Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Infinity Scarf

Mom's having another round of chemo tomorrow and will be down for the count for at least 5 days. I don't have work again until January 6th, and plan to be with her as much as possible, especially for the 5-6 days that will be her worst. 

I have found the perfect project for us to work on! I'll post photos when we're done.


(This pattern and more found over at Lacy Crochet.)

Since the stitch used for this scarf is hardly elaborate, it’s a good quality deluxe yarn that made all the difference. I used Plymouth Yarn® Baby Alpaca Worsted, which created a beautiful drapey fabric. 

My scarf turned out warm and bulky, but personally I like that look. But if you’d prefer a slightly lighter version, try making this scarf with Plymouth Yarn® Baby Alpaca DK .

Skill Level: Easy


Materials: Baby Alpaca Worsted Glow yarn in Olive by Plymouth Yarn, 5 balls 


Crochet Hook US size F (3.75 mm)

Shell in this pattern: (2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc) all in same space.

Ch 58 loosely. 

Row 1: shell in 6th ch from hook, *ch 3, skip 5 ch, sc in next ch, ch 3, skip 5 ch, shell in next ch* across, skip 3 ch, dc in last ch.


Row 2: ch 6, turn; *sc in next shell, ch 3, shell in next sc, ch 3* across, end with sc in last shell, ch 3, dc in last dc.


Row 3: ch 3, turn; *shell in next sc, ch 3, sc in next shell, ch 3,* across, end with shell in next sc, dc into 3rd ch of turning ch-6.

Repeat Row 2 – Row 3 until your scarf measures about 65 inches. Fasten off, but leave a tail long enough to stitch the shorter ends of the scarf together.


Lay your scarf on a flat surface. Flip one side to form a twist. Stitch the shorter ends together using a tapestry needle. Wave in the ends.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Religion exists on a continuum

The world gets less black and white and more grey the older you get and the more you learn. I remember being surprised to learn that sexuality exists on a continuum: people aren't simply gay or straight, but fall somewhere in between.

So then why has it been surprising to me to discover in the last year that religion also exists on a continuum?  There are staunch atheists on one end, and those who know there is a god without ever faultering on the other, but most of us fall somewhere in between.

When I started the classes for my confirmation, I thought somehow a switch would be flipped and I would believe or know. Of course that didn't happen. All I ended up with were more questions. So then, I thought maybe at the actual ceremony I would think or feel differently and know there was a god. Again, nothing.

But, it wasn't just nothing. Somewhere between those classes and today, my world view has shifted and instead of considering myself agnostic, I am now open to the possibility that there is a god; maybe he does have a plan. A few years ago, I would have said 'religion is a crutch that people cling to in times of need.' Maybe it is. And what's so wrong with that? Here I sit, in my greatest time of need, staring loosing my Mom in the face and I have to say I'm clinging tightly to what little faith I have formed. 


I've heard that during tough times even those of very strong faith can falter, even becoming angry at god. It honestly surprises me that even though I'm in the formative phase of my belief in god, it has not lessened. I could look at this situation with Mom as unfair (it is!) but instead, have somehow been able to feel lucky, even blessed, to have her yesterday, today and tomorrow. Just a few short months ago, we were talking about the possibility of having to move the wedding up so she could be there, yet our wedding day came and went and she was able to have a blast. She even got out out on the dance floor.

I want more time with her, and I always will. The only thing that has gotten me through all this is focusing on the time we have now, and trying to make the very most of it. If there is a god, maybe he made sure I wouldn't be alone in this and chose to wait until I had Nathan in my life. Maybe, he has already answered my prayers in making sure she was at the wedding and was able to enjoy it. She had her 2nd dose of the new chemo, carboplatin, while we were on our honeymoon and was suffering for 5 days. She couldn't even sleep for more than an hour due to the pain.

When I pray, I don't focus on her to be cured...because I know there is a 5% chance of that. I thank god for this time I have now, ask for the strength to put on a brave face and enjoy it. I ask that she not suffer too much. I ask that she be there to see her first grandchild, and throw in the 'please cure her part' at the end. Maybe I'm too afraid to hope for that. Maybe my faith isn't strong enough yet. Maybe I just realize and accept it's not possible.

This weekend may be one of the last that Mom feels alright. On Monday, she will have another scan, and on Wednesday, we will find out if it's working. She will also have another dose of this new chemo which knocked her down last time; the side effects of which may be compounded.  

