect there will be more of this. I'm glad she's comfortable and safe enough with us to let us know...in her way...when things come up. I'll be here however she needs me.

Long weekend of respite

Today is the day Debra and Sofie return from a long weekend of family time in Chicago. Today is also the day my 4 days of no responsibilities(other than the cats) ends. It was a luxurious weekend. My idea of luxury is different than many people's idea. Luxury to me a few days of doing nothing if that's what I want...or a few days of mixing it up by doing nothing, hanging with friends or just whatever. My weekend was the latter and I loved it. I'm looking forward to picking Debra and Sofie up at the airport in a few hours but while I'm waiting for them to arrive, I thought I'd catch up on my blog.

My weekend actually began Wednesday. After dropping Sofie and Debra at the airport at 6a I headed to work for an all too long day. I was exhausted due to 3 or so hours of sleep the night before but I just dealt with it. Knowing I had a four day weekend sustained me enough to get me through the day. The rest of Wednesday and much of Thursday was very low key.

Thursday I went over to my friends Joy and Susan's for late lunch. It was 78 degrees which just isn't right for Thanksgiving day. Running the air conditioner in The food was fantastic as usual. The company was entertaining. I ended up hanging out for many hours. Fortunately I was sent home with enough turkey for a couple of turkey sandwiches and some wonderful mashed potatoes(the best food on earth!)

Friday I didn't leave the house until 5p! It was a day of bliss. Reading, watching movies and catching up on a couple of shows I hadn't seen for a few weeks. Pure heaven, Jamie style. I only left the house because I had dinner and saw a movie with my friends Donetta and Elizabeth. After an early dinner at Carrabba's we headed over to see a movie I hadn't heard of until looking for movies to see...Bella, which was a very sweet movie. Glad we picked it. After the movie I stopped by Target to do a little holiday shopping. It was great! Hardly anyone in the store. I did run into a friend and chatted for 30 minutes or more, then we both went on to finish shopping.

Saturday was my most favorite day. I woke up early, headed to Mebane and met my daddy for breakfast...yes, I'm 42 and still call my dad, "daddy"...that's who he is and always will be and yes, I'm a total Daddy's Girl. He's the person that fostered independence in me. He taught me so much and the coolest thing is that we often don't see eye to eye on things. But that's okay...we have a healthy respect for each other's values or beliefs. That's the coolest thing about teaching your kid to be independent and a free thinker. I look forward to instilling some of those same beliefs in Sofie.

After hanging with Daddy for a bit, I headed to Burlington to shop a little more. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but Sofie has friend that's a squirrel...well, at least that's what she says. I've never heard her talk to him, but she seems to communicate somehow. She refers to him as "my friend squirrel." My dad said, so she's her "Tubby"...Tubby was one of my imaginary friends that I had as a kid. So with that in mind, I found the cutest pajamas at Carter's. She's getting too big to wear Carter's clothes, but these were so cute, I had to get them.



Saturday evening I hung out with Betty and Delma. We went to dinner at Nantucket Grill, then went back to their house and chilled out watching a little TV. I had just bought a 20Q and brought it along to dinner. We tried to stump it over dinner. I think we succeeded only one time! I want to know HOW this thing works!! It's a fun game.

Well, only an hour until I pick the girls up at the airport. I missed them and can't wait to see them. I'm sure we'll just hang out the rest of the day. The weekend of bliss is almost over then back to work and reality.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pre-Turkey Day Thanks

It's that time of year where we pause, give thanks then eat too much food. I thought I'd try to give thanks before the food gets in the way and fogs my thoughts!

My list of things and people I'm thankful for are in no particular order, except I did save the best and most important for last!

I'm so grateful and thankful for my family of origin(that means the family I was born into)...I have the greatest, most supportive parents...ever. They love me unconditionally and accept me for who I am, quirks and all. The rest of my family, although we may have differing opinions or beliefs also love unconditionally. This family is where I learned how to laugh and that a sense of humor is vital in the world.

To my chosen family(that's the people in my life that aren't related by blood/marriage or the like, but play as an important role...if not sometimes a more important role...than my family of origin), you guys are my rock AND you all rock! (You all know who you are!!) We too, have some differences, but that's what makes the world a great place. Thank you ALL for the love and support you've given over the years and allowing me to be part of your lives.

To Cancer...thank you for your humbling experience. My life will only get better after battling you.

To all my various health care providers...you made my life more bearable this past year. A special shout out to Dr. Valea, Teri T, Dr. Bland and in GyneOnc; Dr. Marum; Dr. Jones and Jane in RadOnc; and all the cool nurses and volunteers in the Chemo Treatment room at Duke.

To everyone supporting Sofie's growth and progress a big THANK YOU. You've all loved and supported her in many ways and she's doing so well because of your influences. Special thanks to Dr Jane R, Mrs. Kelly, Mrs. Ewald and the entire team at Morehead Montessori(Sofie's wonderful elementary school) and everyone at Camp Kesem.

