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?"


"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 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 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 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.