So, instead of sitting around and dwelling on it, we're off to Temecula. I'm going to try to enjoy the hell out of this weekend, pun intended. I will continue to pray, if not to help Mom, because the very act of it seems to be helping me. And I will continue to move along the continuum toward those who know there is a god without ever questioning it, and away from how I used to feel.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Autumn Weekends with Mom

With Mom's diagnosis has come a compelling urge to enjoy every moment and document, document, document. I don't have the best memory, and I don't want to forget any of the wonderful moments we've been given. I've even taken to recording her voice when I can, and taking videos of just normal interactions

Within our budget, we've been trying to infuse the weekends with happy, fun times. Thankfully, up until this point, Mom's only side effect from her two doses of chemo has been tiredness. She started a new round because the other chemo didn't really do a whole lot.

Mom and Dad moved to an apartment 1.4 miles from us at the end of August. I still can't believe that they are so close and absolutely cherish being able to stop by in the morning with coffee, or swing by after work. Mom settled in pretty quickly, and we set about making the most of the new area.

Sept. 7th

We had an intention mass for Mom. I had no idea when Nathan and I chose the date that the priest was also doing a blessing of the sick, which is only done quarterly. When Mom was returning to the pew, she had tears in her eyes. It was the first time since the news I have seen her upset. At the end of the mass, Msgr. Don said special intentions for a few people, including Mom. On the drive home, we stopped by a vegetable stand on a whim. I remember her posing by this sign and thinking In spite of everything, it already is a beautiful day. Once again I am reminded that although we cannot control what happens to us, we can control what we do with it. It is possible to have cancer, and still have a beautiful day.


Sept. 8th


We went to the Olde Ship British Pub in Fullerton. A nice surprise: Mom's friend Stacy showed up! Mom had her favorite, fish and chips, and rhubarb custard crisp. Must make this for her! Afterward, we went to the British Grocer.
Sept. 10th
The day before Mom's gamma knife procedure we were able to have high tea on the Queen Mary. The idea actually came from my friend Krista's hubby - who even knew there was a princess Diana exhibit.

Not knowing what the gamma knife surgery would be like...I had a heightened level of anxiety on the drive to Long Beach. Mom and I held hands as she sung along with the Hollies On a Carousel, Nancy Sinatra, The Moody Blues, The Vogues, Herman's Hermits and Gerry and the Pacemakers. These songs spurred memories and before I knew it, she was talking about her very first job at the counter for barrettes in Woolworth back in England, and how they had a 45 record player close by that she was able to listen to.

Dad and Glen went with and toured the ship. Ever the giver, Mom was sure to save some of her desserts for the boys. As we were getting ready to leave, they tried to sell us the photo they had taken beforehand. I thanked him, but explained that we couldn't afford it. Mom asked if we could come back and get it a few weeks later and I told her it wouldn't be available...but, he explained it would be. I said well, maybe we'll do that knowing that it likely wouldn't ever happen. We thanked the man, and headed to the parking lot. And then, he came running, free code with the pictures in his hand. Again, I was reminded: there are good people out there.

Sept 15th 
Drag show brunch in West Hollywood? Sure! Why not? Helen invited me and I don't do anything these days without Mom tagging along. Her response when I asked her? Sure, why not? 



Sept 22nd
Since Mom's diagnosis, I have asked friends to write to her because she loves snail mail, and has yet to send an email.
Paulette, the mother of a friend of mine, has taken to writing Mom almost daily. Paulette gave Mom an admit two to Sherman Library & Gardens in Corona del Mar, and so we decided to check it out.
Mom loves thrift stores, and the gardens happened to be across the street from one of her favorite ones, so we ducked in there first. I found some fall decorations, and she looked for some warmer clothes for our upcoming trip to San Francisco. As we walked around the gardens, I noticed Mom's energy levels were low, for the first time. Mom still had fun We plan to go back sometime soon.







Sept. 28th
San Francisco!
Okay, this wasn't exactly in our budget, especially with the wedding coming up...but, we wanted to make a road trip while Mom was still able to go. Mom and Dad lived in San Francisco before I was born, and I had never been with them. This weekend warrants its own blog entry, but I would spend twice the amount of money in a heart-beat. Attending mass at the mission, walking around their old neighborhood and seeing their apartment, going to my Mom's old office building - one of the tallest in SF- and having dinner at the Empress of China which remains unchanged since she was taken for business lunches long ago were all priceless experiences. Even the car ride was wonderful, because we were together. 
Working on baby blankets on the drive.
October 5th

Dress fitting!!!!!!!!! Mom was her usual, calm, loving, happy self and was extremely helpful during what could have been a stressful appointment. Not only was she helpful to me, but to the other woman being fitted next to me. Mom isn't boastful, and she doesn't pretend to know what is best, but she listens and in doing so, makes people feel good about themselves. I looked at the woman who was alone at the appointment, and wondered where her Mom was. Again, I told myself I was lucky and to be thankful for today.

