Saturday, December 19, 2009

Finally a Break

As of yesterday the kids and I are all officially on break from school. I wish I could say it was all about relaxing and enjoying some peaceful family time. Unfortunately, I still have two papers and a drug presentation to write, not to mention a test when I return to school that requires studying. There will be downtime though starting with a night out at Glendale Glitters with the kids. Then after I put in my required holiday shifts at work December 24-28th we are off to the mountains for a few days at my parents house. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and their will be some good snow for sledding. Images of snuggling by the fireplace, enjoying food, and family are what has kept me going for the last month.

I thought I would share some funny things that happened at my house recently:

Coversation between Allison and I:
Me: "Alli be nice to your sister and brothers they are the only ones you are going to get".
Alli: "Why Mommy?".
Me: "Uh, because this baby factory is closed. There will be no more babies in this house".
Alli: (Starts crying) "But I don't want to be the youngest" at which point she turns to her sister and says "Well at least I am older than you".
Becca: (Starts crying)
Me: "Ugh, nice Alli. As far as I am concerned 1 minute doesn't really count, you are both the youngest"!
At which point they both ran off to play together again.

A little girl from school called Cameron last night to come over and play. I asked to talk to the mom and after discussing we set up a play date. I asked her towards the end of the conversation if she knew that Cameron was a boy not a girl as Cameron is a gender neutral name. She did not know he was a boy and so after more discussion we decided the play date should be at her house so she could supervise. It's a good thing I said something!  Life at our house with 4 kids is never dull.

Now that I have the time there will be some updates and changes to the blog:
 We should have a closing date for our new house in the next few days. Which will lead to a new feature on this blog : The Rodriquez Renovation...lots of before and after photos to come as we restore and renovate our new vintage home!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Calm After the Storm

Winter has finally arrived in AZ. Now I know that cold is all relative, but my thin skinned self is freezing right now. Following a weekend of brisk weather in Palm Springs I returned home to a massive winter storm. As rain hammered the state I headed off to work and school bundled up with my coat and gloves. Driving home from work I weaved through an obstacle course of downed trees, sprawled trash cans, and street lights that were out. The rain came down in sideways sheets as the wind howled. Craig opened the garage for me and I entered our candlelit house. The power had gone out and stayed out until the wee hours of the morning.

This morning I snuggled in my warm bed listening as the house woke up around me. Snatches of whispered conversation punctuated by laughter drifted from the girls room. As the word "mom" became louder and more persistent I rose to make the kids breakfast and drive them to school. Now, I sit in my office drinking a cup of hot tea thinking about how blessed I have been feeling lately. Blessed to have such a strong, close knit family. Blessed to have such supportive old friends and grateful for the new ones I have made over the past few months. Blessed to watch my kids grow and find their own voice each day. Most of all I feel blessed that we have the opportunity to flee the suburbs and head to a more urban environment. That sounds odd as most people I know flee TO the suburbs with their kids. I just can't wait to show them all the city has to offer and watch their world split wide open. For the first time in a long time I feel content and happy. Why is it I keep waiting for something to change that happy state? Craig tells me that instead of enjoying the moment I am often fretting over what lies ahead, anticipating that challenges and problems will crop up again. Today, I am going to make every effort to just sit in this moment and enjoy it for what it is, without worrying about what comes next.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Settling In

Lately I feel like my life has been preempted, taken over by a force bigger than me. That force is called nursing school. My days revolve around homework, lectures, labs, tests, with work and family time added to the mix life as I know it has changed. Confidence wise I am mostly feeling stronger than I ever could have anticipated, yet there are still nerve wracking moments that punctuate my calm facade. My first three tests scores were truthfully best case scenario. On my drug calculation test I obtained the required 100% on the first attempt. This was followed by an 86% on our first module test. Then this past week I was delighted and shocked to learn I had earned the highest grade in our class with a perfect 100% on the fluid/electrolyte test rumored to be one of the hardest this block. Though I spend many hours working on my own I have also settled into a study group.

On a personal note, Craig and I have made the decision to relocate our family out of the suburbs and into Central Phoenix. After an exhaustive search we made an offer on a home and after 45 days, which included some negotiations with the bank as the house is a short sale, it was accepted. Still working out a few details, but if all goes well the keys should be in our hands by the end of December. It will be a bittersweet as we leave many friends behind, but we have come to the conclusion that for us now is the right time to move. Oh and before I forget, we added a new member to our family. Gracie, a gorgeous and sweet Siamese came to join us from a local shelter in late October. She has quickly settled in and found her place in our chaotic household.

Finally, I just returned from a weekend respite in Palm Springs with my "original" family, my Dad, Mom, and sister. It was the first vacation just the 4 of us in 15 years. As we ate our way around Palm Springs, enjoyed wine tastings in Temecula, and rode the aerial tramway to the top of a snow capped mountain, we reconnected finding the dynamic that once held us together as a unit. Great music, laughter, inside jokes, deep conversation, insightful thoughts, and a few tense moments marked the three days we spent together. In the end, I felt incredibly blessed and lucky to have such a remarkable, close knit family. It was however, after the quick escape, a relief to return to the family Craig and I have worked so hard to build over the past 14 years. As I write this the girls are chasing each other around the house while Cam occasionally wanders into the office for help with his homework. All is for now right in my little corner of the world. Pictures to follow as well as some more updates in the upcoming weeks.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Letting Go

There a few occasions that I find myself at a loss for words. Lately I either can not find enough words or maybe just the right words don't seem to come. Both my perfectionist nature and headstrong personality which have in the past encouraged me to dive into to so many situations without a moment's hesitation have now become somewhat taxing. There is so much pressure on me that I feel like any error or miscalculation on my part constitues a complete, utter failure. The problem is no one else is putting that pressure on me, but myself. Take for instance today. There I was in the skills lab doing my vital signs check off, I was 8pts off on the blood pressure reading I did the first time. The professor checked me off on the rest of my vitals and told me come back to try the BP again in the afternoon. All of my lunch hour, along with a good portion of the afternoon was spent beating myself up. As the end of the day neared, I felt that I should not even try again, but I did and I was within the 4pt difference that was allowed. So, there it was checked off on my list and there I was defeated instead of celebrating.

On the drive home I asked myself who is this person? Where is the woman I know and recognize? The desire to run as far as I could as fast as I could begin to settle upon me. The same urge I have felt in the past when my control began to slip. The thing is I am not by any stretch of the imagination a runner. So, instead I fed the kids, pumped up my bike tires, and with NIN pounding in my ears I was off. Legs pumping furiously, I rode until the muscles in my leg began to whimper, rode until they screamed ENOUGH, rode until the tears came and my legs turned to jello. It was only at that point as the release finally came that I let go, climbed off my bike, and walked the remainder of the way home.

As my breathing slowed, I reminded myself of all the reasons I am becoming a nurse, all the reasons I am drawn to, and love this profession. It was then that it struck me, the reason I am putting all this pressure on myself. I want more than anything to be not just be a nurse, but to be a successful nurse, to put my heart and soul, a piece of myself into my work and my patients. I can not think of anything more important to me at this point in my life than seeing the culmination of my dream. I have found the one thing in life I feel I should be doing and more than anything I am scared of failing, it is not even an option for me not to finish what I have started. This epiphany came to me then, that I need to let it all go and let whatever is meant to be just happen. After all, that is how I got here in the first place. All the rewards and challenges I have faced in my life have in retrospect all happened for a reason. So, I am going to take the first of many deep breaths and begin to enjoy school and let the rest of it all go...