To everyone else, even the strangers reading this blog...thanks for showing up. I hope you've gleaned something useful or enjoyable from my heartfelt words and that you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing.

Now to the most important people in my life right now:

I'm thankful for the worlds greatest daughter. We are told over and over by so many different people in Sofie's life what a great kid she is. I want her to know how lucky I feel to be a part of that life. I'm looking forward to learning all she has to teach me. Thanks for putting a smile on my face each and every day.

The person that I want to give the biggest thanks to is Debra. This is the hardest, most bittersweet Thank You I'll ever do, that I am sure. I want to thank you for barreling forward with Sofie's adoption and allowing me to continue to raise and love our beautiful daughter. I feel like I've been given such a gift...and I promise I'll take care of that gift and give her all the love and support she can handle so she can grow into the fine young woman that we know she'll become.

I love you all and wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving however you are celebrating.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chillin' at the condo and more

Sofie and I had a very intentional low-key weekend. She seems a bit more tired these days...maybe I'm projecting, but it is how it seems. I picked her up from Debra's after an early morning appointment on Saturday. We gathered her clothes and various animals she decided to bring and off we headed.

First stop was Chapel Hill to pick up her very colorful painted sculpture of Scooby-Doo from Paint the Earth. I had no idea you could get so many different colors on one statue!


Isn't he colorful?!?!

On the short drive from Durham to Chapel Hill, she fell asleep in the car. See! More tired! After picking up Scooby, we headed back to Durham. I had no plans at all, I was just playing it all by ear.

Since it was lunchtime, I asked Sofie if she'd like to stop and get lunch at Red Robin...one of her favorite places to eat(they have cartoons on the TV monitors!) She didn't seem that into it, so I suggested picking something up and going home and just chillin' out. She seemed all for that. I even let her pick the restaurant...why was I not surprised when she picked Biscuitville! She's becoming the most Southern girl via California by way of Ukraine. She's even developing the cutest Southern accent...only on certain words, though.

Our afternoon included watching a bit of TV, playing her V-Smile video game, and rebuilding her T-Rex Mountain, which is really hard when there's no instructions(and a few pieces missing.) She's kind of out of her dinosaur phase, but she wanted to use it as a habitat for her animals(lions, cheetahs, alligator/crocodile and tigers...yes, I realize they don't live together, but she insists.) She's WAY into animals. No dolls for this girl. She's very clear about that fact. She even hates commercials about dolls...especially when I joke that Santa is going to bring her a pile of dolls for Christmas because he knows how much she loves them! Don't tell her but I think Santa is going to bring her a cool zoo with animals to replace the trains(that's she's no longer into) on her great train table. Santa's going to have a LOT of work to do Christmas eve to set that zoo up!

After the afternoon of just chillin' at the condo, we headed over to Emma and Jacob's to play and hang out while their mom's went to a party. We were joined by Taylin and her mom's, too. It was initially crazy noisy, but Donetta(Taylin's firm yet fun mom) got all the kids in order while Elizabeth(Tay's other mom) and I just sat there with our hands over our ears and pained looks on our faces. (That's only a slight exaggeration, too.) I have no idea how parent's can have more than two kids without going crazy or deaf with the noise level! (Can you tell I'm an only child raising an only child?)

Sunday we slept in...until 830a! I'd promised her a game of "Tickle Tackle"...honestly I didn't know what it was, but she's been bugging me to play ever since we got back from Minneapolis. Kim played a rousing round with Sofie and Zander while I was sick in bed. If you're really ticklish, I recommend you not play. However it is extremely funny hearing the giggles come out of a child, especially when she's tickling her mom! We played most of the morning away and headed out for Brunch with Sofie having her standard pancake, bacon AND sausage.


The girl LOVES bacon!!

After Brunch, we headed to the local AMF bowling alley for the Fall Reunion of Camp Kesem campers, counselors and family. Check out Sofie bowling. She has a style NOT to be missed!


I have to say, it's always nice to hear good things about your kid, but I'm telling you the counselors just gushed over Sofie and what a great girl/camper she was...especially since it was her first time at sleep away camp. I told them about the comment she made about wanting to be a CIT at Kesem when she's older. There was a collective, "Awwwwwwww!" heard round the alley. Bean, Sofie's cabin counselor was there. We all bowled a game. It was nice spending time with such a giving group of young adults. You can see how it really touches them to see the kids again. I'm looking forward to the Spring Reunion and Sofie's looking forward to next summer for her week at Camp. (Remember, it's free for the campers. If you're feeling in the giving spirit, please click on the link at the top of the page and make a donation to help this wonderful group continue.)


Sofie, Mama Jamie and Bean after a successful bowling adventure


The rest of Sunday was pretty simple. A trip to Sam's Club, back to Debra's where Sofie and I watched the first Scooby-Doo live action film. She giggled a lot, so that was good. We had dinner, cuddled on the bed with Mama Debra and I read and tucked her in for the night. I keep wanting to pinch myself...do I really get to parent such a great kid? I just love her so much and I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of grown-up she becomes...but just not YET!! We still have years for that.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Traveling girl memories

I've had a pretty emotional week. Some good emotions, some bad emotions. Some about work, some about life. It's been a roller coaster ride. I won't go through the drama of the ups and downs, but know that's why I haven't written much this week. I have, however, enjoyed a trip down memory lane this week so I thought I'd share some of those memories.