October 6th
Tanaka Farms pumpkin patch! Mom loved interacting with the children in our group, and I thought of how wonderful she would be with our children. The thought of her not being there for them; for me for them, was too much and I pushed it aside. And here it is again.

October 13th
My bridal shower tea was over-the-top amazing, and all the result of Nathan's sister and mother's hard work and great attention to detail. There were a lot of people there that I hadn't seen in quite awhile, so I wasn't able to just sit and talk with Mom. But I loved looking over at her - the mother of the bride - and seeing her enjoying her friends, and interacting with mine. 

October 19th
We went to a friend's 2 year old's birthday party and Mom is like the baby whisper. 

October 20th
Mom and Dad were able to go to go see Fiddler on the Roof at a local theater place less than a mile from their place! I wasn't able to go because the tickets were given to them, but it felt so good knowing that they were taken care of that day, and enjoying some much-needed time alone.

October 26th
All this brings us to our past weekend at the St. Regis. You remember me saying we were on a budget, right? Well, there is no way we would spend what this spa day cost, even if we had it! And while I am not at liberty to disclose just how were were able to swing it, I will say once again that there are some very good people out there.

 After our treatments, we were relaxing in the women's lounge with chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne. I was secretly enjoying eavesdropping on the conversation between the other 4 women, two of whom lived in Coto de Caza, an exclusive gated community on Orange County.

Mom and I were getting ready to leave the lounge and have lunch. I helped her gather up her belongings and we put our arms around each other's waist. One of the women said "I just have to say that you are so lucky to be here, enjoying this day together. My Mom died four years ago and I would give anything just to hold her hand."

We were both taken aback, and I shared with her Mom's diagnosis. Her Mom had the same thing, and as she continued talking I noticed her friends were tearing up, and so was the spa manager.


I was already making a conscious effort to be in the present moment and enjoy this time with Mom, but this was an overt reminder. It's as if she was sent to remind us, just in case.




Thankfully, Mom's side effects from her new chemo. aren't too bad. Or, at least not as bad as we were expecting. Mom is pretty tough, and not a complainer at all, so when she mentions her bones aching, it means she's feeling it. She was scheduled for a second does the Wednesday before the wedding, but we have decided to push it back until the following week. That way, she will really be able to enjoy the day; the dance with Nathan, visiting with her cousin who is coming over from Ireland, and spending time with Lucinda who lives in NY and Mom hasn't seen since I was just a few months old!

She will also enjoy the wedding more because on Monday, we received some positive news: her brain tumors are decreasing in size, have not spread, and there is no swelling. This was just the boost we needed to carry us through the next 15 days until the wedding!

Now, what fun activity can we plan for this weekend?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

No one wants an opinion & advice counselor!

I wish I could blog more about my career as a middle school counselor, I really do. I truly love the work I do; something amazing, peculiar or rewarding happens every single day. I feel very thankful to have found a vocation, instead of just a job.

But as a counselor, we have this thing called confidentiality. I often tell kids: What you say in here stays in here. The only exception: someone is hurting you, you want to hurt someone or you want to hurt yourself. Their stories, struggles and successes are their own, and it's not even right to tell their stories but change the name. We're actually not even supposed to tell their teachers, though with the student's permission, it can be very beneficial. Teachers are on the front lines, and they see them daily. It helps for them to be aware when one of their students is going through something, even if we don't expressly state what it is.

So, with that in mind, I had a meeting with a student the other day and it went so well that she looked noticeably calmer towards the end of our session, even though I didn't really 'do' anything. Don't get me wrong, there can be a lot more to counseling than just listening. Narrative Therapy, for example, involves helping shift the way someone views their self and their situation. Through externalizing conversations, it can help someone realize that the problem is separate from who they are and not an inherit characteristic of their personality, giving them the power to do something to change it.

But in this case, I wasn't doing that. I was simply listening, and not telling her how to "fix" it. She told me that her Mom doesn't listen (in her opinion) and always tries to have a solution or strategy to solve things, or tells her how she would handle it. Her Mom may very well be a good listener, perhaps even a better listener than me, but that's her opinion...and our opinions are our realities.

Later that day on my run, I was thinking about becoming a mother, a topic on my mind quite a bit lately. And I was thinking about being a parent and how I'm going to try and not be viewed by my child(ren) as a parent who doesn't listen. Trying to identify a difference that maybe made her feel like I listened when she thinks her mom doesn't. I came up with an important one: no advice.

