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Thursday, May 27, 2010

A visit from a colleague

Yesterday afternoon at work we got a visit from a colleague who is currently on sick leave.  Actually, it's long term disabililty. She has terminal cancer.

Marie is in her late forties.  She is a vibrant woman, a workaholic with a great sense of humor and a zest for life.  Several months ago (which seems like only days ago), Marie had been complaining about headaches.  Constant headaches.  She didn't look good and was always tired, which was unusual for her. A friend and I were standing just outside my office one day and Marie was heading down the hall toward us.  She was swaying, almost walking into the wall.  We were concerned and asked if she was okay.  She wasn't.  She told us that she had been feeling dizzy all the time and was having problems with hand-eye coordination and depth perception.  Her husband had to help get her dressed because she couldn't fasten her buttons.  Go to the doctor!  We exclaimed.  She explained that she had called and made an appointment for the following week.  We expressed our concern and urged her to call again or just go to the Emergency.  She wouldn't hear of it.  She had deadlines that had to be met.  Senior Management was depending on her.  I just shook my head at her and told her she was crazy.

The next week we got the news.  At first the doctor thought she might have a brain aneurysm.  He sent her to the hospital right away.  They soon discovered that it was a brain tumor.  She went through a number of tests and scans and was booked for surgery to remove it.  She remained in good spirits and gave us regular updates by phone.  It turned out that the tumor was cancerous and they were not able to remove all of it.  It was terminal.  I felt so sick when I heard the news.  I had just been standing here talking to her, and (what felt like) the next day I find out she is going to die.  It was so surreal.

Marie's illness was announced at a staff meeting, and we were told that she was keeping a positive attitude, and if we talked to her we were to remain positive as well.  I couldn't imagine staying positive.  I truly don't know what I would do if I got that kind of news.

It has been a couple of months and she has started chemotherapy and radiation.  She just got back from a Caribbean cruise and decided to pay us all a visit.  I got the news that she was here and as I turned the corner I saw everyone gathered around her.  She was bald but wore a beautiful scarf on her head.  She was sitting on a chair in the hallway with her wheelchair sitting nearby.  She looked beautiful.  Her makeup was perfectly done.  She wore nice clothes and jewelery.  She had strappy fuschia sandals with matching toenail polish and wore ankle bracelets and a toe ring.  She was smiling and laughing and cracking jokes.  Same old Marie.  She even cracked some pretty morbid jokes about death.  She talked about how surprised she is of herself.  That she doesn't feel depressed or mad. When she first got the news, she was told that she had only a few weeks to live.  It then changed to several months.  And now doctors tell her that she will most likely live for a year and a half.  She feels blessed to have that much time left.  She feels happy and she wants to enjoy every day of her life.  She said that nobody knows how long they have here on this earth.  Any one of us could walk outside and get hit by a bus.  She told us to live every day like it's our last.  To truly appreciate the things and people that we love.  She talked about her cruise, her shopping trips, her plans to move into a new bungalow.  She seemed happy and was full of energy.  We all laughed and smiled and wished her well when she was ready to leave.

I went back to my office and I cried.  What an amazing woman.  She has been given this news and is making the best of it.  Living life to the fullest.  I don't know if I could be that strong.  I don't think I would be.  I can't imagine leaving my husband, children, parents.  All of my friends and family.  It's not fathomable.  Yet it could happen.  I don't think anyone is ever ready to receive news that they will die, but I am amazed and inspired by people who are as positive as Marie.  It makes me realize that my life is really not so bad.  It's awesome, actually!  Yesterday I was reminded just how lucky I am to have my health and my family.  Yesterday I was inspired.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hoping the Fog Will Clear

I've been living in a fog for the past week or so.  Really.  It's like I'm in a constant daydream or something.  People come into my office to talk about work or just to chit-chat and I am sitting across from them at my desk, trying to make eye contact.  Trying to concentrate.  Trying to be engaged. Trying to look interested.  Normally I don't have to try to do any of this.  I welcome interruptions at work.  I love having visitors.  But this week has been different.  It's hard to explain, but when I talk it almost feels like I am outside of my body watching myself.  I am awkward.  I go blank in the middle of a sentence.  I'm sure I'm coming across very rude.  I look disinterested.  I don't mean to be.  What's wrong with me?!  My brain is in a fog.  I hope it clears soon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Five for Ten: YES!

It's Day 9 in the Five for Ten series, and it's already time to post the last topic.  My, how time flies when you're having fun!  Although I was a bit of a wimp and did not post anything on Day 7 for Lust, I'm back and want to dedicate this final post to my husband.  The final Five for Ten topic is Yes.

It was love at first sight.  I was a shift supervisor at a fast-food restaurant and we had closed for the night.  I heard a noise outside and looked up to see a very handsome man standing at the door. 