Friday, October 30, 2009

The First Week

Several times this week it has been ever so politely pointed out to me that this is the first week of the rest of my life. Well, the rest of my life as a nurse that is. I appreciate the support, encouragement, concern, and love. I have tried to take to heart advice from my family and friends to relax, get some sleep, not burn myself out. The truth is what I really want, no need is to find my footing on my own. To call to vent, to express my frustrations over the disorganization, to just have a listening ear and nothing more. I know that I am a little stressed right now, yes I know it will get better. I just need time to balance school, work, family, endless studying, oh and the plethora of hands on stuff. My confidence is slowly returning, soon the old strong, determined me you have all grown accustomed to will reappear propelling me forward towards my goal. For now though my perspective is that it's only the first week.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

And So It Begins

Tomorrow is my first day of nursing school. There I said it, it's real, I am actually finally starting. The truth is I'm not quite sure I am ready for what comes next on this journey. Sleepless nights, stress, tests, clinicals, nightmares, studying for hours on end...did I mention sleepless nights? I just want to relax and enjoy each step of this process. To live in the moment, to simply be, soak it all in, but in my head at least it is not that simple. I am having doubts about my abilities, losing my confidence, hoping it all comes back after the first few days or weeks. My stomach is in knots and I feel nauseous, I am not certain I can handle this. Remind me again why I wanted to go to nursing school??? Oh yes, I felt "called" to become a nurse after Cam's birth.

Last Thursday I was awakened in the wee hours by Cam, who had been awakened himself by the newest insomniac, I mean member of our family, Gracie the cat. Climbing into bed with Craig and I, he snuggled up to me, said "I love you, Mom" and fell back asleep, It was lovely, amazing, sweet even at 3am. Earlier that evening he had lost his first tooth, excitement gave way to tears as he went to rinse out his mouth and washed his baby tooth down the drain. As I ruffled his hair and listened to his soft sighs give way to the deep, gentle breaths that signified his transition into sleep, I marvelled at this boy who has so quickly become an adolescent. My "dented and dinged" baby that was always falling, crashing, jumping, full of bumps and bruises as he cruised his way through the toddler years has become a big boy. As dawn broke, I gave into my thoughts, fears, hopes, rising from bed to prepare for orientation for nursing school. It seemed so fitting that he would lose his tooth that night, signifying yet another milestone on his way through childhood. Closing a chapter, much like I am, moving on to the next step in a life that never stops moving, changing, going forward regardless of whether we are ready.

Seems I just need a little perspective. So I will focus on the big picture, this incredible adventure that lies ahead, embracing whatever comes next just as my son has taught me to do.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Two Weeks of Summer...Part I

The long awaited vacation post is finally here...yes I know our vacation was two, uh make that three months ago, but I have been a little er busy. Okay I have been procrastinating...and preparing for nursing school...and working full time...and getting the kids back to school...and attending awards ceremonies...and getting the theater season up and running...and looking for a house...and planning a move. Well, you get the picture. No more excuses as the summer fades to fall here is the story of our adventures in the Midwest.
We began our trip in Indianapolis arriving late in the evening kids and luggage in tow. After a night's rest we headed to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, followed by lunch in downtown Indy. The gray skies and drizzles of rain were a welcome respite from the 110+ degree temps we had left behind in AZ. I wish I could tell you that I enjoyed Indy more, but the fact is I was excited to get going to Michigan, looking forward to seeing Tamara, one of my best friends, again. So, off went through the fields of the Midwest, hours of gorgeous countryside as the sun played peek-a-boo with the clouds making our way to Michigan. We arrived as the sun began to descend, it's last rays reflecting off Indian Lake. Their home was filled with light, warmth, wrapping it's arms around us much as they did welcoming us into their lives for a brief moment. After a lovely weekend we were off to the first part of our trip to Chicago. We arrived for a lovely, albeit brief and somewhat delayed lunch with one of my favorite writers/bloggers, Claire of Life in Chicago and her newborn daughter Veronica. She was even more interesting, lovely, and warm than I could have ever imagined. It was a joy to meet this writer whose words I have admired and followed for several years. After exploring Lincoln Square on foot, we headed out to the aquarium with the kids. Dinner at Wishbone, followed by another night's rest, prepared us for another day of exploring. Starved Rock State Park was the next adventure on our list. Let me just say hiking at home is desert, rocks, mountain views, steep dusty trails...nothing like the lush green paths, views of the water, and pitter patter of rain drops we encountered on our hike at Starved Rock. I can not simply describe it in words. So instead I will share a few pictures of the gorgeous sights that day.
The next day we spent at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. One of the highlights for the kids of that day was the Harry Potter exhibit with costumes, props, and clips from the actual movies. Finished with the first leg of our Chicago trip we again journeyed back to Michigan to spend 6 more days with Tamara and her family.
Those days were spent blueberry picking...
Hanging out at the beach....

Cruising Indian Lake and jumping off the boat into the cool water...

Venturing to Michigan Adventure...

A week full of moments with friends and family, eating, cooking, shopping, playing, reconnecting, reveling in the simplicity of just being...then it was time to exchange hugs, promises, tears as we were swept up in the last few days of our vacation and the second leg of our trip to Chicago.
To be continued...

More Than I Dared Hope For

I remember the first morning after Cam was born, once the fog from the drugs I was given during my emergency C-Section had lifted, once I could think clearly, having a moment with my son that is captured forever in my memory. As the first rays of sun began to stream through my hospital room, I picked up my son and sat in the chair next to the window. Filled with wonder, amazed at this child that had come from deep within me, I knew a love that was beyond anything I had every experienced. His ten fingers and toes, his wispy hair, long eyelashes, soft sighs, I traced his sweet face, in awe of this miracle of life in my arms, my son. Two days later we were devastated at the news of his heart defect. My world had come crashing down in one sentence. It was the deepest loss I have faced in my life, the loss of this idea of a perfect child that I and so many other expectant parents cling to so dearly. It would take years for me to come to terms with Cam's heart, years to reconcile my love for my son with my fears of losing the child I loved so deeply.

The past eight years have been filled with surprises, heartaches, unexpected and planned surgeries and joy beyond compare as I have watched my son grow. After his second surgery there was the prognosis of no more surgeries and complete recovery followed by a reversal one month later when we saw his cardiologist for a post surgery checkup. Cam would need a new pulmonary valve, followed by another and another as he outgrew each subsequent valve. I learned to let go, to face the unknown with strength, to enjoy each day of his life and mine as we forged ahead.

So each time we have gone in for a checkup I have braced myself for the worst, knowing the next surgery could be closer than we anticipated. The checkups have ranged from every week during the first months of Cam's life, to once every six months following his last surgery, that was the best we could hope for his cardiologist advised. Two weeks ago we headed out to meet with his cardiologist again. Hoping that nothing had changed, that he was holding steady, and not progressively getting worse. Instead we were shocked to find out that Cam's heart is growing, adjusting, for the first time healing itself, giving him the gift of time. So, the view has shifted with surgery perhaps 10 years or more out. Options have emerged with the possibilities of ballooning and stents rather than another valve. Cam may be well into his teenage years before we face another tough decision, another surgery, more hospitalization. For the first time checkups have now been pushed to once a year rather than weekly or monthly. Quite an amazing new development in what has been a remarkable and adventurous life thus far. They say having a child changes your life forever, but I had no idea what challenges would lie ahead of us when Cam entered my world. My life has been shaped by the experiences of being his mother and I wouldn't change a has been more than I dared ever hope for that first moment when I fell in love with my son.

Monday, September 28, 2009


It's been about six weeks since my last blog post. Essentially what happened was one month of working overnight shifts threw my system into a complete and utter tailspin. During the course of that month I also flew to California for staff training for the camp I was going to be a counselor at in early September. Going to didn't happen.

Instead, my son returned from his jaunt to camp excited, full of stories about his 5 days of adventures. We were overwhelmed during the time period that he was gone and relieved when he returned. I underestimated how emotional the whole process of sending my child off to a different state for camp would be. How difficult it would be to not talk to him or see his beautiful face everyday. That tears that would come from both he and I the moment we saw each other at the airport and I held him in my arms again.