Counselors do not give advice. It can even be seen as unethical to do so. Thinking we're an expert and presuming we know what is best in another person's life is a dangerous position to place ourselves in. I believe that they're the experts in their own lives. And, studies show that people don't take advice anyway. Even if they did, if we dished it out, and it turned out to be wrong...they're the ones who have to live with it.

When I'm a parent, I really hope to remember this, and practice at home what I preach at work. It can be so different when we're on the perimeter of a situation instead of in the thick of it...and I have seen this in my own life with my own family. I have, at times, come across as bossy or all-knowing with my brother, instead of just listening. When I was a child, teenager especially, one thing my Mom never, ever did is tell me what to do. Instead, she listened, with her whole heart. She was flexible, forgiving and trusting. When we disagreed, she worked with me to come to a compromise instead of just saying no.

Now, this isn't to say we, as counselors and parents, can't help guide them; help them figure out the right course of action. But, we should never pretend to know or force them down a certain path. It most likely won't work, and then the resentment can start to build...and ultimately, they end up feeling like we don't listen. And sometimes, listening is all it takes.




Helene in Between

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Before & After

I absolutely love this picture of Mom, taken April 6th. We we popped into a David's Bridal and took a look at some Mother of the Bride dresses. We found this one, deeply discounted of course, and had such a laugh imagining her in it.

Because Mom does not like her photo taken, a lot of her posed photos are just that: posed. But this picture captures her pure joy, and I can almost hear her contagious laughter when I look at it. The laughter that my Dad has a knack for bringing forth without much effort, and the kind that causes her to actually shed tears.

As much as I love this picture, it hurts my heart to look at it because it was taken pre-diagnosis. The cancer was there, but we did not know it. Everything was alright.

Today, a student came into my office, visibly upset. He was going through something very similar with one of his parents. When he paused, I said I understand exactly how you feel, and disclosed what was going on with Mom.

It's a statement I've never made before. As a counselor, I can empathize, but never really know what someone else is going through, and never pretend to. Basic counseling skills involve listening, paraphrasing and empathizing before using whatever your trained approach is, often a combination of a few.

I've said I can imagine how hard that must be or I can see how much this hurts you, but I've never said I understand exactly, because I don't think I ever have.

But everything he said was so spot-on, that he could have been reading a monologue that I wrote. I did know how scared he was. I did understand how mad he was, and agreed that it most certainly was not fair. I knew there were no magic words for me to offer up to help make it better. I knew telling him it would be alright or that his parent would be fine wouldn't help. So I listened, and agreed, and set a follow-up appointment. It was all I could do, and hopefully it was something. He sort of smiled before he left, but gave me a hug before he walked away.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Perfect Life

It struck me on the way home that today had been a good day. Yesterday was, too. I was looking forward to picking up my new glasses that I ordered through insurance back in May, making a protein shake, showering since I had managed to get a short run in and then walking down to Mom's. And then I thought of the day before that: our drag brunch in Hollywood and all the laughs and I started counting...and realized that for one whole week, seven consecutive days, I've had good days. We've had good days.

 I told Nathan that I need to soak all of this up, because we don't know what lies ahead, but we have a fairly good idea. They've started her out on a less aggressive form of chemotherapy, and she's only had one dose. After one more treatment, she'll have a scan. And if that's not working, they will increase the dose. And then again. And that's when her quality of life can really start to be affected. But for now, for today, she's good.


In the beginning, right after the impact, I tried to have good days. And it was work, let me tell ya. But somewhere between the faking it for her sake and now, I started actually having good days. I've set the trial for my hair and make-up, started eating healthy again and am going to have a Bachelorette party after all. I realized yesterday while filling in a teacher on Mom's condition, that I was able to do so without crying, and yet I wasn't numb. It's like a fog has lifted. I've been planning fun things with Mom, realizing that it doesn't have to cost money. She seemed to have just as much fun watching Trevi run around like she was on crack at dog beach as she did having high tea on the Queen Mary.

I know more of those other days are ahead, but today is a good day, and I'm going to go with it. Cancer has taken so very much from my family and countless others, but it's not going to take away today. And if that fog should start to creep back in, all I have to do is listen to Moby's new song. Had to think of a tie in somehow, besides my blog title being a Moby song.

 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I knew it was going to be a good day when...

...I saw a man running down the street in his undies.

Have you ever engaged in a conversation with someone before you realized they weren't wearing any pants? Well I have. And it happened this morning. With everything going on with Mom, I have made it a point to 1) get enough sleep 2) exercise and 3) get up earlier to enjoy the morning without being rushed.

