Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Unwelcome Company

When you are sick at our house, you get lots of attention.




Not all of it is welcome.

Here Miss Curious is trying to convince Caden that he really wants to go ride his bike with her. Or wear the helmet. Or just wake up and PLAY. Immediately after this she smacked him.


The Blur? That is the tornado we call Trippy. The rolly poly dog on the bottom is Fat Annie who is enjoying her life of leisure and no physical activity since her surgery. They are both just happy to have a non biting member of the family laying on the couch to cuddle with.

Three kids sick. Shel working away. Jen tired.

The end.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Jinx

This was our front yard last year in early March.

This is where I have been every single day for the last week and a half, in mid-January. It's called a PARK. P-A-R-K. IN JANUARY.


Things you might notice about this picture.
  1. The gigantic ball of light up in the sky. I hear its called the sun. Strangely, we noticed it was actually emitting warmth.
  2. The child wearing seasonally inappropriate clothing. What that is is a hoody. In these parts they are the common outerwear of kids in June and July.
  3. The exposed playing surfaces never before seen during winter months. The green ground covering object in the upper right of the photopgraph is apparently GRASS. Grass has before this point been considered extinct from October through April.

In other words because I told you about this we are bound to get two feet of snow and hit minus 30C by Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

3 Years. 36 Months. 1096 Days.


It was late. She was supposed to be in bed. We were both tired and cranky and I knew her Grandma coming to pick her up was in a bad mood. I dressed her in pj's and her snowsuit over top. The boys were off at a movie. Unaccompanied Minors. I remember the name the way that pointless trivia sticks with you when more important memories fade.


I sat her in the chair trying to keep her awake for the late night pass off I hated but couldn't change. She was going to Grandma's for a Friday overnight visit. Our relationship had grown increasingly strained in recent weeks and I struggled to find a way to fix it. There was no rational solution when dealing with an irrational person. Our difficulties made no sense. There was no logic to the complaints. I dressed her in the pink snowsuit and Grandma wanted her in the red. Her hair was growing too slow. I took her swimming at the pool. I let her mother come to visit. She loved us too much. She missed us too much.
Complaints I could not predict or rectify.


I wanted to scream "Don't you see how much she loves us? Don't you know how much we love her?" I was willing to do ANYTHING to fix things, driven by a fear that she held the power to break my heart. I grovelled. I begged. I paid. I fixed. I cried. I tried my best.


She left that Friday night before the boys even had a chance to say goodbye. She never came back. There was nothing more I could give and I knew, deep down, that inevitably Grandma would make me pay for the bond that Jazzy and I had, that she hated. An angry phone call and irrational complaints we could not fix. Shelby said no more and he was done with Grandma's drama. We couldn't play this game with our hearts, the boys' hearts or that baby's heart anymore.


We quit playing her game and we lost what mattered.


She left that night in her PJs. I handed her to her Grandmother. I kissed her cheek. I told her I loved her. "Mama" she said with a smile. I told her I would see her tomorrow.


Tomorrow never came.



I didn't know it was goodbye forever. I am not sure if I would have survived the night if I had known it was THAT goodbye.



My boys are haunted by her disappearance and their choice to go to the movie that night. They came home and she was gone. The child they adored. Their beloved baby sister. And she never came back. They never got to say goodbye.


Three years. I can breathe again. I go weeks without crying now. I smile and laugh and know I am healing. But never, ever does a day go by that I don't think of her. Ever. I gave her a year but I will love her for life.

Guilt

I could talk about our struggles with my teenager.

But children are dying.


I could talk about the new lino I picked out for my kitchen floor.


But children are dying.


I could talk about how Miss Tiny now weighs more than Miss Curious and they share most clothes.


But children are dying.


I could talk about how my friend is home from donating her kidney to my cousin and how much easier life is with only six kids vs. seven.


But children are dying.


I don't know how to transition from the horror of what has happened, and what IS happening in Haiti back to my real life. I feel disrespectful of the sacrifices, the loss of life, the current suffering to say "Hey, I got a new coffee pot and it totally ROCKS" or "Isn't this warm weather great?" or " MAN my kid is mouthy on his new meds".

We gave more than we could afford (I hope you did to) but it feels like an embarrassment compared to the need. Is it denial to take my girls to the park and have fun? Is it evil of me to turn off the tv because the images of grieving mothers searching for their children is just too painful? When is it ok to stop asking for donations on my facebook status?