Sorry, we`re closed, I said through the glass.  Wow, he`s cute, I said to myself.  He didn't leave.  He pointed for me to open the door.  My heart skipped a beat.  He was smiling.  He wanted to talk to me.  He was supposed to meet my manager later that week to discuss the community safety campaign, but he had to cancel.  Could I please pass along the message.

YES, of course!  I replied.  He had a cute little French accent. I smiled.  He smiled.  We gave each other a knowing look.  Then he took off in his sporty little car. I watched the tail lights disappear into the night and wondered what his name was.

A few days passed.  I was at work again and the phone rang.  It was for me.  It was him.  He explained that he was the guy at the door the other night.  His name was D.  He asked if I would like to go on a date with him.

YES, I said,  That sounds great.  We agreed on a date and time and he said he'd pick me up.  I hung up the phone and could barely contain myself.  YES!  A date!  I couldn't wait. 

We had a wonderful date - dinner and a movie.  We had great conversation.  We liked a lot of the same things.  He was a true gentleman.  When he dropped me off we kissed goodnight.  It was amazing.  I had such butterflies.  I couldn't stop smiling.  We agreed to get together again, soon.  I went in the house and my mom was up, waiting to see how it went.  I told her how incredible he was and how it had been the best date ever.  I told her that I was going to marry this guy.  If he asked me to marry him tomorrow, I would say YES!  I'm sure she was concerned, but she was also genuinely happy for me.

We continued to date and got to know each other better.  Soon I was spending more time at his apartment than I was at home.  My father got a job in another city and my family would soon be moving.  There was no way I could go with them.  D and I were just starting to get serious.  I decided to stay and rented my friend's room while she was away at university.  Months went by and things got even more serious.  His best friend from his hometown came to visit for a couple of weeks and we got along great.  D was really happy to see his best friend and his girlfriend getting along so well.  We partied, we drank, we talked, we laughed.  I had passed The Test. 

Two months went by and it was a few days before my twentieth birthday.  We were planning to celebrate together with a few drinks.  I had been feeling sick and wasn't sure if I'd be up to it.  And I was secretly starting to worry.  When was my last period, anyway?  I decided to get a test.  I brought it home and took it right away, thinking I'd prove myself wrong and get those crazy thoughts out of my head. 

It was positive.

No, it had to be a mistake.  I called D, panicked.  He was panicked, too, but remained calm.  And he helped calm me down.  Go get another test, he said, Let's be sure about this.  I went straight to the drugstore and bought two more tests.  They were both positive.

We were in shock.  We were scared.  But we would get through it.  Together.  He made me feel so safe, so loved.  Sooo much better.

Soon his roommate moved out and it only made sense that I would move in.  We were having a baby together.  But I made it very clear that I didn't want to move in because I had to.  He did not have to take care of this baby.  I could move back in with my parents and he could forget about everything if he wanted to.  But that was never even a consideration for him.  We were a family now.  He wanted to stay with me and raise this baby together.  I was so happy.

Fast-forward to today.  Almost 14 years later, and 7 years as husband and wife.  It hasn't always been easy for us - we've gone through some serious personal, legal and financial issues together.  But none of those things could ever break the bond we have.  The love we have.

We now have two wonderful children. We have built a great life for our family and I couldn't be happier. D is such an amazing father and husband.  He is a strong, handsome, loving, hard-working, thoughtful, handy, organized man. He always puts his family first and he never forgets a promise.  He does laundry and makes supper every night and he doesn't complain about my forgetfulness or my tendency to procrastinate.  He hates coffee but always stops to buy one for me. He gets me (most of the time) and he loves me unconditionally. I love him more and more each day and I appreciate him and everything he does for us.  I'm so happy that I said YES to him on that day, 14 years ago.  I can't imagine my life without him.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Five for Ten: Childhood Memories

Well, it's Day 5 of Momalom's Five for Ten, and the third topic in this series is Memory. 

Every once in a while when someone makes a funny comment, when something strange happens, or when I get upset about something, I wonder if my children will remember that exact moment when they are older.

I can remember many moments from my childhood that my parents probably never dreamed I would.  Some of those moments, though faint, are from as far back as age three. 

At age four, I clearly remember the apartment we lived in.  I remember watching the children's show Romper Room and waiting for the host to say my name at the end.  I remember lying on the coffee table, eating a carrot and almost choking.  I remember my mother's look of panic. I spit it out in her hand.

When I was five, I remember the dress I wore on the first day of school.  I remember the lyrics to songs we learned in music class.  I remember getting lost and feeling scared in a shopping mall.  I remember stealing money from my mom's spare change jar, and I remember getting caught, too.  She told me that my father was going to give me The Belt when he got home.  He didn't.  I guess she was trying to instill some fear so it wouldn't happen again.  It worked.