I was on a walk with Trevi just as day was breaking. A hint of fall was in the air, and I thought of the turning of the season; my favorite season, fall. Which lead to thoughts of our wedding and me trying to figure out just how many days until we get hitched (72 - but who's counting).

I was lost in thought when a black standard poodle bolted from a house and into the street, playfully running up to Trevi and then darting off as Trevi lunged toward her. Shortly behind trailed the owner, trying to catch the moppy-haired poodle. I asked him if she was still a puppy and as he muttered his answer, I noticed that he had no pants on. And he didn't have boxers on either. These were real undies folks, tidy whities.

As soon as I noticed his lack of pants, I became embarrassed for him and tried to disengage, fixing my gaze on the asphalt ahead of me and saying come on, Trevi! But the poodle had other plans, and chased after Trevi yet again. Just when this poor, half-naked guy probably thought it couldn't get any worse, a car came down the street and had to stop in the middle of the road. As he ran into the street, still trying to catch the dog, my eyes telepathically questioned the two people in the car: are you guys watching this?

He finally caught the precocious poodle and the car continued on its way. I thought the show was over and as Trevi and I were a few houses down, I heard him cry out. I looked back, and here he came, this time in a full-on sprint. As he charged after his dog, I couldn't hold my laughter in anymore. And I knew it was going to be a good day.

I Heart My Poodle Classic Thong
If I had some extra money, I would leave THESE on his doorstep.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A new normal

With the news that Mom's lung cancer has also spread to her adrenal glands and is surrounding her pancreas comes a new-found devastation and obliteration of what little hope I have been clinging to for the last few weeks. Since the diagnosis, people have told me about their friend or relative who beat cancer. But not lung cancer. And not lung cancer that has already metastasized.
Mom has decorated her box of medications that she takes to her appointments.
When Wednesday's appointment was over and we hugged to part ways, Mom gave me a smile and thumbs up saying "Good news, right?" in reference to the fact that they will be starting her on a lower form of chemo at first, rather than one that would make her sicker than a dog right from the start. As you can probably already tell, she's a glass half-full kinda gal. And she's right: that part is good news, so why rob her of that? I smiled in agreement and as she left to have lunch with my Dad and brother, I told her we would pick her up in a few hours for dinner at Brittany's.

As soon as we parted ways, silent tears began to fall. On my way to the parking structure, I found myself alone in the elevator with grey-haired woman in her 70's. I realized that Mom may not make it to her age. I had the strange desire to cling to her and tell her what I had just found out. I pictured this stranger comforting me; telling me it would be okay, like everyone says. Another tear fell as the elevator door opened, and she walked out; unaware of the overly-dramatic imaginary scene that had just played out in my head.

When I got home Nathan found me looking at the statistics I had found online. I know...I'm so very sorry he said, instead of "She will be fine." Right then, it started to sink in. He held me, and I cried. A few hours went by.

I did not want to get out of bed, much less make myself presentable. I told Nathan that I wanted to ask Mom questions, but didn't know what the questions I would want to ask were. I felt a strong desire to document, and was telling him when we have a child, and they reach certain milestones I would want to ask her advice, or ask about me but now realize I wouldn't be able to. I reached out to my former professor's wife Lorraine for some questions. She worked in hospice for years, and helped my friend Stephanie and I start running grief groups from a Narrative perspective. She wrote:
Remember that her voice will always, always be there with you -- no matter what. If you don't get every last question in now, and there comes a time when she cannot or does not want to talk, you will still be able to access the answers. And you have many others who will help channel her voice for you, for your children and for the rest of your life.....So ask what you can now, maybe record it with audio or video so you don't have to worry about recalling everything, and then trust she will never leave you. Even when she is not here physically.
We went to Brittany's and of course she had everything prepared in such a lovely way. She was warm and welcoming and for the first time in awhile, I thought again of our wedding because she showed my Mom and I some sample paper for our program that she's working on. And then, after dinner, she presented us with the most thoughtful gift I have ever received: a Treasured Passages mother-daughter story book, which coincidentally seems to be from a Narrative perspective.. Of course it made me cry, but I held back somewhat for Mom's sake. It was exactly the thing I had been wishing for, but didn't realize I needed. It will be the perfect tool to use to do the work that Lorraine described and help spark the conversations to help me learn new details about her; new details to one day share with my children.

My emotions are so in-flux right now. I go from being sad, to angry, to thankful all within the span of an hour. Mostly, I just want to cry and be sad. But not Mom. She is the most positive, strong person that you will ever meet. Although I was crying inside, being at Brittany's and seeing Nathan play with her baby; watching Mom watch them interact and smile almost allowed us to have a normal evening. It's a new normal, but one that we need to enjoy nonetheless. Mom usually hates being videotaped, but she didn't say anything this time. I feel fortunate to have THIS video of the night, and plan to have more to save and enjoy for years to come.