My life, my troubles and even my joys seem so trivial in comparison to the great need and the great struggle to survive going on right now in a country that I love. But who are we kidding? That same struggle goes on every single day by millions around the globe. It has since I started blogging. It has for a thousand years before that.

And I suppose that is the thought I cling to most, this reminder that if you are reading this, you are lucky. You are one of the richest people on the globe. If you can afford a computer and internet and even macaroni for your next meal you are in the top 5% in world wide wealth. If you have a safe place to sleep tonight, you are one of the lucky. By a twist of fate I happen to have been born into a country that gives me medical care I expect and education I can take for granted. Are you appreciative of what you undeservedly have?

To whom much has been given, much is required.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti - Have you given yet?

video

Just a little something to help you understand what it is like, and to share with my church tomorrow.

At a Loss for Words

My father is at home. There is no euphemism in that statement and I am not meaning "At home with God" either. HE IS AT HOME. In his own bed. And has been for two days. And yes, we had been told he would be in ICU longer than he was in the hospital for his ENTIRE stay. And yes, we had been told to expect that the soonest he could get out was late next week. And yes, when I told you my dad was the strongest man I know, I really meant it and now I have proof.

Throughout this whole ordeal my father has been stoic and solid and completely resigned that whatever happened would happen and he was ok with that. Yesterday on the phone I heard something different. I heard hope and excitement and an acceptance of the very real possibility, and now even PROBABILITY that he has beaten the unbeatable. He had less than a 5% chance to be on this side of his cancer. LESS THAN FIVE PERCENT. He did it. The doctors did it. God did it, even if he isn't so sure about that part, I am.

He told me I could quit praying now because it obviously worked. I told him I never would.

***************************************************************

There is nothing I can tell you about Haiti that you probably already don't know. I weep. I wish I was there. I wish I had skills that were needed or a magic wand to fix it or enough money to make a difference. What I can tell you is that each child that you see laying in the streets on CNN, each baby that is trapped in a building dying alone today, each family that is destroyed and separated is as precious as the person you love most in the world. I have held the hands of dying Haitians. I have held the hands of celebrating Haitians.

There is no us or them. They are not any smarter than you or any dumber. They aren't any more or less deserving of this than you (except for maybe Pat Robertson, they are DEFINITELY less deserving than him!).

They are mothers and fathers and sons and daughters who live with less every single day than you do when you go camping. And now they have nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I beg of you, I ask, I plead for you to give. Give where you want, give more than you want to.

If you are looking for a hands on the ground organization that will give you reports daily of what they are doing with your money go to this website. Hands Across the Sea is an orphanage and school that is run by the mother of very good friends of mine. She lives there permanently and is well established in the community and has been for years. Her orphanage houses some very disabled children and schools many in the community.

I have sponsored a little boy in Haiti for many years. There are many organizations that do this. Now might be the time for you to consider this as a long term committment to making sure a Haitian child gets food and education for the rest of their life so they can contribute to rebuilding their country.

Just please do something. ANYTHING.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

If you can help, Please do

I have talked about Haiti here and here and my own experience in Haiti here.

As you probably know Haiti has been decimated by an earthquake yesterday. I have many personal connections to Haiti, and the people I love have many more. Children with parents and siblings still there, parents with children there, friends with family there.

There is NO viable government in Haiti, there are no social services, there is no help. There is nothing except a country that will be left on its own to try to survive.

Do you understand how many children will die because of this earthquake? Not just because of yesterday but because of all the tomorrows to come? It's too impossible to even fathom.

If you can help by sending a financial donation, please do.

HATS is an orphanage and school run by a friend and they do alot of good in the community they work in outside of Port-Au-Prince. They are accepting donations.

The Haiti Rescue Centre can also use donations.

Or find the organization of your choice. Just, please, do something.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Connections

In 2008 I received a facebook message from my cousin. My cousin, whom I will call Sue, was someone I could safely refer to as a "facebook acquaintance". We hadn't seen each other since her grandmother's funeral a decade before and for several years prior to that. Our childhoods were intertwined with shared memories of shared people but our own adult relationship was very limited.

This facebook message was brief and to the point. Sue was dying of kidney failure and needed a transplant and if anyone of her friends or family wished to be considered a transplant donor, please call this number at the hospital for a donor interest package.

I am not sure what prompted me to pick up the phone and all the Transplant Unit that day but I did. There was that organ donor sticker that had been on my license since I first learned to drive and my personal horror of the idea that two little girls were facing a future without a mother but no matter what I picked up the phone and called. Of the two hundred people she sent that message to, only two of us did and the other never completed the process.