There are many little moments from my childhood that live in my memory.  Some blurry, some very vivid.  Each has a special place in my mind and they bring me back to simpler times.

When Miss M has a special day, I look at her and wonder if she will remember it when she gets older.  When we've had a bad day, I wonder if she will remember how I lost my patience.  I hope she recalls more of the good days.

J is 12 now, and I know he will remember virtually everything from these years as he grows up.  It still surprises me when he remembers a particular moment from years ago; something that I didn't think twice about at the time. It also surprises me when I reminisce about times when he was little and he doesn't remember.  It makes me sad sometimes, too.

The mind is a strange and wonderful thing.  It holds on to memories that might not seem significant to us, but it's those memories that shape us into the people we are.  The adults we become.  Some memories I wish would last forever.  Others I wish would never come back.  I can't choose which moments my children will keep photographed in their minds, but I hope they have happy, loving, lasting childhood memories like mine.

What are some of your earliest memories?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Five for Ten: C'mon, get happy!

It's Day 3 of Five for Ten and the second topic is happiness.  I'm sure many participants will write about the meaning of true happiness, or perhaps their own pursuit of it.  I've decided to keep it light and would like to tell you about the moments that make me happy.

Things that make me happy:

Spending a relaxing sunny day outside with my family.

A steaming hot flavored latte from my favourite coffee shop.

Visiting and sipping wine with my mother.

When J does something he is supposed to do without having to be reminded.

When Miss M gives me an extra long hug at bedtime.

A good chat with a close friend.

When Hubby does the laundry (and he's been doing a lot lately - thanks Hubby!).

When my children do something quietly together with no bickering.

When I'm recognized for my extra efforts at work.

Getting into bed with cool, clean, fresh sheets straight from the clothesline.

When Hubby holds me tight in his arms.

Driving alone in my car, blasting the radio and singing along as loud as I can.

Karaoke night with friends and a few beers.

The smell of freshly cut grass.

What are some of the little things that make you happy?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Five for Ten: Supergirl

As a newbie to blogging, I am extremely excited to be a part of Momalom's Five for Ten.  The topic for Day 1 is Courage, and the first thing that came to mind when I read it was my daughter and what a courageous little girl she is.  So, here goes nothing! 

 This is a post about courage. Bravery. Will.  It is a post about my daughter.

Miss M is five years old. She is a bright, beautiful, witty and charming little girl. She loves to run and play and make new friends. She doesn't let anything stop her. Not even her disability.

When I was pregnant with Miss M, it had been almost seven years since my last pregnancy and it was a totally different experience. For one, I wasn't nauseous for nine straight months like I was the last time. Everything went very smoothly and I felt great. I was having my girl. I was so happy to be having a girl. We had her name picked out before we even booked the first ultrasound. I just knew it was a girl and I couldn't wait to meet my daughter.

Miss M was a large baby (10 lbs, 5 oz) and also in a breech position, so she was delivered by c-section (thankfully!). Everything went fairly well and she was such a beautiful little baby (I'm not biased or anything)! She had inhaled fluid so we only got a glimpse of her before she was swept away to intensive care. In all of the chaos and excitement, we didn't notice her feet.

Her feet were deformed. They were turned in and almost bent in half (from toes to heel). She held her legs straight up to her head, just like the position she had in the womb. The doctors did not know what was wrong and sent her for multiple tests over the following weeks, including CT scans, blood tests, MRI and x-rays. To make a long story short, she was finally diagnosed with a condition called Amyoplasia Congenita, a form of Arthogryposis. It basically means that she has no muscle in the lower legs. One of the symptoms of this condition is clubbed feet.

At only a few days old, she started treatments of weekly casting where they slowly moved her feet and put new casts on each week to hold them. This lasted several months. Then at six months, she underwent a heel cord release surgery to prevent her toes from pointing downward. She went to physio. She had to get special braces called ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) that she must wear everyday to keep her feet in the correct position.

With her AFOs, she learned to walk at 15 months. She was able to wear extra wide running shoes over her AFOs and soon she was running around everywhere.

As she grew, she was fitted for several newer and bigger AFOs. Last year she had another surgery on one foot that was less straight than the other and had to spend six weeks in a cast. It was difficult for all of us to have her in a wheelchair for six weeks. Here was our active little girl stuck in a chair and unable to run around. She rarely complained, but boy was she happy once that cast came off! This year, we realized that the surgery had been unsuccessful and the doctors decided to put her through more casting treatments. Which meant that she would get a new cast on her foot each week for 6-8 weeks. Not fun for a five-year-old.