A couple of days ago, Dana over at Mombian posted a request for "Good Lesbian Travel Writing." Unfortunately I don't have anything to contribute on such short notice, but it did start me thinking about all the traveling I've done during my life. This week, Debra was graced with a visit from a long time pal, CJ. I was reminded of other fond travel memories by her visit, too. Since she lives in Colorado, I'm sure there will be other memories created if Sofie and I take a visit to see her in the mountains.

Traveling has always been something I've loved to do. I enjoy exploring new places, learning about other cultures/communities, playing in other peoples backyards, as it were. I've always thought it was because my ascendant in my astrological chart is Sagittarius...known lovers of travel. Could also be just my natural curiosity and love of seeing new places. Doesn't really matter, it's just one part of who I am.

For all of our differences, Debra and I always enjoyed and traveled well together. Many of my fondest memories involve trips that Debra made happen or had a big part in creating. CJ's visit sparked a walk down memory lane regarding my 30th birthday. Debra and I visited CJ and her then partner Lori in their home in Idaho. What I didn't know at the time was that they had planned a wonderful float trip down the Snake river on the day of my birthday. Unlike many people, higher altitude's give me a jolt of energy instead of the sleepy's like many flatlanders encounter when visiting the mountains. I attribute that factor to my genetic make-up...I come from mountain folk! Mountains have always seemed like home to me. One day, I will live in the hills again. On this trip, Debra experienced the sleepy's in a bad way! As we were gently floating down the beautiful Snake river and seeing sites that inspired Ansel Adams to take beautiful and breathtaking photos, Debra kept dozing off. Slyly, she was wearing sunglasses, so I don't think our guide new. We got a kick out of it, since I seemed to be on speed and she was slower...kind of like we traded places for the weekend. That entire trip made for my most memorable birthday experience to date. I may have to scan and insert some pictures for your enjoyment!

The other trip that I'd love to write a story or two about was our trip to South Africa. There are so many funny stories along with a multitude of life changing experiences. Seeing Nelson Mandela in person, witnessing a lunar eclipse of a full moon, waking up early and seeing the grounds surround our cabin covered with Nyala(their version of deer), watching the sunrise over the Indian Ocean and set over the Atlantic Ocean, being surrounded(literally) by a hundred elephants, eating food I never thought I'd eat(ostrich, chicken that tasted like fish, babootie, musk gum and passion fruit yogurt), eating some of the best Indian food I've ever had, seeing various wildlife in the actual wild, meeting and hanging with some very cool people, seeing the shanty towns that are on the outskirts of Cape Town, and hearing live music in downtown Cape Town. I could go on, but I'll save some things for stories to write later.

As we tread through the tough times ahead, I love that I have such wonderful memories to sustain me. I have great stories to tell Sofie about the life Debra and I had before she came along. At some point, I'll get to go with her on bigger adventures and share the love of travel that Debra and I so enjoy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Change (from the perspective of a 7yo)

For the past 3 months, our family has been attending monthly KidsCan! meetings at Duke. These meeting are intended to provide emotional (and educational) support for kids in families where a parent(or in our case, parents) have been diagnosed with Cancer. Each month there's a new topic that is discussed separately with kids in one group and parents in another. At the end of the evening, the two groups come back together and a facilitator gives a brief synopsis of what each group discussed or activities in which they participated.

Last month, the kids got a tour of all the areas the parents might experience on a typical visit for treatment. They visited the clinic area and radiation and chemotherapy areas. They learned lots of great information and got a groovy goody bag at the end. This month, the topic was change and how it might be affecting the kids. The parents had a lively discussion of their concerns while the kids were having a "snowball" fight! Okay, it wasn't an actual snowball fight, but it sound fun, nonetheless.

Another activity the kids participated in was talking about changes that have occurred or might occur in certain age groups. They had big sheets of paper hanging up with age ranges on the top of the page. Parents were encouraged to go around and read the lists. I read with the intention of figuring out what Sofie had listed. Trust me, it wasn't hard! Under her current age, these were the two "changes" she listed: "I get to be the boss of my mom" and "I get to buy animals." What?!?! Which mom? My guess is she made the correlation of what changes have happened since Cancer entered our family...not just typical changes that have occurred in her life. I was impressed with a change she wanted to happen when she became 13...she wants to be a CIT(counselor in training)...I'm not sure if it's for Camp Kesem or Sportsplex. She's had great experiences with counselors at both, so it's hard to say. I'm just thrilled she's so into camp.

Change through the eyes of a spunky 7 year old can mean a number of things. I hope she holds onto to some of those since we're all in for more changes to come.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Who Dies?

