Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh What a Year

When you write a blog you realize quite quickly that this provides snip-its of our life. A glimpse here, a glimpse there and sometimes the stories written are disconnected and left unfinished because my life is moving on so quickly and I forget that I never finished the story . This is my attempt to wrap up some of the Common Sense Stories from 2009.

There is a part of me that wants to scream from the hilltops about how much I HATE this year. 2009 is the year I lost my grandma. It is the year that cancer tried to claim my father. It is the year cancer tried to claim me. I have experienced the very depths of horror and fear and loss. We experienced racism and loss and fear and hate. There were parts of this year I did not think I could survive. And then we got the babies. Love, joy, peace and excitement. This year has been the best of the best and the very worst of the worst.

But, let's start at the beginning.

In February I wrote about a difficult letter I had to write to our boys' father about the kids' concerns with contact and some of the issues that had come up here. He wrote back, not at all happy with our concerns, but careful to write out the boys entire names on the envelopes, including all 3 middle names. We have not heard from him since but I continue to write him every couple months sending pictures and brief updates on the kids. The boys continue to opt out of contact with both sides of their birth family and I no longer "force" them to sign birthday cards or Christmas cards. We are at an impasse. Greg stung by broken promises of contact and gifts refuses to reach out again, Eric follows his brothers lead completely. I play middle man and ensure that both sides are apprised of any new information. At some point this year the phone number and address information I had for the boys' first mother became obsolete, but I maintain contact through another relative and we exchanged emails on Christmas Day.

March started off on a low note and only got worse. Trip-Pee arrived. Trippy the insane. Trippy the dog that wouldn't stop peeing. Trippy, known as my bad decision of 2009. Trippy the dog I came **THIS CLOSE** to booting in front of a speeding train. Now, don't quote me on this but he is actually not half bad anymore. We haven't had a pee accident in at least 3 days, and maybe another one 5 days before that. In other words, we might actually like him, a little. Or alot. But you better not tell anyone I said so. We realized we liked him just a few short weeks ago when we met our dog sitter on the side of a freezing highway late one dark night and when she opened her truck door to pass us off the dogs, Trippy was GONE. Yes, only Trippy could escape from the cab of a pick up without the driver noticing. Did I mention it was MINUS 35 degrees? And dogsitter had just driven through a wolf and cougar infested forest? Apparently when she stopped at the edge of her ranch to unlock a gate, the (incredibly stupid) dog had jumped out to follow her and she had not noticed. An anxious hour later he was found running up the road back to her house. Apparently he is lucky too.

In March my father was diagnosed with Stage IV Cancer in his liver. My dad. The strongest, bravest, hardest working, most consistent man I know was given a very short life expectancy. My world stopped. Shock and horror would describe those first few weeks before a battle plan was drawn up. We started with the worst possible news, and every step since has been better. Amazing chemotherapy that my dad first had to qualify for, and then responded beyond expectations to. My dad has never wavered in his strength and attitude. So I share this news not because I want your sympathy but because I covet your prayers. In an amazing twist of fate and miracle of God my father qualifies for surgery that will cost him 70% of his liver but could give him back his life. It could give me back my dad. It could give my kids back their papa. January 8th. Please, please pray as it is a dangerous, complicated and very, very serious surgery. And I need my dad.

I didn't know it, but the baby that would become my daughter was born in March.

And then, also in March, my Nan died. My beautiful, lovely, kind and gracious grandmother. The woman who had been my rock in life. She was suffering and not who she would have wanted to be anymore but there was a part of me that didn't care. I wanted her still, I needed her still and I did not feel ready to let her go. Do we ever? Losing my Nan has taught me much about grieving an expected loss. I get through most days and you might never know the constant ache that I carry. I miss her every single day. Every day the boys do something funny, or the girls reach a new milestone I reach for that phone. My sister and I found that mutual ache that no one else understands drove us together for Thanksgiving. We needed to be together to remember her. So, in case you wonder, yes I miss my Nan.

Throughout that terrible, horrible month when I thought I could endure no more pain, I was being tested to be a kidney donor for my cousin. This had been in the works for about a year, but I did not blog about it at all because it seemed like a strange thing to announce. My immediate family knew what I was doing and they all thought I was completely and totally crazy for even considering it. I cannot explain the whys except to say that I knew, deep down, that I was supposed to follow it through. I was not overly vested in being a donor, but I knew I was willing and knew that I needed to follow the testing through until either I donated or the donation door closed. Of course it saved my life. MY LIFE. My kidney cancer was discovered and when I thought I could endure no more, I did.