I digress...what happened was Craig and Chris had been sick all week. I had been taking vitamins, airborne, anything I could to not get sick. Unfortunately, I also worked three overnights during that week. Lo and behold the day before I was to get on the plane to go, I got sick. As the mother of a heart child, I understand the far reaching consequences of your child getting anything upper respiratory. It can quickly turn into something far worse than a common cold. The gist of this was I contacted the medical director of the camp. After hearing my symptoms, she politely asked me to stay home. My bags were packed and I was devastated. While I understood and agreed with the determination, it did nothing to ease my disappointment.

This seemed to be the first in a series of challenges I would face in the weeks to come. It was a slow process regaining my footing and health. There was an er visit over the weekend I was supposed to be at camp due to some difficulty breathing, which ended with a prescription for an inhaler and instructions to get some rest. There were the sleeping pills my doctor prescribed to help ease my insomnia that left me drooling and semi comatose, needless to say I only took them twice. Then there was the determination that we needed to rent our house out and buy another one. I won't go into details as to the contributing factors. I will however say it was one of the hardest decisions Craig and I have ever had to make. We love our home, it is the only one our kids can remember, but it truly is the best move for our family right now. I need to focus on school, cut back on work, finish my degree, get a job in the nursing field. We need to move forward instead continuing to get pulled further and further underwater by our house.

The upside is I have recovered and am back to working days. My confidence has been restored and I am looking forward to a new chapter in our family's life. After a month of searching we made an offer on 4 houses yesterday, keeping our fingers crossed that one will be accepted. My packet should be coming with my school schedule any day now. While I did not win the Zoni for best director, the theater I am managing artistic director of won for Best Overall Children's production. It was an incredible night and I couldn't have been prouder accepting the award for the theater! The weather is turning bringing with it the promise of a new season and my favorite time of year. My 35th birthday is quickly approaching and we are planning a trip to Tucson with some friends to see Kartchner Caverns and go apple and pumpkin picking with the kids at an orchard in Willcox. All in all things are looking up. I can see the bright spots in my daily life again. Now, I am just keeping my finger's crossed that Cam's cardiology check up goes well on Wednesday and he gets another clean bill of health.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A New Chapter

Last week was one of the best weeks of my life. Following on the
heels of the Zoni nominations on Monday, Friday I was offered a spot in the Banner Fellows Nursing Program that starts in October. Which means 18 months from now I will graduate with my RN. It seems like just yesterday I was trying to fit my prereq's in between diaper changes, naps, and Cam's first year of school. Last week was the beginning of the end of that chapter of my life. This morning Craig and I took the girls to their first day of Kindergarten and Cameron to 3rd grade.

It was such a bittersweet moment to see my babies off. I thought
I would be ecstatic for them to finally be in school all day.
Happy to have my days free and finish school myself. Instead, I find myself wistful, nostalgic, a little sad even. Recalling last year and the four prior. Days spent just me and the girls, hanging out, playing, having adventures together, sharing secrets. Tears came in the car on the way home. No little chattering monkeys in the back seat. My house is still, quiet, untouched by the sounds of laughter and play. The hours drag by. My heart hurts today. I truly didn't think it would be this hard. The truth is those days were so precious and now they are gone.

Ten weeks. That is how long I have to adjust to this new chapter
of my life as it unfolds before me. Until school starts, sweeping me into a haze of studying, clinicals, the completion of my degree. For now, I am going to sit back and start planning...and counting the days until the kids' fall break.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Full Month

Just returned last Friday from our long awaited two week vacation to Chicago, Michigan, and Indiana. There is a long post to come with pictures and tales of our various adventures. For now, I will just say that it was incredible, relaxing, a time for reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. The weather was beautiful, Chicago amazing - can't wait to go back. A few things happened during the past month I want to mention. First, the children's production I directed back in May was nominated for 4 Zoni's including Best Production and a Best Director's nod for myself. I was stunned and thrilled and owe it all to the amazing cast, all 22 of them and their supportive parents, not to mention an fantastic, talented Asst Director! Also, the week before we left I had my long awaited interview for Banner Fellows. Friday I will find out of I have been chosen as one of 30 for their fall cohort, it would be an honor and privilege to finish nursing school as a Fellow! More to come tomorrow, off to work this morning.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fourth of July

Thirteen years ago Craig and I were married on the 4th of July. This man was and still is my best friend, lover, travel companion, conspirator, sparring partner, father of my children, the only man I have ever truly loved. These past 13 years have been filled with laughter, struggles, adventure, pain, challenges that pushed us to the brink. There were moments I would not have survived without his strength, moments of grief that tore us apart and then brought us back to each other. The birth of our first son together, followed by the shared tears and heartbreak when learning of his heart condition at 3 days old. The fear and anticipation over Cam's three surgeries, followed by relief over his recoveries. The celebration and joy over the birth of our healthy twin girls. Small snippets of days, fights, moments that are only ours - moments that over the years have shaped our marriage, our relationship in countless ways. There is no one else I can imagine sharing my life, my heart, my family with than Craig. He knows me in a way no one else ever has and to my sheer amazement and great joy he loves me even more than I ever could have anticipated. Finding and sharing my life with him has made me want to be a better person for him, for us, for our family, for our life together now and in the future.

This year was obviously very different than the one we shared together 13 years ago. I surprised our family with an overnight stay at a local resort that has a water park. The kids were thrilled, Craig and I tolerated the people, the lines, the crowds. After a while, we relaxed and focused on our kids. Splashing and playing in the pools, laughing and screaming on our way down the water slide, dinner at a local spot. This day was about all of us, the family we have made together and the many years to come as we raise our children. As the evening neared the end, we hopped on the light rail headed for Indian Steele Park to enjoy the fireworks or at least that was the plan. The light rail train in front of us broke down. After assessing the situation, we decided to walk the rest of the way through the warm summer evening. We didn't quite make it to the park, instead staking out a spot on the front lawn of Brophy Prep, away from the crowds we oohed and aahed over the fireworks display. As we adjusted our plans, there was no argument, no frustrations, we adapted, changed, moved forward together as we always have. It seems we have learned over the past 13 years that the most important thing in this life is that we are together no matter what direction life takes us in. Though I don't know what lies ahead of us, I know one thing. I want this man, my husband by my side, no matter what comes next.

A Time to Dance

When I was 4 years old my mother took me to Miss Genevieve's School of Dance near our home in Long Island. The pictures from those first few years of recitals reflect a happy, smiling little girl. Dressed in the requisite layers of tulle and frills, tap or ballet shoes on her feet enjoying every moment. Once we moved to Arizona, those dance classes became for me endless hours of torture. The giggles and innocence of little girls turned into cattiness accompanied by a level of competitiveness I dreaded. Truth be told, I was not much of a dancer. I was a dreamer, searching for every opportunity to lose myself in a book, or write in my journal. So, after much begging and pleading on my part followed by downright refusal to go on any longer, I quit dance for good.

Last week, I sat in an auditorium surrounded by vivid memories of those dance classes and recitals. For the past six months, my girls have been taking tap/ballet classes once a week. Their first recital was for them one of the highlights of their summer. For me, I had to take deep breaths, reminding myself this is one of the many things I have and will continue to do for my children. Given the choice, I would have been anywhere, but in that auditorium surrounded by pageantry and stage moms. They were lovely, in that sweet effervescent way only little girls can be. They smiled, giggled, tapped their way through their routine in their own layers of frills and tulle. There were my daughters, enjoying their first moment on stage, while I with tears in my eyes sat watching, cheering them on. Despite my hesitations, not to mention the two painful hours of performance I was subjected to during the course of the recital. I wouldn't have missed their five minutes for the world.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Life has persisted at an ever moving, constantly churning pace. Me I just attempt to keep up. I am trying to stay present in the moment each day, reminding myself that counting the days until the kids go back to school is defeating the purpose of summer break. So far, we have gone to movies, explored our backyard, spent quiet evenings with a bowl of popcorn and our latest Netflix deliveries, laughed, fought, played, rode bikes, swam, planned new adventures...all the things that constitute an enjoyable, albeit busy summer break.