I've been thinking a lot about dying lately...not my own death mind you, but dying. I've never been afraid of dying and I'm quite fascinated by the process both physically and spiritually that happens when one dies. Recently I was chatting with my very dear friend Rick. He's the coolest guy...ever...and he recommended a couple of books for me. They're both by the same author, Stephen Levine(and his wife Ondrea co-authors one of the books.) One is entitled, Who Dies? An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying and the other is entitled, A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last. I ordered both books online and I began reading Who Dies? today.

The Table of Contents and the index of Who Dies? have me enthralled. I can't wait to dig deeper into this book and finish it so I can start the other book. The first book is to prepare me for what's to come with Debra. I'm the kind of person that likes information, so the more I have the more comfortable I'll be. The second book is more for me and how to live my life differently.

Conscious living and dying are only terms that I've encountered here and there. I've never read anything about it or even investigated it. Even though I'm not well versed in the topic, I can tell that my own beliefs include what's being discussed in this book. I'm anxious to expand on them to see where it takes me. Topics discussed include: Models of dying, Finishing Business, Grief, Heaven/Hell, Working with Pain, Approaching Death, Letting Go of Control, Stages of Dying and many more aspects. I intend to come out of the other side of this book mentally prepared for death. I know I'll still have stuff come up, but I want to be clear and full of ideas and be able to explain things to Sofie if/when she asks.

After I read it, I'll post more information, but for now, that's all I've got.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The grumpies


I'm grumpy. Not sad. Not angry. Just grumpy. While searching online for the perfect image to illustrate just how grumpy I am, I stumbled upon the company I should model or work for...Grumpy Girl Clothing. Some mornings, Sofie could get a job there, too! Too bad the shirts only come in girlie sizes. Big girls get grumpy, too!

Before you jump on the bandwagon to tell me that my grumpiness is grief related, let me just clarify...I've been grumpy much of my life for one reason or another. I don't particularly think this time it's grief. I think it's the fact that I'm getting a cold, I'm exhausted, I have no winter clothes that fit and did I say I'm exhausted? So there, it's not grief at ALL...just me being me.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Scooby Doo and Shaggy, too


Scooby Doo and Shaggy, too
Originally uploaded by cybrarygrl
Halloween, 2007. Scooby put the "goatee" on Shaggy all by herself.

Am I blue?

I'd love to post something witty, unfortunately I'm feeling quite sad today. Seems all that realization that the anger I've been feeling was more about the underlying sadness has really had an effect on my mood this weekend.

Sofie spent the night with me on Friday. I picked her up from Kids Night Out at KIN after a lovely spontaneous movie night with Betty, Delma and Debra. On the way home I thought she had the sniffles from the cold air. She actually had the sniffles from crying. When we arrived at my condo and the interior light of the car came on she burst into tears. "My head hurts!" Once unloading the car and getting upstairs we laid on my bed and she just cried and cried and cried. I felt her forehead and she felt hot. I took her temperature and lo and behold she had a fever. I searched my medicine cabinet and found ibuprofen for her.

Sleep wasn't great for me as she had a restless night of kicking, grunting, sighing and sweating. Next morning she still had a bit of a fever, so I gave her more ibuprofen. Later that morning she pointed to her eye and said it hurts. That means only one thing...a herpes outbreak. Yep, there it was, inching towards the corner of her good eye. We went to Debra's, picked up her meds and had a fun afternoon out and about. For the first time EVER, she picked out clothes at Old Navy. Made some cute selections, too. We we busy much of the day and went to see Bee Movie late in the afternoon. Funny movie. Laughing helped.

I've been home, on the couch literally all day. Just feeling blue...very blue. Some days you just have to let the blues win. Tomorrow I'm sure I'll be back to "normal", whatever that is this week.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Mask of anger

Last night while I was in my own therapy session, Sofie was apparently having a very similar session of her own. Seems we're both handling our pain and sadness in the same way....anger. My therapist gave me an excellent tool/image to use to work with this emotion...the mask of anger.

I've noticed that increasingly over the last few weeks I'm living with a shorter fuse. I'm getting angry at everyone and at everything. Seems anger is a common emotion often used to hide profuse sadness. It's been painful to watch Sofie get angry at Debra more and more. I hope that my realizations can help Sofie deal, too.

So what do I do about it? Well, the first step is be aware of it. Oh, I'm aware alright. It's painful to realize that anger is where I go to hide sadness. I was feeling so guilty about getting angry, especially at Debra or Sofie. Now that I'm consciously aware, I can try to get more in touch with the true feeling of sadness. Since I know that Sofie's dealing with her sadness/confusion in a similar way, I can let her know that my anger is coming from being sad about Mama Debra's illness. I may even get creative with her and we'll actually draw a mask of anger that we can take on and off...with a mask of sadness on the inside for us to see as we're taking the masks off.

What can *you*, my friends and family do about it? Call me on it. If you see I'm getting pissy for no reason and you feel comfortable seeing me sad...check in with me on an honest level. I know most people get uncomfortable when others are crying or grieving. Ironically, I don't get uncomfortable when others are crying or grieving. I can be present with people in a very supportive way while they're sad...so why am I having such a hard time with my own grief?