Becoming an organ donor is no easy feat. There are multiple medical tests to complete and more paperwork than applying for college. Every glitch in your family history is examined and the health of your parents and siblings reported and discussed. (An adoption note: An adoptee without birth parent contact would not even be considered). Everything from wanting to have more children to trying to predict your genetic predispositions for a variety of diseases is examined.

On top of that, I have yet to meet a potential donor that hasn't met a lot of resistance from family and friends. Other than from my husband who was unfailingly supportive of his nutty wife's plan, EVERYONE I spoke to questioned my decision and repeatedly asked me why. WHY? It wasn't like Sue was part of my life regularly? Why put my own health at risk? What about recovery? Why? Why? Why?

My only answer? I knew I had to. I knew deep in my soul I was supposed to walk this journey out. Deeply and with assurance I knew God was asking me to simply be willing. I do not say that lightly or flippantly. It was something outside of my own desires or plan and I knew, very peacefully, that I needed to be willing was to continue with the tests, fill out the forms and make my way to Vancouver for more invasive tests. Was it easy? No way! It took time I didn't really have and money that was tight. At times it was overwhelming and at times I questioned my own sanity. But I did it.

Most of you know how this story ends, at least for me. In that final test to be a kidney donor it was discovered I had kidney cancer. No symptoms and no signs. I would have never, ever known. The average life expectancy for those who are diagnosed with my form of kidney cancer? 4 months. FOUR MONTHS. You know why that is? It is because normally you don't find out you have kidney cancer until you have symptoms, and if you have symptoms, usually it is too late. Being willing to be a donor, that deep, calm knowing that I had to walk through the door saved my own life. Listening to that still small voice saved my life.

I have laid awake at night and wondered what would have happened if I had just not picked up the phone? What would have happened if I had forgotten to fill out the hundreds of pages of forms? What if the delay in booking an ultra sound turned into forever? What if I had been rejected because of my family history of diabetes? Sometimes the "what ifs" sneak in but mostly I am thankful I listened and obeyed.

At the very last step of the process, at literally the very last moment, I was eliminated from being a donor. Hearing the word "Cancer" that April day was not just devastating to me, but also to my cousin Sue and her family. What was blip (ok a giant speed bump) in my life was a death sentence for her. No transplant. No donor. No back ups.

Sue and her family were unfailingly gracious to me. Thankful that my life was saved. Thankful I had been willing to even try. I am sure they were devastated and scared for their own loved one, but they never ever placed any blame on to me. Life went back to normal for them as they waited and hoped for a donor while Sue had daily dialysis and struggled with ever failing health.

I came home and prepared for and then recovered from the surgery that saved my own life. Through it all I had the support of my friend Colleen. One day Colleen asked me for the number of the Transplant Unit. My response was very similar to that which my own friends and family had said to me.

"ARE YOU NUTS?"

Colleen had never met Sue and in fact had never even seen a picture of her. There was no connection, no obligation, no REASON. No reason except that Colleen too was hearing that still small voice that told her to walk through the door.

Yesterday Colleen gave her kidney to Sue. Within minutes that little one pound organ that brought me so much angst gave life again to Sue. Her willingness has given two little girls a mommy to raise them. Her willingness has given health to a woman who has not felt healthy in years.

And so I am thankful that I can write an end to this story that goes beyond myself. What is that still small voice asking you to do today? Are you willing? What will happen if you obey? What will happen if you don't?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fight Back

Go watch THIS VIDEO .* Please.

I hate cancer. I hate it with a vengence that makes me weep. I hate what it has tried to take from me, and from my sons. I hate what it has taken from other families. I hate it.

Right now the Canadian Cancer Society has started the Fight Back Campaign that features unrehearsed messages from those touched by cancer. Every single time, no matter where I am, when their commercials comes on the radio I cry. I cry because they have the courage to scream what I want to scream.

I hate you. I hate what you have done to my family. I hate how scared you have made me feel. I hate how you put fear into the eyes of my children. I hate how you have robbed me of peace and taken so much of my time this year. You tried to kill me. You tried to kill my dad. You have made children cry for their mothers who will never tuck them into bed again. You are evil and I hate you.


*Link fixed

Friday, January 8, 2010

I need a drink

My dad made it through the surgery and now is on the long road to recovery.

Thanks for your prayers.