Craig and I snuck off on our own several times as well, spicy eggplant and green beans at China Chili followed by First Friday where we explored artwork from a plethora of artists. Heavenly lemon cheesecake and ooey gooey cupcakes from Tammy Coe wrapped up that particular evening's delights. Last weekend, found us headed out to our favorite theater, Nearly Naked to see Blood Brothers, which was simply fabulous. I am not a musical fan, but with strong acting and vocal performances, not to mention I was a sucker for the whole twin story line, it was really well done. Up next, is Father's Day and then our 13th wedding anniversary on July 4th.

Today, we are getting ready to scour Netflix for this evening's viewing pleasure. I can't wait to snuggle up with my 3 favorite wee ones, soaking in the simple pleasure of their company.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Floundering

The past two weeks have been difficult for me. Challenges have arisen at work that left me questioning my career path. Roadblocks have shown up financially to hinder my progress. Sleepless nights have followed busy days, leaving me drained and unable to employ all of my capacities to make clear, rational decisions. I find myself vacillating between applying to Fellows or working more overtime for the next 6 months, continuing the endless wait. Even my dreams are rambling, jumbled thoughts of right and wrong decisions, fears and consequences, choices that have no easy answer. Most days, I want to slap on tennis shoes and run until I am out of breath, outrace the worries that plague me. This is by far one of the toughest decisions I have ever grappled with in my adult life.

The Fellows application lies on my desk in the office that opens to our living room, to the noises of the children Craig and I share, home, responsibilities. I press my temples, sigh, deliberate, write about why I want to become a nurse, where my future lies. My desire to help others, to give back all of the endless gifts I have received since my son was born. Save others, heal people so they can get back to their lives, their families, their own decisions, and choices. At work, there are moments I wander aimlessly lost in my own thoughts. I recall the children I have seen mauled by their family dog, families mourning the unexpected and painful loss of a loved one, couples facing tough diagnoses and unknown futures, parents crying with fear and worry for their sick or injured children.

I feel this deep sense of responsibility, urgency within myself to to make it better for them, to ease their path, lighten their load. Realistically, I know it won't happen every time, that being a nurse will be a tough burden to bear, it won't be within my power to fix everyone. I see brief glimpses of the relief in a touch or a smile, words of reassurance, guidance towards the answers that are sought, dedication and devotion from nurses that have found their calling, their life's work, their mission, in helping others. They ease their patients pain, comfort their families, make them laugh, smile, assist them in some of the most intimate and fearful times of their life. They make a difference each and every day in the lives of their patients, treating each one with care and dignity, experience and confidence directing their steps. They reaffirm my choices, inspire me, encourage me.

In return, I pick up the application and began to write my words on their pages. My responses filling the empty spaces, I am following my dream, hearing my calling, responding and pushing forward past the obstacles. Hoping to join their ranks instead of floundering in my fears and doubts.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The First of Many

This summer will be filled with many short escapes, get aways, one two week adventure through the Midwest and Canada. Today we are off on our first trip of the summer to Tucson. This was for many years an annual trip, but it has been several years since we have gone. I am trying to look at this trip with a new perspective, to see and enjoy it through the eyes of my children. We opted to stay in Oro Valley this time at a resort in a 3 bedroom condo rather than squeezing our family of 6 into a suite at a hotel. We have had many successes over the years staying at vacation rentals rather than hotels. The space, kitchen, a place to call our own while on vacation is incomparable for a family our size, or in my humble opinion any family. More than anything I am looking forward to this last summer before our youngest kids, the twins, start kindergarten. A new adventure and many changes lie ahead for our family. My goal for this summer is to stay in the here and now, enjoying and savoring each moment as it comes.

Brighter Than Sunshine

One morning this week I found myself working the day shift. Up at 4:30am, in my car driving to work by 5:15am. Streams of Aqualung trickled from the speakers in my car as the world around me began to wake up. Slowly the first rays of light from the sun began to appear over the edge of the mountains. I was struck by the immense peace, tranquility, beauty of the dawn. Most days I am still tucked under my sheets as the day begins, sleepily shrugging off the remnants of my night of rest, stretching my body out of bed hours after sunrise. At that moment, all seemed right in the world. The words of one of the discussions I posted recently in my World Religions class came to mind. How even though I have over the past few years doubted myself, my faith, my religion, my thoughts on this world and life itself, I have never for a moment doubted the existence of God. The more I study the human body, watching all the mysteries that lie within us unfurl, the more it seems completely logical to me that someone planned all of this out. Humans didn't just appear or evolve, they were designed, created, developed by someone with supreme, divine intelligence. Created by someone who loved, sculpted, molded all of the fine details much like an artist bringing a piece of work to life with their own two hands. No one would deign to question that a computer has an inventor or creator per say, but many question that humans were created by a divine being. That is to me mind blowing. Why question the creation of far superior, more complex, fully integrated machine that lives, breathes, can think for itself, procreate, is capable of love, hate, fear, pain, happiness? Why is it so easy for so many to question that that we were purposed by God? I do not have the answers for anyone, but myself. I know what I feel in my gut, what my brain logically assesses as the answer after looking at all the facts. God exists. I may have my own personal issues with God, many in fact, too many to list in one blog post or maybe in one lifetime. I know one thing however, in the words of Jon a good family friend "It seems to me that if God is big enough to create the entire universe. He is big enough to handle our questions and doubts". Those words are profound. They give me hope that even if I can not resolve my issues with God, He knows me, He understands me, He created me and that alone gives me hope that is brighter than sunshine.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

End of the Semester

Apologies for lack of posts lately. I am swamped with finals and papers for the next week. Look for more news and many adventures during this summer. Just as soon as I finish this semester!

Mother's Day

This is the first Mother's Day I can remember my kids being big enough to understand and appreciate. They wrote cards, drew pictures, gave flowers, framed hand prints, shared hugs and kisses. My husband gave me an enameled cast iron casserole pot and two pairs of flip flops for Mother's Day (at my request thank you very much). I felt pampered, loved, blessed. They didn't have to give me anything. I already have more than I could ever ask for. The most incredible gift I have ever received are my three children and my stepson. Being a Mom has been the hardest and most rewarding thing I have done in my life.

Six years ago on Mother's Day we conceived our identical twin girls. It has always struck me as so amazing and yet also so odd that I know not just the exact day, but the moment they began. My life has been so blessed by the existence of these two little miracles. My carbon copies who look so alike on the outside and are so very different on the inside. Their personalities, disposition, likes, and dislikes distinguish them as individuals. They are each their own person, both strong, funny, independent. My beautiful girls, I can't imagine just having one of them. They are like two halves of one whole and I would miss out on so much without them. The way they look at the world, their understanding of each other, they share a bond like no other. They have taught me to always be yourself, even if you happen to look like someone else and that a big belly laugh can be the best cure for what ails you.

Then there is my boy, Cameron. My old soul with his wit and charm, my ally and partner in crime, my critic and tough cookie, my independent dreamer with a heart bigger than anyone I know. He faces the challenges life hands him with strength, grace, and courage. He has taught me to appreciate each day and find happiness in the small things. He has given me the gift of hope, determination, and strength.

I can not forget the boy who let me practice my mothering skills on him before I gave birth to my first child, my stepson Chris. He is so lovely and amazing at 16. His smile lights up a room. He is an incredible big brother and role model for his younger siblings. He is turning into a responsible, respectful young man. One who is very different from his dramatic younger siblings. Chris is much more introverted than the rest of our kids. He finds the drama and humor that seem to be constant companions in our home, mildly amusing to say the least. My thoughts are that he puts up with us, all the while planning his escape to college in two years. I am so proud of him!