I hope this discovery makes the future easier for all of us.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A waiting room's entertainment value

Hospital waiting rooms provide so much material for writing, it's almost not fair. Yesterday, I spent much of the day at Duke in the family waiting area for those scheduled for surgery. Posted all over the doors, entry ways and even provided in the pre-op information it is stated clearly for each patient to bring a maximum of two friends or family members...TWO. The waiting area consist of the lobby just off the elevators and a smallish waiting room. So why is it that I got stuck sitting with two families...one with SIX plus a baby and the other EIGHT family members?!?!

Let's start with the family of eight. Debra and I had moved to a room in the back of the waiting area after a woman(who by the way was having surgery) reeked of so much cigarette smoke that the already nauseous Debra was going to hurl at any moment. We were escorted by the front desk lady to a nice quiet room that only had one other person there...well at least for a few more minutes. Debra and I were quietly chatting when I looked up and in walked a small herd of what was later determined to be religious fundamentalists! Each person read the sign on the door that politely asked for their cooperation around the "no more than 2 family members" suggestion...I would say it was policy, but policy would mean that someone actually enforced it...which never happened. Each "family" member read, looked somewhat uncomfortable with the fact they were breaking a rule, then hastily retreated to the corner of our cozy room. Initially I thought it might be two or more patients, but then that all started the crosstalk that became my entertainment for the next few hours!

It was quickly made known that this "family" was from a small town south of the triangle. It's a town that, had my family been a bit less lucky, we would have been stationed after my dad finished Highway Patrol School. I could have ended up *just* like these people! Okay, that's a stretch because we did end up in a small town that's probably pretty similar to this small town and I think I escaped relatively unscathed. As I often do in group settings, I started sizing up this unit. Cultural Anthropology at it's best!

I was quite surprised that approximately 95% of their conversation centered around church. Going to church, how church has helped them, how someone is doing "so much better" because they started going to church. Singing in church, eating in church...heck for all I know these people LIVE in a church!! The oddest thing about this family...I'm about 99.9% sure two of the men there were a couple...a redneck couple, but a couple nonetheless!! How do I know...well one of them "shows" Boston Terriers...yeah, it's a stereotype but stereotypes exist for a reason!! I was just simply amazed at how much "church" was part of their life, too. I'm not talking mainstream liberal religion...I'm talking fundamentalist in the most strictest of ways. I certainly hope that I'm correct and that these two young men are accepted by their family for who they are. That would be a nice change of pace from the typical reaction of kicking family members to the curb or insisting they "straighten" out(pun intended.)

The second family really didn't give me much material. The all kind of made me laugh when the three guys in the group whipped out their laptops and proceeded to work/surf or do whatever. It was precision laptopping at it's best! Initially there were only 4 members, but apparently their preacher and two other family members and a baby were sitting in another area of the waiting room. It was crowded yesterday, so after Debra got out of surgery, I chatted with Dr. Bland and found out she was okay and what to expect, I went downstairs to the lobby...where NO one was sitting!

Debra is doing quite well from her biopsy. We won't know anything for a month or so, but that's okay. She's beginning her radiation sessions today. Thanks to everyone for continued support, love and care. Our little family needs it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mini Apple Is*

*(Mini Apple Is...the way Sofie would say Minneapolis for it to make sense to her)

Sofie and I are back from our whirlwind trip to Minneapolis. We had a great time. She and Zander were fast friends, although at some point she didn't quite "get" the antics of a three year old. The constant shouting "NO!", the bossiness, the possessiveness. I just had to explain that she was just like that when she was his age...and sometimes she can still possess some of those traits! They worked it out. When Zander took his afternoon nap, Sofie and I chilled out, too. It was a good trip, except for the pesky stomach bug I acquired sometime Saturday and am still dealing with the effects as I type this. Bleech.

Our flights to and from Minneapolis were about as easy as I've ever experienced flying. We actually arrived EARLY at both destinations. We spent about an hour in Chicago's O'Hare airport where Sofie had some energy to burn, so I had her run around paying special attention not to run into anyone. She did that for about 15 minutes, then settled down for me to read a Scooby book to her. We got on our connecting flight to Minneapolis, then arrived 1/2 hour early there, too. So, after getting our luggage and taking the tram to the rental car building, we were off to Kim and Cindi's house. The return flights were just as easy, with on-time flights all around. Easy traveling. Sofie amused herself with animals, drinking cups and gummi worms...don't ask!

Sofie was greeted with a welcome bag from Zander. The bag had Scooby Doo on the outside...as well as all things Scooby on the inside! She's now the proud owner of Scooby socks! Zander and Sofie were off to play in the great play area they have downstairs. Poor little Rowan, who's 10 months old, just couldn't keep up with the big kids. After awhile of playing, we settled the kids down and all were ready for bedtime.

After the wee ones were asleep, Kim and I sat up and chatted for awhile. Catching up. Just reconnecting. We talked about all that's happening and going to happen. As a mom, Kim could really identify with the grief and sadness that Debra is going through with regards to Sofie. It was sweet to see her so empathetic about this. She and Cindi are such good people...and dear friends.