When I dropped her off, she told me as we were standing alone, outside in the darkness by the mailboxes that she is comforted knowing that I am so well taken care of by Nathan. She brought up the fact that some children get cancer and they never have a fair shot at life; it's over before they know it. She still had a smile on her face. I hugged her and told her I would see her in the morning. And for now, I have that. I have today, and tomorrow and the next day. And as hard as everything is, it is something to be thankful for.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Big C

“The next time you’re faced with something that’s unexpected, unwanted, and uncertain, consider that it may be a gift.”—Stacey Kramer



It's been tough returning to a new school year, faced with the inevitable question from those I haven't seen since June: "How was your summer?" Pause. Should I respond with the truth and tell a co-worker that it was worse than I ever could have imagined? Or what about the ever so common "How are you?" Devastated, scared, and heartbroken. No one wants to hear that. The question is not really even a question, but rather something we all say without really wanting to hear an answer that deviates too much in any one direction from 'good.' 


It's impossible to put into words how much my world has changed since Mom was diagnosed with a 3cm brain tumor that turned out to be stage 4 lung cancer which has metastasized to her brain. I actually cannot think of a worse diagnosis, can you? When they detected the mass, we were in Oregon and Nathan immediately booked the next flight out at 5:30 am. I hoped, with all of my heart and soul, that it would be benign. That it would not have spread from somewhere else. 


My Mom has always been my best friend. When teenagers go through a rebellious phase, sometimes they drift apart from their parents. Not my Mom and I. We would stay up late, talking and laughing. She helped me through many a broken heart, never telling me that I was being silly, over-dramatic, or that it wasn't that big of a deal. She listened with her whole heart and always infused me with the hope that someone better would come along, and that I deserved that something better. She expressed interest in everything I did, including going so far as to actually fall in love with The Cure, Depeche Mode and NIN. She'd mention songs by names, and ask me to play them, Love Cats being a particular favorite. She is the most optimistic person I have ever met, and I have often said that she has the patience of a saint.


I have talked to her every day of my adult life. Because we are so close, because I love her so dearly, the pain of this horrible reality has completely enveloped me. It now permeates everything I do. And yet here I sit, trying. Trying to put it into words, trying to make sense of it, trying to find hope and trying to be strong, for Mom.  


I once had a psychology professor tell me that it is physiologically impossible to have that butterflies-in-your-stomach-can't-wait-to-see-them new love feeling for too long. It cannot be sustained, physiologically, for more than a set time he explained, no matter who you're with. So yes, even the newness of Angelina Jolie (or maybe you're of the Aniston camp) or Brad Pitt would wear off after awhile, even if they were your ideal partner.


Thank God, I'm finding that the same is true for the feeling that comes with the most devastating news. I don't think it would be possible to feel as bad as I did when the news first hit. In the span of three weeks, I have gone from spontaneously crying in many public places and the lowest low I could have ever imagined, to responding with an nonchalant "fine" when asked the dreaded "How are you?" I'm also no longer crying every day. I'm not fine, but I'm fine with that. Most days, I can at least muster the courage to act normal. Three weeks ago, I did not know how I was going to get it together enough to even return to work. Now, I'm actually thankful for the routine.


Yet still, every morning when I wake up, it hits me all over again. Sometimes, it's during the middle of the night and I lay there wide awake in the darkness, thinking. Or, I find myself lost in the moment and actually enjoying something when this diagnosis and prognosis, taps me on the shoulder. It's there no matter what; looming. Mom, on the other hand, has seemingly never been better. She has an amazing positive outlook and sunny personality, that not even the Big C can penetrate. Who maintains that when faced with this? My Mom does. She has not spent one minute of her time feeling sorry for herself. And how do I know that? Not only has she been her usual happy self around me, daily mentioning how "excited" she is about her new apartment in "the OC" but because Dad told me that even alone with him, she has said "I've had a good life."


But, a good life isn't enough. This is not how it's supposed to be. I want her not only to be around for the birth of our first child (Sophia, if it's a girl) but, she is supposed to help raise them; see them graduate from high school. She's only 62 years old, and I am not ready to give her up. That's too young. Yet the statistics are bleak I find myself being thankful for this time now, and mindful that today is a gift. Having her at our wedding is a blessing. I am keenly aware that she could have died suddenly of a heart attack, accident or stroke. She could have died while I was much younger. She's here with me now.