Being the mom of these four has made me a more powerful woman. I have found my voice and use it often and wisely. I have become an advocate for my children, speaking up when no one else will. I have learned that sometimes you have to say NO! I have discovered there is no stronger bond than that of a parent and child. I have found myself, as well as my inner child. I now know the joy of living in the moment, the sacrifice of giving everything for someone else. Nothing brings me more happiness than spending an afternoon listening to music with my kids, watching them dance and laugh. My house and heart are full of the joy of childhood. So, I am sharing two of my favorite photos of my babies when they were little - the lights of my life, as my dad used to say "the apple of my eye".Thank you to my babies for choosing me to be their Momma. I can't imagine one moment of my life without you in it, you shape my world!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Camp - On Our Own

Yesterday, I spent part of the afternoon on a phone interview. At the end of the call, I was offered the opportunity to be a counselor at a heart camp for kids in Southern California. This is the same camp our son, Cam will be going to this summer. The plan was that I would go too, volunteer, work with other kids, all while spending time with him. That however, is not going to happen. There are rules, policies, about parents not attending the same camp session as their children. It interferes with the process, the intention of the camp, which is for the kids to find themselves and build up their self esteem. While, Cam is extremely independent, when he is scared or confused, the first person he runs to is me. So, understandably that would keep him from learning to rely on and trust himself, at least at camp it would. So, I will be going to camp a week after him to act as a camp counselor for 8 teenage girls.

Cam was, to say the least, not pleased. I explained that he won't be the only scared child, traveling far away from home without his parents. There will be 7 other kids in his cabin, as well as 4 counselors, and a medical nurse. Cam will be busy from sunup to sundown. I know after he gets over the initial fear, he will, as he does with everything in life, wholeheartedly embrace the experience. I full expect he will come home and ask when he can go back again. I fully expect that he will be touched in ways he can not yet understand. That being surrounded by 100 other kids who have experienced the same surgeries, traumas, fears of dying at such an early age, will change his life and perspective forever. The choice is his to make and he stated without reservation that he still wants to go.

So come August I will take him to the airport to join 40 other kids. I will let him go, knowing he will return to me full of stories, adventures, fun, happiness, perhaps a few tearful moments. He needs to go and so do I, just not with him. I can't wait to have him tell me all about camp and then get on a plane myself a week later and see the camp through my own eyes. The volunteer coordinator asked me what will be the biggest challenge for me and I told her not getting too emotionally attached. I know I will also be touched by the kids I will meet and counsel. My perspective will change, be enhanced, my world will be better for reaching out to these kids. Somewhere deep inside of me, I need to know these teenagers. Maybe, I hope, I will see little bit of my son in all of them. Perhaps, I will have a deeper, broader hope for the future that lies ahead of him.

Most importantly, I want more than anything to give back. To share and touch these kids lives the same way the counselors and campers will touch my sons a week earlier. I know one thing for sure, I will miss my son. I will miss him when he goes and I will miss him when I am there by myself, without him. It was not the original plan, but perhaps it is a far better plan. We each will get to have our own experience and adventure, separately. Then we can come home, compare, enjoy, and look forward to the next year. Honestly, I am just as scared as him. I have never been away from home by myself either. Every time I have traveled alone, there has been a friend or family waiting on the other end for me. There's a first time for everything and I have a strong suspicion Cam will not be the only one that comes out of this experience a stronger, changed person.

Endless Possibilities

After rereading my last post I realized it sounded like I was seriously depressed, which I can assure you I am not. Many of my blogs are just small snippets of thoughts, ideas that feel better out of my head, rather than swirling around tormenting me within. The day after I posted last I had a lovely lunch with the owner of the black box theatre I manage, Linda. She has been my mentor, friend, surrogate mother, and confidant for the past 4 years. After much discussion about what had been going on in her life and mine of late she said to me "You are overwhelmed". Um, what? She went on to tell me that it sounded to her like my brain was straining itself to process all of the new experiences and traumas I was witnessing and experiencing on a daily basis.

It made such perfect sense, I couldn't believe the thought had not occurred to me. Sometimes, it really helps to get a different perspective, one other than your own. The picture instantly became clear. Truly I feel like I have been sheltered, never having seen the seedy underbelly of what exists in this life. I have never been poor, clinically depressed, mentally disturbed, exposed to true trauma - blood, guts, screaming, moaning, people coding and dying. It is an eye opening, soul churning, at times deeply disturbing process to experience each and every day. It would it seems, be abnormal to not be affected by everything I am experiencing. There are moments when I wish I had not seen the things I have in the past few months. On the other hand, I feel like my world has literally been split wide open. This overwhelming need to not run, but instead help in anyway I can overtakes me. I also finding that I am so much more appreciative of the life I have had and the people I share it all with. Each day I can't wait to get home to my kids and husband, to hug and kiss them, tell them how much I love them.

A few days ago, I mentioned to Craig that our family is the most important thing in my life. I don't need things or money, just them by my side, happy and healthy. We have been reassessing our life of late, sorting out where we want to be and how we want to raise our kids and live our life. The conclusion is that we want to simplify, get away from the parts of life that distract us. Work less, spend more time at home, show our children the world, expand their horizons and perspectives, explore. Inspire them to help others and be grateful for all they have in this life.

Many options are being discussed, among them relocating our family. Not just a different house, perhaps a new adventure in another place, far from home. When I was 7 my parents moved our family cross country from New York to Arizona. It was a culture shock, a lifestyle change, for them a chance to start life anew. While I grew up in Arizona, I tolerated the state, the summers. All the while planning my escape, but that never happened. Instead I met my husband when I was young, not content to be anything other than his wife, I quickly married him and we embarked on our life together. In Arizona. It was never an option to move anywhere else, as his son lived with us, and his mother was in AZ as well. So I tied myself to one man and one state for at least 15 years.

Thirteen years later, there are endless possibilities opening up around us. My biggest fear is that we will make the wrong decision, the wrong choice. Maybe there is no right or wrong decision in this case. Perhaps, we should just make a choice and move forward, knowing that if it is meant to be, it will all work out. Craig has an interesting offer that is taking shape. Change it looks like will come sooner rather than later. I am ready to embrace it all and make our own big move in the near future.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Bit Of A Funk

For some reason I have one line from a song playing on repeat in my head "stuck in a moment and you can't get out of it". How depressing, not only that, it's not even a song that I particularly care for in the first place. Truth is, I am in a funk and I can't seem to lift my spirits. For the past few weeks I feel like this dark cloud is hanging over my head. I could surmise it is due to working odd hours and having my sleep schedule disrupted or spending almost a week sick with fever, body aches, stuffiness. Honestly, I have fallen prey to bad moods in the past, wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head.

They got really bad after Cam was born and I was overcome with emotion. Adjusting to life with a newborn, dealing with his health issues, feeling like a failure after a difficult pregnancy and emergency csection. I felt like I missed out on so much, his birth, the thwarted attempts to breastfeed, not to mention a year and a half hooked up to a breast pump. After the first 18months passed and Cam had flourished and survived two surgeries with flying colors, I began to relax. The world changed seemingly overnight from stark shades of black and white to a swirling meld of colors as endless possibilities opened up around us. I spent 18 months anguishing, quite certain in my doom and gloom mood that my son would be lost in all of the doctors, interventions, tubes, wires, and scars that marked his journey in life. I was fearful, uncertain, unsure of how to proceed, where to go next.