Saturday morning we were welcomed with a hearty breakfast of biscuits and gravy(made with 1/2 and 1/2!!!), eggs and fruit. After filling our bellies with good food, Kim and I walked with the kids down to, as Zander says, "the blue park." We had so much fun! My photos are posted on Flickr for you to enjoy.

After lunch, the little ones took a nap and Sofie and I snuggled on the couch watching, you guessed it...Scooby Doo. I dozed on and off while she enjoyed her cartoons. When Zander woke up, they played...had a little altercation about a snake, then Sofie and I took a little outing to a great toy store. It was just what we needed, a little Mommy/Sofie time. Upon our return, we ate a quick dinner, then got dressed for the Halloween party.

Sunday brought a day of illness for me. I won't gross you with the details, but needless to say, I was not feeling well. Kim took Sofie and Zander to the YWCA for swim time, then Cindi joined them a little later after Rowen woke up from his morning nap. I enjoyed a bit of alone/quiet time. Although I'd rather have been swimming than feeling the way I did. I napped, then they came back, I was still napping so while the little ones took a nap, Kim and Sofie explored at another park. After the little ones woke up, I heard a rousing game of "tickle tackle" in the basement. Not sure what's involved but there was a ton of laughter!

Later in the afternoon, I got up, showered and everyone headed out to ChuckECheese. I tried to eat for the first time that day...bad decision. I promptly threw up when we returned. The kids snuggled down for Madagascar and popcorn, while I packed and called it an early night.

Sofie and I needed the time away and had a great time thanks to Kim and Cindi. I think from the pictures, you'll see she did.

This is my favorite picture of the weekend:

Friday, October 26, 2007

Out of town

Sofie and I are heading to Minneapolis for a fun weekend with Kim, Cindi, Zander and Rowen. It'll be a fun packed weekend with a Halloween party thrown in for good measure. I'm sure I'll have pictures and stories to write about upon our return. (It's a full moon, so here's crossing fingers for uneventful travel!!)

I'm just looking forward to the change of scenery and spending quality time with good friends.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Prepping for our trip

Since we've been having an unusually warm October, I felt I needed to prep Sofie for the fact that Minneapolis is not having an unusually warm October! What this truly means is NO shorts!! Yes, it's the end of October and we're still having weather warm enough for shorts. During the summer Sofie's biggest complaint is how cold the restaurants are. She's thin...not one ounce of fat on her bones...she gets cold pretty easily...and she's not very nice about it. Of course when offered a sweatshirt or something to warm her chilling body, she summarily rejects them. She's much happier whining about it. But I digress.

I wanted her to be aware of the pretty drastic temperature change for our upcoming trip this weekend. She didn't seem concerned and was in fact very pleased that her Scooby Doo costume was warm and fuzzy. Okay, maybe she'll be fine with natural cold...maybe it's the artificial cold she doesn't like. I mentioned it snows a lot in Minnesota. She beamed. The girl loves snow. Something we have so very much lacked the past few years. I, too, love snow. I've always dreamed of living in a place that's cold and snowy. (I'm sure those of you who have lived in places like that think that I'm crazy and that I'd actually hate it!) I have to disagree. I'm happiest when it's cold. Again, I digress.

Last night, after lights were out and I was lying in bed with Sofie. We were talking a little of our upcoming trip. I keep drilling her on the names of the people we're visiting. She loves that one of the little boys is called "Z"...that made her laugh. We did the Name Game song with all four of their names...hopefully at least one of the names will stick...she's not really great at names...she sometimes forgets names of kids in her own class. After I drilled her a little more, she pops out with the funniest question. "Mommy, do they speak English there?" Where do kids come up with this stuff? So, I had to help her visualize where, on the map, Minnesota was. That even though it borders Canada, it's still part of the US and yes, they mostly speak English there!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Clarity has arrived...for the time being

Sometimes I don't write because what I'm feeling or going through is intensely personal. Too personal to share, especially on a blog. If I need to share, I usually do with a few select friends in an email or conversation. I've been doing that a lot over the past few days. I had some insights and realizations over the weekend after having an appointment with one of my more spiritual advisers. I won't go into all we talked about, thus the preface in this entry. However, I will share some insights.

As I've stated recently, I've been feeling in limbo...caught between two places and not wanting to give up either. These two places consisted of two physical spaces as well as two distinct roles. The physical spaces, as you know, consist of my condo and Debra's house. Should I move in now or later...after, after? Should I keep going between two places...living in limbo? Should I figure out a happy medium that works for all of us? The two roles that I've been playing are clear, too. Caretaker of Sofie and caregiver to Debra. Both roles, even on the best of days are exhausting. Throw into the mix that I have a full time job that I'm skating on thin ice on and that just adds to the strife I sometimes feel.