And thankfully, two pretty amazing things have been set in motion prior to this horrible diagnosis that make it somewhat bearable: I now have the most amazing, selfless
 fiancĂ© and for the first time, I have found some faith.  

On one of our first dates, Nathan asked me what I thought the purpose of life was. I think I gave a long, rambling answer involving being a parent, having fun and leaving the world a better place. But his response was simple: service to others. How honest, and prophetic, that answer has turned out to be. Nathan has shown his true colors by daily working, non-stop, on handling everything that this tragedy has necessitated. Prior to being hit with this, I knew he was amazing; I knew I had held out for the very best. But he has surpassed my wildest expectations by stepping up to the plate in a way I never could have imagined. 

Right from the very start, when Dad was telling me over the phone that Mom was at the ER and they detected a mass, Nathan sprang into action and was in the process of booking us a flight out of Eugene the very next morning before I was even off the phone. He was instrumental in getting my Mom better care by pushing that we check her out of a horrible county facility in Moreno Valley and drive her, ourselves, to UC Irvine Medical Center. He went shopping daily while I stayed in the hospital with her, picking up items from food to crocheting hooks. He taxied me back and forth when I was too upset to drive. 


One night, as I was falling asleep in Mom's ICU room, I texted him that I had forgotten my pajamas. I fell asleep in my jeans, but awoke a short time later to him in the room, knelt down beside me, comfy clothes in hand.  He has used humor with my Mom and I when things were really heavy, and asked her questions about her childhood and my childhood that have allowed me get to know her in a different way. He's pushed with the insurance companies and UCI to fast-track all of the authorizations required so she can get treatment sooner than if we left it up to them. One Friday, he was on the phone from 11 am until 5 pm working exclusively on that. He found my parents an apartment in Tustin and set up all of the utilities and helped move them until 5:30 am.


And over the last week, he has been instrumental in getting my parent's place in Yucaipa rented. Drafting the contract, ordering new carpet (using the security deposit from the people renting it), making more trips to clear it out in time for the 1st. Daily, I am amazed at his dedication and stamina and the love he is showing to my parents. He has been beyond thoughtful, talking about making sure my Mom gets in a trip to England next summer, which she hasn't visited since she left at 18. I realized last week that if I were planning to marry someone who was less than supportive right now, I would call the wedding off.


I have also, since last year, begun to dip my toes in the comforting waters of Catholicism. While I still have a long, long way to go, starting to believe in a higher power, praying, and having mom go with me to church has been helpful. Not just to me, but to her. Nathan means gift from God. And right now, that is just what he seems to be. 


Monday, June 10, 2013

My Pound Puppy

 RESCUED A HUMAN TODAY by Janine Allen

Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels. I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her.
I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn’t be afraid. As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn’t want her to know that I hadn’t been walked today. Sometimes the overworked shelter keepers get too busy and I didn’t want her to think poorly of them.
As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn’t feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone’s life.
She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me. I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship. A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well.
Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms.
I would promise to keep her safe.
I would promise to always be by her side.
I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes.
I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven’t walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one.
I rescued a human today.


When I was in elementary school, I used to dream about one of three different scenarios while I was falling asleep at night: helping the homeless by storing them in a big warehouse where I would bring clothing and food; caring for a baby that someone left on our door in a basket and my Mom gave me to raise; and running a huge animal shelter in my back yard for all of the homeless cats and dogs that I could find. In the last scenario, I imagined letting them all out every day to all frolic and play peacefully, and there was never any poop to pick up. Although extremely pollyanna-esq, all scenarios reflect my desire to help others, especially those less fortunate than us. Those who struggle (homeless), are helpless (babies) or dependent and without a voice (animals). Is there anything more meaningful in life than helping others?

When we started to toss around the idea of adding to the two-husky household, adoption or fostering were the only options. There are so many unwanted animals, or so I had heard, but I had never braved the shelters...ever. Telling myself it would be too sad, I had never set foot in one. But just because I don't see them, doesn't mean they don't exist. Nathan found one of his huskies at the pound. And so, we started looking on-line, and then in person.

I was amazed by just how many pure-bred animals there were, and wondered what each of their stories were. How did they end up here? How much longer did they have before they were put down? We saw several cuties at the Irvine Animal Shelter, but the facilities were pretty swanky and so I didn't mind leaving them there to think it over.
My  girl! The moment I saw her, I knew.
We were at our third animal shelter when I came across this darling girl. I had printed out several dogs that were possibilities, and she was the very last one in the very long corridor of cages. I snapped a picture of her with my cell phone (above) because I had a very good feeling she was going to be mine in no time. From the moment I saw her grumpy-dog under-bite, grey hairs that made her look wise beyond her years and paint-dipped paws, I knew. 

