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?

Closing a Chapter

The weekend before last the kids play I directed closed. I have been working on photo albums to send all of the kids. Each and every play as we get close to the end, I just want it to be over and done with. Then when closing weekend arrives - it all feels so very bittersweet. While I am glad I now have a semblance of my normal routine and life back, I miss the kids and the theater. Each experience is one that can never be exactly recreated and in this case each of these kids touched my life. That is our mission at the theater where I work "Touch one life at a time through the arts". The thing is I usually end up feeling when it is all over and done, that I received so much more than what I gave. I thought I would share a photo from closing night of me with the entire cast as well as the assistant director. All I can say is while I am enjoying the respite, I can't wait for the next show!