Have I mentioned yet that March 2009 might just go down in the books as "worst month ever"?

Anyways, the cancer was removed and I am fine. I have alluded to some more tests that I have had to do and well, that is probably just going to be my life from now on. I am a "Cancer Survivor" and all that goes with it. Am I confident in my health? No. Should I be? Probably, but at the same time, I had cancer. My body betrayed me and maybe someday, someway I will feel confident again but for now every new ache, every new strange test gives me pause. What I do not think will ever change is my hatred of cancer.

This brings me back to the kidney donation. This is going to get complicated so follow along closely. Now remember, my cousin NEEDS a kidney? And I could not donate due to the cancer. So a friend of mine, who until she states otherwise is choosing to remain anonymous, decided to step forward to donate her kidney to MY cousin she has never met, in honor of what I went through. Now remember this, because it gets more complicated but that makes me jump ahead several more months. Just remember, my friend is donating her kidney to my cousin AND the surgery is on January 11! Again, a miracle. And I will come back to this.

So April was a blur of grief and fear and tests and overwhelming emotions. What I didn't know that it was the calm before the proverbial storm. I had my surgery, I came home, the dog peed on my head and Shelby lost his job.

And that, of course was nothing compared to what was to come. On May 28th the bad ended. The grief the pain the fear and the horror stopped. Or at least we got so distracted we could look away from the train wreck that was our life at that moment. Miss Tiny and Miss Curious arrived. You have no idea, and I am not sure I properly expressed it on here, what a shock their arrival was. We were NOT waiting foster parents or ever expecting to foster again. We had fostered in the past and it was not a good experience and we (particularly Shel) had sworn off of it forever. We were not looking to add to our family or expecting more children to be part of our family in the future. We got a call from a friend who happens to be a social worker. This friend had no open homes in our community that could take these two special babies. They spent one night in the hospital and one night in an emergency and over full home, and then were passed around the Social Workers Office as they frantically tried to find a placement. We became that placement.

We were told it would be "short term". We have learned that this is social worker speak for "the rest of your life". The girls are amazing. Absolutely amazing. I want to share them with you so you too can see just how beautiful and amazing they are, but for now, you will just have to trust me that they are incredibly perfect in every way. We love them more than I can ever express and we needed them so very much, and we didn't even know it. THEY are the reason 2009 wasn't as horrible as it could have been.

We dealt with racism in 2009 and we advocated hard for change . I am very happy to report that just before Christmas we received an update on the latest incident that Greg faced. There will be better training for referees as a response to our complaint. There will forced education for the team and player that offended. I am proud of my sons for standing firm and advocating for change in the face of hatred. Very proud.

Shel was out of work for the entire summer and found employment in the fall in a completely different capacity than he was previously employed. It's a hard job and a job that takes him away from home for days at a time, but for now, it's a job - with a pay cheque - and he is learning much. I didn't go back to my job in September, instead choose to stay home with the girls and I have never, ever regretted my decision. Ever. The girls needed me at home and its been a good, good thing.

Thanks to you, Annie had her surgery. Her recovery is ongoing but I am happy to report that she is doing just fine! Her fur has grown back and although she is a slightly grouchier version of her former self we are so happy to still have her around.

Then Miss Precious arrived. Miss Precious was NOT supposed to arrive here but she did. First, I was just her daycare for another foster family but that foster family turned out to be, well, not an ideal placement for Miss Precious and so she stayed. She stayed while we looked for another foster family for her. Now remember back with the kidney donation where I said that things get complicated? This is where they do. Thanks to my advocacy, and a community with a huge shortage of foster parents, Miss Precious was placed with a friend of mine. The same friend that is donating her kidney to my cousin. So, my friend that is donating a kidney to my cousin is now Miss Precious foster mom. And yes, I am still doing her daycare.

So in other words, it's been QUITE a year. The highest highs and the lowest lows. Thanks for being here with me. For my sake, I hope I have alot less interesting things to write about in 2010!


Andy said...

I just have to say it again,

Jen you rock!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I hope its a lot less interesting too, love your sis.

Unknown said...

Maybe you are an example of "what does not kill us makes us stronger" is to a better 2010 for you...

Fatcat said...

Wow. I'm so glad you got through all of that!

I hope 2010 is a great year for you all.