The colorful, intense happiness that surrounded me did not last long. Less than three months after his second heart surgery, I found myself pregnant again and scared to death. Within 10 weeks that fear intensified as I found out the one baby I was expecting was actually two. On December 30, 2000 I found out I was expecting my first child. Exactly three years later on December 30, 2003 I gave birth to our twin girls. Three kids in three years, when I thought I never wanted any. I felt sideswiped, overwhelmed, lost in a mass of crying babies, diapers, feedings, sleepless nights. It took another year and a half before I could take a deep breath and look around at the new world my life had become. It was at that point I began to implode.

I never really took the time to decompress or examine my feelings after all we had been through with Cam before I was pregnant again and gave birth to multiples. I lost all sense of myself, who I was as a woman, my fears, hopes, goals, dreams. Readjusting my views on almost everything was a delicate process, one I did not handle well. It would take another two years of introspection, brutal honesty, therapy, and a near divorce before I had some sort of handle on my life and balance was restored again.

I was not a fun or nice person to be around during those two years, I carry regrets and guilt from that time period of my life. Even three years later, I can not look back without feeling the pain of my own words and actions. I did not realize at the time, that you don't have to tear yourself down to build yourself back up again. That destroying the one person who loves and supports you will not make you stronger, instead it will cause you to question who this stranger that appears before you in the mirror truly is. My marriage did not fall apart, I systematically attempted to take it apart one piece at a time. The one saving grace was that my husband held it all together in the best manner he could, all while telling me that no matter what happened next he still loved me. I still question my motives, it seems to me I lost sight for a while of what was important, my marriage, my family, my life. If I had thrown them all away on a quest to find myself, where would I be now?

Recently, a good friend sent me an email about how my kids are amazing, how she doesn't know how I balance school/work/kids, that I should bottle my secret and sell it. I laughed, because in all honesty there are cracks in every aspect of my life even today. My girls are late for preschool a lot, because I have been sleeping, doing homework, running errands on an off day, or coming straight from work to bring them to school. My house in all honesty would be a mess 24-7 if it wasn't for the simple fact that my husband cleans more than I do. If I don't write things down on my to do list, they don't get done and even if they are on the list, often times there simply isn't enough time in the day or I still forget. I do the best I can and many days, like today and every day the past week, I actively fight the desire to get into my bed and pull those covers over my head. I know how lucky I am, that my life though far from charmed is blessed and full. My son is happy and for the moment healthy, he charms me with his words and smile, when he is not busy questioning everything I say. My girls are sunshine, laughter, full of youthful giddiness and candor and lots of attitude.

Me, well today I am here, trying my best to be present. No one ever told me motherhood would be this hard, or this rewarding. Ever moment, day in and day out brings its own new set of challenges, I just hope I am up for whatever comes next. While the desire to wallow may be there, the time is not. Now, if I could just get this dark mood to pass. Right now, the only thing I am certain of is that my bed still looks really tempting.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Catching Up, Looking Ahead

I haven't been posting much of late, mainly due to working a lot. The new job has been a big adjustment, with my hours all over the place. Over the weekend, I worked from 6pm-2am and then had to be back at work the next day at 12noon. Last week an anniversary of sorts passed, marking 7 years since the day Cam almost died. It was a surreal experience to be working in the same ER where we almost lost him those years ago.

Each year, I keep thinking that it will be easier. That I will be able to feel peace and happiness over the fact that his life was spared. Instead, the same as past years a dark mood settled over me and it did not pass until after Easter. Catharsis seemed a safe bet, so I wrote, took to my bath and bed, cried a little, and finally my spirits began to lift. Cam really is such a miracle, I can't imagine my life without him in it. I loved his father almost from the first moment we met, but my love for my son runs deeper and stronger than anything I have ever experienced in my life. It is fierce, protective, nurturing, unconditional, fulfilling. I feel like he is such a reflection of my personality, yet his is enhanced with the love and wisdom of a small child that has been through more than I could ever have thought possible. He is a survivor, one that often stands out alone in our family. He gives me hope, fills me with love, inspires, and challenges me each and every day. So much more than I ever could have hoped or imagined when I carried my first born within my womb. I think it is fear of the kind of loss I don't know that I could ever recover from that engulfs me. Yes, he lived, but that dark place where the what ifs live at moments consume my thoughts.

Our kids were almost unrecognizable all dressed up this past weekend. I am so used to seeing my girls all mussed and dirty from rolling around with their brothers, and playing in the yard. They really are both little tomboys, uber competitive and athletic. It is difficult at times to recognize the little girls that have replaced my sweet babies. I watch them and wonder what piece of me is inside of them? I see so much of their father and brothers at this age. The age when sex makes no difference in play, before boys and girls discover they are really different and that great divide begins. I wonder if the parts of me that float around somewhere inside of them is more likely to emerge as they grow older and leave childhood behind. Stretching their skin to emerge as the women they will one day become.

They are so much their own individuals, these two girls that share the same set of genes. While they look alike, they are each so unique and different. Allison is all heart, full of smiles and laughter while Rebecca is more solemn and quiet, with her tough exterior protecting her inner sweet, gentle, and quiet self. When they were babies, Craig and I would each take responsibility for one at night. I generally had Rebecca while he cared for Allison. We have often remarked on how much their personalities reflect ours in many ways. At times we wonder, would they be different if we had each cared for the other babies? Nature or nurture...were they born with these predispositions or did we shape them into the people they are becoming. I tend to think it is a little of both.

Friday, Craig and I slipped away to go see Columbinus at Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe. It was provocative, witty, masterful, eye opening, painful, touching. All of the things that in my eyes makes great theater. If you only go to see one play this year, it should be this one. Craig is planning to go back this weekend with Chris, our teenage son. I think it would be a compelling work of art that he will both understand and appreciate. Our son has complained over the years that theater is boring, which as managing artistic director of a theater is heart breaking to me. We have tried to find theater that will speak to him, as everyone has different viewpoints and experiences in life that color their perceptions. The last few plays I have directed, he enjoyed, Columbinus I think will really get to him, and that is the true heart of theater as an art form. It should touch you, make you feel, and think, and talk.

More busy days ahead, filled with ball games and ballet classes. Summer is coming our way with cool evenings following warm, sunny days that will not last long. Soon, it will be unbearably hot and our home will be filled with the constant whirr of the ac, wet foot prints tracked across our tile as we retreat to the cool respite our pool offers. I can hardly wait for our vacation, the opportunity to see the Midwest, Canada, to experience a different side of summer. It seems so far away, yet last Friday we came one step closer as we all applied for our passports. The anticipation is so lovely and there is so much planning left to do. So much to savor as the summer stretches out in hot waves before us.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

One Full, Quick Week

I have been working on these blogs on and off for a week, in between working, some sleep, and homework. So, here is the last of three for this past week.

Last Thursday afternoon, after a long first week at my new job as well as an overlapping final one at my old job and a parent teacher conference I headed to my parents house up north to retrieve my girls and drop my son for a weekend of fun with his cousin and grandparents. The plan was to stay for a few days, but my husband told me he had a surprise evening planned on Friday and I needed to be back by 5pm. So after a quick overnight, I headed back down the mountain Friday afternoon to see what my hubby had planned.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner with our friends, Kevin and Ron at
Cheuvront Restaurant and Wine Bar followed by the play Killer Joe at one of our favorite local theaters Nearly Naked. I was to be perfectly honest exhausted and not overly hungry, but I did enjoy a glass of a full bodied, spicy red wine (Incognito)and three lovely cheeses (Abbaye de Bellocq - my favorite of the night, Humboldt Fog, and San Joaquin Gold) as well as some nuts, fruit, and bread. Sated after our quick bite we rushed off to the show. It was overall a lovely, relaxing evening - the best part was that my husband planned it all on his own, 99% of the time he is perfectly happy to sit back and let me plan our evenings out, vacations, etc.