Rows and rows of kennels, some with two dogs to a cage. Heartbreaking.

I immediately found an employee and asked to have her plucked from the cage and taken to the visitation area. I scooped up all 5 pounds of her and knew she was the one I would be bringing home.
The first time I held her.
"Whoever declared that love at first sight doesn't exist has never witnessed the purity of a puppy or looked deep into a puppy's eyes. If they did, their lives would change considerably." ~Elizabeth Parker, Paw Prints in the Sand


While I had her in the visiting area, her kisses sealed the deal. Nathan tried to encourage me to wait, but I could not be swayed and he relented. I've had her for just over a month now, and can't believe how much I love her, and how much she adds to my life, not the other way around. 

The pound actually has a 30 day return policy, and we joked a few times about returning her. I couldn't imagine bringing her back, where she was alone and scared, on the concrete with all of the barking. And I think of all the other dogs, the ones who didn't find a home.

I haven't let go of my childhood dream, and still have hopes of opening up a shelter when we retire in Oregon to help even more animals. That's the thing about helping and serving - we have the benefit of believing we're doing something good, but we're actually the ones being helped. We are the lucky ones, not her.

Browse some of the adoptable pets HERE.

She's named Trevi, because Nathan proposed to me in front of the Trevi Fountain 
in Rome! Thanks to Andrea for coming up with her name!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

We're Engaged!

When major life events - good or bad - happen, it takes awhile for them to sink in and really seem real. Milestone birthdays, deaths, graduations, new jobs, new babies, etc. It seems like we take on the new role long before we see ourselves as older, missing our loved-one, or having a real job.


Two months into my engagement and wedding planning and it finally seems real! I have a fiancĂ©e, not a boyfriend; we've booked our honeymoon; and I'm finally, after all these years, going to have a sister, as he conveniently comes with a twin that I love!




When Nathan planned a surprise 10 day trip for our week off in February, I hoped that something would happen. However, I'm an eternal optimist, and I had hoped something would happen on our last trip to Hawai'i...and, it didn't. 

While I had a very good feeling this time and was hoping for the best, I was also already mentally preparing myself for the "worst"...and telling myself it was okay if he did not pop the question.


He managed to keep our destination a complete surprise; the only clue I received was a weather report, and I knew we needed a passport. My friends had fun joking that we were most likely going to either Canada or Mexico.


When we boarded the plane at Los Angeles International Airport, I only knew that they were flying to Philadelphia! It wasn't until we were in the first class lounge (I've never flown first class!) in Philly that I found out: Rome and then Madrid! I was so elated that I actually cried a little bit, and then promptly updated my facebook status.

We're going to Rome and Madrid!
We arrived in Rome Sunday morning, checked in at our hotel which was right across from the Vatican walls Then, we headed to St. Peter's Bascillica where we were actually able to receive a blessing from the Pope and attend Mass.



Later that night, we set out to explore the Eternal City on foot. Around every corner, there seemed to be something amazing. Bundled up and holding hands, we passed Castel Sant'Angelo and the Spanish Steps before ducking into a sidewalk cafe for some lasagna.




At this dinner, he asked me if I would like to see the Trevi Fountain at night. "Sure!" I exclaimed. As we rounded the corner, I started snapping pictures from the side because it was so beautiful, and I just couldn't wait. We walked down to the front and marveled at the size and scope of it. I handed my camera to a fellow tourist, and asked for a picture of us. But when viewed, I noticed two people in the picture. We sat down on the marble bench and waited for just the right opportunity.


When the crowd cleared a little, he gave my camera to someone, and asked them to "please take a few pictures." I giggled, figuring that this was an inside joke on the fact that I sure do like taking pictures, especially on vacation! As we were posing for the photograph, he got down on one knee, and I instantly started crying. While I had dreamed about this moment for my whole life, and imagined him doing this at least one hundred times, I was still in complete and utter shock. Tears were falling as I repeated "Oh my gosh!" 



Mouth agape, I shook my head in disbelief and needed a hug to even stand.

I have no idea what he said...or, what I said in response! When he stood up to hug me, I think he asked "Is that a yes?" and, still crying, I said yes. We kissed, and everyone applauded. 


But, our proposal story doesn't end there! A nice man with an Australian accent approached us and told us that he had the entire proposal captured on video! He was there on his honeymoon, and retrieved his iPhone as soon as he saw Nathan on bended knee. It's wonderful to watch, and we hope to preserve for future generations.

You can view the actual proposal, and my tearful reaction, HERE.