Jen

My Dad, My Father, My Friend





Today's the day my dad has surgery - surgery, however serious and enormous, that could also save his life and give me years with my dad and my boys time to grow up with their Papa. It's an incredibly difficult surgery and beyond what my brain can comprehend complicated but needless to say we need to win this battle with cancer and today is a very big fight in that battle.
I know so many of us have been touched by cancer and hate the devastation it brings to so many families but today I just need to be presumptious enough to ask you to pray for my dad. Please. He needs it and his doctors need it. And if you have some spare prayers to throw in, pray for my sister and I, our step mom and my dad's large family that is all gripped in fear waiting for the doctors to do their job today.
I really love my dad.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Wise Friend

I was told one day by a dear friend that had lost her son to death, as I sobbed into my cup of coffee, that one day, eventually, I would be remember the good times without being shell shocked by the grief of the loss. At the time I did not believe her, I could not fathom ever being far enough from the horror of saying goodbye to think that the good would out weigh the bad.

Birthday #1 after our shared birthday was not that day. I ran, quite literally, away. I couldn't be home. I couldn't be surrounded by well wishers. I needed space and absence and alone. And I took it and had it and survived. My friends and family poured love into me, and I was grateful but I just couldn't be here in the same living room where 365 days before we had celebrated our birthdays together.

Birthday #2 was a total bomb. I stayed home and my family, in an attempt to be sensitive to my need to not be overly happy with my birthday, completely and totally ignored it. Ok so by "my family" I meant my husband and sons. My sister remembered. I really love my sister. And those boys, they did attempt to make it up to me.

Birthday #3 without her was yesterday. And I actually enjoyed myself. I thought of her all day, but with happy thoughts. I thought of who she was and then actually stopped myself when I realized that she is FOUR now. FOUR. I cannot imagine her as that child but the memory of the baby she was sure brings me joy. And then I changed diapers and dealt with a very present teething baby and celebrated my 36 year old self. And my husband and sons? They OUTDID themselves making sure I had a good day feeling loved and cared for and celebrated. I enjoyed my day. I loved my life as it IS not as it WAS. I shocked myself.

I go back and I read my pain of my last birthday and I wonder if I had known what being 35 would bring into my life - the pain, the fear, the joy, the horror, the loss and the love - if I would have KNOWN that last year what would I tell myself? Would I have reminded myself to be thankful for what I have, not ache just for what is lost?

I look back on being 35 and I am glad, so glad to be 36. I lived. I survived. I am thriving. I can honestly say that yesterday I celebrated the fact that I share my birthday with a child I will always love. A precious, absent, child I poured my heart and soul into for one year. A child with whom I have so many memories that I can, almost, celebrate. I celebrated the fact I am the much loved wife, mother and friend of so many. Pieces of my heart may reside elsewhere but I am blessed. So incredibly blessed. I am getting there. I am proud of myself.

May 36 be far more boring than 35.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Thanks Google Calendar

Like I could forget anyways but thanks for the email reminder and plastering it on my Google Home Page alllllll day today and I am sure allllll day tomorrow.

Happy Birthday Jazzy. I miss you.


Tomorrow (Wed, Jan 6)
All day Jen and Jazzy's Birthday

And I will still cry if I want to.

Less is sometimes more!

With a husband that is almost six and a half feet tall, a fifteen year old that is almost 190 pounds of solid muscle, a 13 year old just hitting his growth spurt, an extremely tall 12 year old as well as 3 other children and myself you could probably guess that we consume our fair share of food and toiletries. We are the consummate "Buy in Bulk" family and out of necessity, we are also a "Cheaper is Better" family.

For the last fifteen years I have been buying jumbo sized packages of toilet paper. I am sure, if you come from a large family, you know the TP I speak of. You buy 24 rolls at a time. 2 ply industrial strength, individually wrapped and cheap. If you have never used this type of toilet paper then you don't know that it serves a double purpose. Not only can you buy large amounts for less money, the very nature of the product does not induce you to use more than the bare minimum. I mean, it works ... but the best descriptor might be "efficient".

Our town has a brand new Super Walmart. Well everyone else in our community has flocked to the new store, I relish in shopping in the near empty isles of our local supermarkets that have filled their stores with rock bottom sales to maintain their customer base. Alas, there on a discount rack was a package of Charmin' Toilet Paper for cheap. CHEAP I tell you. So I bought it.

There is a whole other world that I knew nothing about and I have crossed over to the other side. Toileting will never be the same. Would it be bad to forbid the boys from using it?