Our next date night will be on the 10th. First we have an appt for the entire family to get our passports, more to come about that later, then we are off to dinner at a still to be determined destination, followed by Columbinus at
Stray Cat Theatre. Also coming up soon is the Scottsdale Culinary festival's Great Arizona Picnic. With all of the craziness of everyday life around here, it is nice to look forward to some moments of quiet, relaxation that lie ahead!

Moving Forward

These days are filled with hope, whispers of new beginnings, longings for warmer weather. Maybe it's all of the changes in my life of late or maybe it is just the gorgeous weather as winter ebbs into spring. While we don't have a true winter here in AZ, spring still brings with it cool breezes, promises of summer breaks, vacations, adventures that lie ahead. Tuesday I registered my daughters for Kindergarten then headed off to my son's first baseball game of the season. Those two separate events gave me reason to take pause. This vivid flash of finding out I was expecting twin girls came back to me. Memories of my belly swelling bigger than I ever thought possible, cries in stereo, first steps, words, I was flooded with past moments as well as tears. I can't believe my girls are 5. That they are standing on the cusp of this new glorious beginning as they inch closer to starting school. I was intensely reminded of a blog I wrote when my son first started school. I looked through my archives and read what I had written.

"So, my son is starting Kindergarten in one week and I have been anxiously awaiting and counting down the days. Then I realized that this is it, there is no going back from here. My baby is growing up and it will all pass by so quickly. Five years has gone by in the blink of an eye. With Cam it is even more bittersweet as we almost lost him during his first year of life and he has had to face numerous challenges with his heart and life. He thrived even when they told us he wouldn't - he is tough and strong and funny and such an incredible inspiration to me. He is the biggest piece of my heart - the part that hurts and has bled and scarred over, the part that makes me happy and sad and would love to make him perfect and whole, the part that loves him in the way only a mother can love her firstborn, the part that makes me laugh and frustrates me at the same time - he made me a mommy. He is so much like me - stubborn and strong willed, witty and wise beyond his years - he has hopes and dreams and I tell him to never let anyone stop him from pursuing the things he loves. Once I wondered if he would make it to his first birthday and now here he stands on the edge of a vast precipice one that I can't go over with him to - the journey is his to take. All I can do now is kiss him goodbye and know in my heart that I gave him the best I could and know he will far exceed everyone's expectations. Wow, the time has come to start letting go little by little and I don't know if I am ready. The thing is Cam is ready and I will send him off letting him know that I will always be here for him and then have a good cry and then support and love and encourage him no matter what. That's all any of us can do for our kids - love them unconditionally and remember it's about them not us."

Now, Cam is almost 8 and looking ahead to 3rd grade next year. The girls I have enjoyed and nurtured are ready for their chance to embark on their new journey. Another bittersweet moment for me. I have been counting down for them to start and now I feel that period of freedom, days just being in the moment with them, slipping quickly from my fingers. I feel like I could just reach out, hold on a bit tighter, keep them little a bit longer. The truth is that the time has come for all of us to move forward, me with my career, the girls with school.

Yesterday, I sent off Cam's application for heart camp this summer. He has been asking to go for the past two years. It is so hard to believe my little baby with the broken heart is big enough, independent enough, mature enough to go off to camp. I know how much he needs this opportunity to connect with other kids that have shared the same struggles as him. A place where no one will stare at his scars when he goes to swim in the ocean, where surgeries and fears are an understood unspoken bond. More tears for me, new adventures and experiences for him, new beginnings for all of us lie ahead.

Another Morning

I am sitting at my desk listening to Dark Was the Night and reveling in two full night of sleep. This past week getting up at 4:30 am some mornings and 7 others has thrown my whole system into disarray. The whole working 12 hr shift thing has been an adjustment too. It's a whole different culture working in a hospital, especially the ER. So much noise and chaos, so much to learn. It is either feast or famine at work. There are quiet hours with not much to do, followed by hours of panic and rush, as the ER floods with people. Patients, firefighters, EMT's, doctors, nurses, techs all running in different directions trying to get to everyone as quickly as possible. Sometimes, several hours pass before I can sit down, take a deep breath, and try absorb and sort through everything that has happened.

I feel like I went to bed one evening, only to wake up and find that overnight my whole life had changed. I keep trying to remind myself to stay in the moment, to revel in each part of these new developments. I see myself in scrubs walking through the long hallways of the hospital, attempting to find my way around, trying to find myself in this new environment. I know I am evolving, that somewhere inside there is a different version of me that will emerge. One that is poised and confident with each step, for now that not knowing what is ahead, trying to hold on tight and enjoy the ride is a constant struggle. Old fears and anxieties bubble up to the surface. I keep reminding myself this was an active choice I made, to pursue a career in nursing, to give back and touch lives. Right now though, it is all so overwhelming, scary, new. I look forward to the day when I am on my own, caring for patients. For now I revel in my new successes, learn from the failures, take deep breaths, and try to savor each and every moment.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Life's Blessings

We just returned this evening from a much needed family trip to California. We stayed with our friends Jon and Jenetta that I have known for years, since high school to be exact. As I grow older I come to appreciate the friends I made as a kid who are still a part of my life as an adult. In this case, the two friends who opened their home to us are incredibly near and dear to my heart. I find it interesting how our friendship has grown, evolved, and matured over the years. While we can discuss our past shared memories of the kids we once were our conversation easily flows into our adult lives, our families, hopes, fears, dreams, disappointments. There is a level of depth and comfort that I find lacking in many of the friendships I have made as an adult. It means so much to me that they have opened their hearts and lives to my husband and children. I watched my kids embrace this couple over the past week and I can see how blessed their children will be to have such wonderful parents. I am grateful that our friendship has endured and blossomed and look forward to enjoying their company for many years to come.

The week was full of sunshine, laughter, serious conversations, delicious meals and fun - the kind of fun that is even more delightful when shared with friends. Wednesday we headed to their home in Escondido and just spent the afternoon and evening relaxing at their home. Thursday we headed to PB to meet some friends from home that were in San Diego. We spent a chilly part of the afternoon at the beach, retreating to the heated pool at their hotel when the cool weather proved to be too much for our thin AZ skin. That evening we headed back to enjoy another home cooked meal with our friends. The next morning found us off to the Wild Animal Park with the kids and then back to their house to rest for a bit.

Late Friday afternoon we made the drive to Coronado Island to take some family photos. Did I mention that Jenetta is a fabulous documentary style photographer with a great eye for detail? Really her photos are breathtaking and we felt honored to have her behind the lens capturing our family photos for posterity. The evening wound down with a long, relaxing dinner at Tomasos. Later after we returned to their home, we talked late into the night, savoring each moment of conversation. This morning we got up early and begin the process of packing and cleaning up. We headed to Temecula to meet them for lunch at a restaurant Craig and I had enjoyed on a previous trip. Old Town was filled with people attending a hot rod show, it was a nice surprising end to our trip.

This evening I am coming back down to earth. It is always hard for me to leave California, I always feel lighter and sated in so many ways when I am there. Something about the state gets under my skin in a way that is simply indescribable. Not to mention I have to work 40 hours in the next 4 days at two different jobs. Talk about crashing back down to reality.

Last week, during orientation I came to the shocking realization that my plan to manage both jobs would not be possible. A choice had to be made and knowing where my career path is headed I had to take the leap. After discussion with my coordinator at my new job and my husband, I gave notice at my current job. I felt an enormous sense of relief at first, followed by a great pang of fear. What ifs, worries, and doubts filled my head as I second guessed myself. This is not just a job change, it is a huge career change and there is that inevitable fear that it won't work out. I have been making plans, moving in this direction for a couple of years, but now that the moment has arrived I am for lack of a better word scared. This is where I want to be, what I have worked for, I know it will all work out the way it is supposed to, but looking over that ledge, not knowing what lies ahead is both exhilarating and frightening at the same time. To be honest I can't wait to see what happens.