As someone who tends to nurture by nature, the caregiver and caretaker roles are fulfilling and make me feel useful in a rotten situation. With that said, one important person is falling to the bottom of the to do list...ME!! To some, that may sound selfish. However if you really think about it, I need to take better care of me in order to better care for my family. Taking better care of me involves simple things like eating better, moving more and keeping tabs on my core feelings. Currently, exhaustion is a core feeling I'm having. Okay, I realize exhaustion isn't really a feeling...however it is effecting how I am in the world. So to work on the exhaustion will involve dealing with some internal feelings. Finding my clarity and purpose for the next however long we have is important not only for me, but for Debra and Sofie, too.

One bit of clarity that I had this weekend...and have discussed at length with Debra...is the role that I'm really intended for. What I realized was I'm best being utilized by being a caregiver/mother to Sofie. That's not to say that I'm not going to be a caregiver to Debra...it just means I have to prioritize better and others will have to step in as this process continues. I trust that Debra has such a deep and wide circle of friends that she will want for nothing as time progresses. I can't, nor do I want to trust that the same will happen with Sofie. She's becoming my responsibility more and more and I need to focus on her to make sure she comes out on the other side of things feeling loved, supported and cared for.

The other bit of clarity was about moving in with Debra. I don't think that will best serve anyone...especially Sofie. As time progresses I think both Sofie and I will need a place to go for respite. What better place than my condo? A haven that is already familiar and safe for both of us. As Debra's disease progresses, she'll need more assistance for her daily living. In order for that to happen, there needs to be a place where those who are visiting and assisting to rest and find their own retreat. In a house with only one extra bedroom, that extra space should be reserved for those caring for Debra. I continue to spend most evenings at Debra's house, assisting with homework, bath and bedtime. I even stay and hang out with Debra once Sofie is snug in her bed. I'll continue to do that as long as it works for all of us. Unfortunately at some point, they'll need to be others stepping in to be with Debra while I concentrate more of my energy on Sofie and her well-being.

As I've always done, I trust that the universe will provide those people to be there for Debra...allowing me to fully focus on Sofie. She and I will have our own grieving, processing and moving through all of this. I know we'll get through it and be okay on the other side of things...I'm just not necessarily looking forward to some of that journey.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A day of purging and clearing out

Today I spent the majority of the day going through old boxes dividing them into three piles...donations, keep, trash. Amazing how you become less attached to things as you got through stages of your life. Stuff has a way of overwhelming me. I get stuck, energetically and physically, then the piles become less and less manageable.

My dear friend Tracey encouraged and supported me, both physically and spiritually. Sometime earlier this week we had a chat about what she could do to help me with that state of limbo I've been feeling. She offered to help me start packing the non-essentials in my condo in preparation for whenever I need to move to help Debra or to parent Sofie. Because it packing and cleaning overwhelms me, I was resistant. Tracey doesn't give in that easily though. She can be very persistant by taking charge and making a plan. Since it was short notice, no one else was available to help out.

The first part of the day I tackled the piles on my own. I bagged up 4 large garbage bags of clothing to donate to Goodwill. I had started going through my personal effects when Tracey arrived. We ended up taking 8 boxes of crap(well, not all of it was crap) and whittling away to 2 boxes that I kept and the majority of it I donated, gave away to friends or threw away. I'm exhausted, but my room feels so much lighter now. I still have a long ways to go...my closet is next! I'm trying to create a space where Sofie and I can take respite when needed or where we can come when Debra needs more quiet times.

I'm still amazed at how much stuff I've accumulated in the past years. I'm really in a place to minimalize and get rid of more things. Goodwill and Craigslist, here I come!!

Halloween article

A few weeks ago, the new editor for Q-Notes, the LGBT community newspaper for NC posted a request to our local family group, Triangle Families. His request was simple, he wanted to know what LGBT families were doing for Halloween and if safety was a concern. I replied to his request, and lo and behold made it into the article. Now the secrets out of the bag as to who Sofie and I are going to be on Halloween!! Let's just say there's Scooby Snacks involved!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friends of Wind River Newsletter-first edition!!

Please enjoy the first edition of the Friends of Wind River Newsletter lovingly created by Dave and Shannon, retreat facilitator's extraordinare!

This is from the folks who did the retreat I so very much enjoyed. I think you'll see a familiar face on the newsletter along with some of my words of wisdom. :-)

Exhaustion and limbo

In what can only be explained as emotional exhaustion, my life is becoming quite overwhelmed at the moment. This perpetual state of limbo is probably the most difficult period in my life. I need to be settled...somewhere. I need routine that doesn't involve moving between two houses. I go to bed tired and I wake up even more tired. It's constant. I need it to stop!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Overload in Pink

I've tried to hold it in, not blog about it, bite my tongue. I just can't anymore. This is not meant to offend my friends, family and others who have dealt with Breast Cancer. I respect that they have fought or are fighting this thing called Cancer, too. It's really more of a dig at the "corporatization"(is that even a word?) of a single illness. I'm guessing folks felt this way about AIDS in the 90s, but this whole pink thing is just rubbing me the wrong way!

Maybe it's because Debra is losing the battle with Ovarian Cancer. Maybe it's because there are so many other cancer's out there that need funding. Maybe it's because it's just over doing it on so many levels. I'm sure there some deeper meaning about why this is effecting me so much, but I don't have time to reflect on this. So instead, I'll just write about it.

On Tuesday, I accompanied Debra to her Gyne/Onc appointment. After standing there listening to all the things that are going wrong and listening to options to give her better quality of life and hopefully extend that life, I just blurted out to our nurse, "Are you guys as sick of the pink stuff as I am." She smiled and confirmed what I had been feeling since the end of September. You see, this all started with a little activity scheduled at work. Fortunately, I was at my retreat...with at least 4 breast cancer survivors!

Apparently, the company that makes Lee Jeans sponsored a National Denim Day to encourage folks to wear jeans(how convenient) and make a $5 donation to support breast cancer research. My employer took it even further and allowed anyone donating $20 to wear jeans the entire month of October. Initially, I was pleased that we were participating in something that was raising funds for cancer research...then I realized it was only for breast cancer research. It made me incredibly sad that breast cancer is getting so much press when Ovarian Cancer seems more likely to kill a woman.

Am I wrong to be upset? I hope not. I hope this feeling is seen as valid and not petty or bitter. Like I said, this isn't directed at the people who are affected by breast cancer, just the corporations who are trying to make a buck all in the name of a disease. I've recently been made aware of sites such as Think Before You Pink that "...calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising..." and points out corporate "pinkwashers." Pinkwashers are companies that give money to Breast Cancer causes while simultaneously make products that contribute to the disease.

Please continue to donate to whatever causes you feel are appropriate for you. Do your homework first and make sure the money is being spent wisely.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sitting Still

I've recently joined a website called Crazy Hip Blog Mamas, this posting is part of Collaboration Wednesdays. Occasionally, I'll post and link back to their site based on the topics for the day. I joined for a few reason, but mainly it's nice to have something to prompt or inspire my writing!

Today's Writing Collaboration is Sitting Still:
Sometimes it’s in the quiet of it all that we think the most. Sometimes it’s during those moments of solitude that cause things to fall into place.

What do you find when you sit still?

One thing I know, I'm at expert at sitting still. Unfortunately, sitting still in the physical sense is much different than sitting still in the mental sense. The latter is a much harder place for me to be. I'm a thinker, I ruminate and process internally, so that mental stillness is rare. On those lucky occasions when I have that mental quiet, feelings are the most common thing to emerge. Stillness evokes tears, smiles, laughter, crying. Interesting, the place I am most still is my shower. Maybe it's the water that allows the thoughts to wash away, opening the door for those emotions to creep in.

Sitting still just provides rest or sometimes it allows me to enjoy the beauty around me. Sitting on the banks of the Eno, stopping and listening to birds chirp or squirrels play in my parking lot, being stuck in traffic but listening to a favorite tune and singing at the top of my lungs, cuddling a cute girl and rubbing her back while she falls asleep, or simply being present in a conversation. All of those are times I know I'm sitting still.

What do you do when you're sitting still?
Just as activity beats the cold,
and inactivity (stillness) beats the heat,
Purity and stillness can heal the world.

 -Lao Tzu


I wish Purity and Stillness were all it took to heal Debra. I'd sit on her for a decade and recite something pure around the clock if I felt it would help.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Awakening...a lesson in Chinese Medicine

(For those waiting to hear about Debra's visit to the doctor today, you'll have to wait for her version of the story. It's not my place to share that information before she gets a chance to write her own thoughts.)

For the past few weeks, I've been waking up at 5a, like clockwork. I remembered from a previous acupuncturist that in Chinese Medicine there's something called the Meridian Clock that is useful in acupuncture and other types of Chinese medicine practices. I won't even attempt to explain it, however, I'll make the connections that are appearing for me. Bear with me as I try to explain what my roommate/acupuncturist explained to me on the way out the door this morning. Here's a very condensed, confusing explanation of how the Chinese view the body and it's connection to seasons, emotions and other things. Maybe this article will help.

On the meridian clock, 3-5a represents the lungs, while 5-7a represents the large intestine. I'm teetering on that line just between both. According to my acupuncturist, that means both systems are working hard. Ones the Yin, the other the Yang. For clarification, the Lungs, in Chinese medicine represent grief. Can I get a big, DUH?!? Furthermore, the most predominant emotion in Fall is...you guessed it...GRIEF!! This article, or part of an article is the best explanation that I've found for this topic.

I find it amazing how the body is connected to what's going on in life. As Janet(acupuncturist/roomie) said this morning, my life is really reflecting what's happening this Fall with our extended Indian Summer. I'm in a state of constant flux. I don't know where I'm living from one moment to the next, although I own my own place. So many ups and downs. Well, at least I know my body is processing the grief I'm feeling. A little poke with some needles this week will help move things along and free up some energy to allow for reinvestment of that energy.

It goes without saying to please continue to keep our little family unit in your thoughts, prayers, or whatever you might choose to do. We appreciate it and can really feel the love.