As a side note, last Saturday our entire family volunteered at St. Vincent de Paul's Hearts and Hands day. It is an opportunity for parents and their kids to work side by side - giving back to those that are in need. We spent part of the morning making centerpieces for family meals that are provided at their facilities. Afterwards we toured their facility with our children and were reminded that there are so many that have so little. It was unanimous amongst our family members that we should return each quarter for subsequent hearts and hands days. This entire week has reminded me how incredibly blessed we have been as a family. How fortunate we are to have a comfortable home, good friends, and lots of love that we can share.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Last night my 7 year old had the mother of all meltdowns. I had been waiting for this to happen for over a week. Cam holds it together in enormous fashion considering all he has been through in his 7 years. Three open heart surgeries and more to come would be enough to reduce me to a sobbing mess on the floor. Not Cam, he is well adjusted, smart, witty - he has a bigger heart than anyone I know. Occasionally though it all just falls apart for him and he can't quite get it back together. I try to encourage him to talk - we have never tried to hide from him the truth of his situation with his heart. While he has no restrictions in his life, he can play sports (and he does with no fear), keep up with his friends, and only has to take an aspirin a day - at times his mind tells him otherwise. It's easy to forget that he walks around with a scarred, still slightly broken heart. His chest is a road map littered with the battle scars from the surgeries and procedures he has endured.

Last Friday he had a check up with his cardiologist. It was a little overwhelming for both of us. Cam was scheduled for an ekg, office visit, and a 24 hr holter monitor (his standard once a year check). While listening to his heart Dr. J mentioned that his murmur sounded louder. Cam's heart sounds like a churning washing machine when it beats - there is no clean bu-bump. We have gotten used to the way he sounds and what is normal for him. Noting that it seemed louder he asked the echo tech to due an unscheduled echo on Cam. Numerous questions issued forth from my little 7 year old - you could tell he was caught off guard. Like he was mentally prepared for the visit, but not the echo. After the echo, the doctor came in to take a look and proceeded in very hushed tones to instruct the tech on more angles and pictures he wanted to see. When all was said and done and I was clinging to the edge of my composure, he said everything looked good. My response to him was that he was freaking me out. He laughed, paused, and said "you know I like to be thorough". Overall, Cam's replacement valve looks great two years after surgery, the leaflets are working well, and he goes back in six months. I asked him after if he was okay, explaining at great length that his heart was fine, the doctor just wanted to be sure. He seemed okay - telling me several times "I'm fine, Mom". So, I trusted, waited, and knew I would be there when it all came out.

Last night as dinner rolled around, I could sense him losing his grip over the emotions and fears. I tried several times to talk to him and was rebuffed. The meltdown started when he found out his brother had eaten the last piece of pizza left over from the other night. He cried, screamed, vented, retreated to his room where he was asked to take some deep breaths and calm down. When he said he could not, I gave him sentences to write to distract him. It took well over 20 minutes for the storm to subside within him. I then sat him down and said "now you need to talk to me". I prodded asking questions. He confided he was scared of what would happen, worried about more surgery, frightened about the thought he could die. I held him close and assured him that he was fine, that he did not need to worry as that was mom and dad's job, his job is to be a kid. I then told him that we found him one of the best surgeons in the country and traveled to California for a reason - because we want the best for him and his heart. I explained there would be ample warning before his next surgery and that his dad and I would as always never leave his side, nor would we let anything happen to him. After several more questions and a long conversation - the smile returned to his face. He was fine and I was left wishing it was all that simple. That I really could always keep him safe and healthy. All I can do is have hope, love and enjoy him every day, and keep doing whatever I need to in order to get the best care possible for my son. After all, this boy is my boy and he is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. I can't wait to see where life takes him and the man he will one day become. You better believe I will do everything in my power to make sure that happens!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Few Extraordinary Things

Last week a few things happened that were of note in my life. These were not part of the ordinary chaos and mayhem that invades my everyday life, but rather events that caused me to really take pause. The first happened the night after Obama's speech. I had gone to get my physical for my new job - imagine me carrying bricks with barbells inside and then dragging a cart filled with the same up and down a hallway all while looking over my shoulders, first one and then the other. Well, at least we firmly established I can safely lift 50 lbs without a problem. Oh and don't even get me started on the color test - I can now breathe easier that I am not color blind. After presenting my list of titers and immunizations as well as getting my 5th TB test of the year, I was cleared for work.

As I returned to my sister's house to retrieve my girls from my mom, I sat down to talk to my dad and sister. Conversation eventually turned to the Obama's speech the night before. We discussed the speech, the Republican response, Nancy Pelosi's giddy schoolgirl glee. Mainly we talked about Obama, the hope he inspire, the ambitions he has for this country. My father was particularly impressed by the impression he gets that Obama sincerely, unlike most other politicians in his opinion, cares for this country and the people that call it home. It was truly extraordinary to hears him wax poetic about how Obama reminds him of Bobby Kennedy. You see my dad shuns politics in all shapes and forms, he is not a registered voter and believes man is not capable of solving earth's problems. He became very disenfranchised after the Kennedy assassinations and the Vietnam War. My parents both became members of a faith that encourages remaining separate from the world, putting faith in God alone, and that includes not voting. I started a mini-war with my father last year when I arrived at his house with an Obama bumper sticker on my car. I tried at the time to explain my position, my hopefulness, the inspiration I felt, but it fell on deaf, disappointed ears.

The best compliment I ever received in my life came from my father when I was about 20 and had first fallen in love with my husband. He told me I was the most intelligent woman he had ever had the pleasure to know and that he wasn't ready for our relationship to end or change. I have so much love, admiration, and respect for my father. So, imagine how heartbroken I was when all of the brouhaha over the bumper sticker escalated. I shut my mouth, took it off my car, and did not speak to him of it again. I felt like last week, he finally got it, he understood where I was coming from and why I wanted to advertise and share my stand with the whole world. Okay, I wouldn't go that far.

Afterwards, as I drove home I got over my initial shock that he had watched the speech in the first place. It was only then that I could marvel at how well versed, informed, and inspired my father was. That intelligent man I have always admired, revealed a layer of himself I have never seen before. I was astonished at his responses and the depth of our conversation, mostly because it reminded me yet again how much like my father I really am. Baby steps, I keep telling myself...that is all I could ever ask for.

As for the second extraordinary thing that happened, I had what I would call a mild epiphany. I started a world religions class a few weeks ago. The instructor posted an announcement stating to work at our own pace, nothing had a set due date, all assignments just needed to be completed by the course end date. One of our first assignments was to write about our definition of religion and talk about our religious background. I could fill a book with my experiences, disappointments, questions, doubts, anger. I wasn't sure where to begin or whether I wanted to at all. So, I procrastinated knowing full well the assignment would open old wounds.

I finally sat down Saturday and began to write. What emerged was three, single spaced pages of soul baring emotion. It was scary, painful, reminded me of how much I have changed over the past few years. The person I am now would not hesitate to question, disagree, stand behind her own opinions. Everything was different once. I did not know myself, I buried my doubts and questions, fearing the repercussions. Once I stepped away and gained some perspective, I was able to find myself, and start to discover who I wanted to become as a person. I swore above all I would be open minded and examine all options as I explored myself. Then anger reared its ugly head and I closed myself off from faith and religion.

After I finished the essay, I realized I had shut that part of myself off for too long. That I was denying a part of who I was and who I want to be. In order to truly explore all aspects of myself, I needed to open myself up to the pursuit of my true spirituality. I pulled out a book I read recently called Blue Like Jazz. I was looking for a specific part about finding your true religious path. I read and then for the first time in a long time, I prayed. I prayed that God would guide my path to spirituality and that I would be open minded and accepting of where that journey took me. I don't know where this particular exploration will take me, but I am looking forward to the process, the journey, and whatever comes after -true enlightenment perhaps?