But has any of this stopped Miss M? Not for a second. She is so strong. We rented a wheelchair for her and we also got crutches for her to try. She learned very quickly how to walk with them. If she can't get somewhere fast enough, she just gets down and crawls. She is not a shy little girl, especially not with other children. She is very outgoing and goes out of her way to meet new kids when she can because she just loves to play and share.  I wish I would have been that way as a child, but I was much too shy.  I still am.  It is still not easy for me to make friends.  But Miss M does it with ease.

Miss M is courageous. She knows that she is different, but she's not afraid of it. If another child asks what those things on her feet are, she tells them that she has special feet and the braces help to keep them straight. She has a disability but it doesn't stop her from doing anything that she wants to do. She finds a way. She may only be five, but she knows that she is special. She knows that the other kids at daycare are not wearing AFOs or going through surgeries. And if she is afraid that she won't be able to keep up, that her classmates won't want to play with her, that new friends won’t accept her… she faces that fear by letting her bright personality shine through.

I hope that she does not lose her courage with age. I know that school-age children can be mean and don’t understand how their words can affect a child's self-esteem. I hope that she will keep that inner strength when she starts school in September. I hope she will continue to face any fear, uncertainty or pain and just keep on shining.

My daughter is the sweetest little girl in the world and I love her so much. I wish I had just a fraction of her bravery, will and determination.  She is my hero.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hi, Mom!

Yes, I did it.  After my obsession with blog reading and commenting, I finally started my OWN blog.  Surprise!! 

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.  You are the best mother and friend a girl could have.  I'm lucky to be your daughter. 

Happy reading!  ;-)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Since I can remember, I have always been a procrastinator and have never been much of a planner. As a student, even as far back as elementary, I didn’t prepare for tests until the night before, and I didn’t start working on projects or presentations until the very last minute. But I always got excellent grades, which is probably why my parents never really pushed me to study harder.

At home, I put things off. The laundry, for example. I know it needs to be done, and I understand that if I did just one load a night I would feel so relieved when the weekend came around. But, no. I put it off because I hate doing it, and then I’m in a panic on Sunday evenings, washing/drying/folding like a madwoman! But it gets done. We’ve never had to go to work or school without clean underwear.

When I’m at work, I need deadlines. Whether they are given to me or I make my own. I always stick to my deadlines, but I complete the task at the last minute. When there are things to be done with no set deadline, I put them off. I tell myself that I will get to it later. Or maybe tomorrow. I crave the urgency. Luckily this job consists of frequent urgent requests that I must respond to immediately. I know my stuff. I whip up a spreadsheet with an explanation and everyone is happy. They rely on me. It’s an adrenalin rush.

Hubby is nothing like me. He writes lists, he plans ahead, he keeps a day planner and follows a schedule. It kills him to leave things to the last minute. He is not a go-with-the-flow type person (like me), he needs to have a plan. In the mornings he is up, showered, dressed and has time to check his email before he heads out the door for work and arrives ahead of schedule. I am always rushing out the door in a panic, no matter what time I get up, and get to work at the last second minute.

All of this brings me to my next subject: Our son, J. J is twelve. He is not concerned about his future, his grades, his health, or even his hygiene. Well, he wants all of those things to be good, but he somehow expects that they will turn out that way without any effort on his part. We constantly encourage him, and he is starting to improve (especially with the hygiene. It's a good thing because he has hit puberty), but he still has a way to go. His is a very bright boy, and in sports he has incredible talent. But in school or at baseball, he is usually satisfied with being good, rather than taking a step further to really shine. He rarely brings homework home, even though we are constantly on his case, and we don’t find out about tests until after the fact. Luckily he still manages to pull out great marks, but I’m seeing a trend. He doesn’t work hard and he leaves things until the last minute. I am not a good role model when it comes to the last-minute thing.

An example is a recent school project that was assigned to J's class. A notice was sent home months ago that there would be an international fair at school. The students had to choose a country and prepare a report, a presentation and also a type of food from that country for students and guests to sample. The fair is this Thursday. As of last Thursday, nothing was even started. We had months! I think it’s been three months that we knew about it. He didn’t bring it up and we didn’t push him. I don’t even know how this happened. But now, we’re all in it together.

J chose Cuba for his country so on Friday, I printed off pictures from the internet and Hubby bought Bristol board and other supplies. Over the weekend, we got J to sit down to start a draft report and we scoured the internet looking for an easy Cuban recipe. On Monday and Tuesday evening, J researched and wrote some more, and I cut out the color photos and started to organize them on the Bristol board. I worked for over three hours last night, just cutting and pasting and organizing. But I we finished the display and it looks great. Hubby is going to start editing and typing J's report today (it’s in French so I am no help), and we’ve decided on fried plantains for the food portion. It’s simple to make and easy to bring to school for sampling. I know we shouldn’t be putting so much effort into this project – it is our son’s responsibility. But we let it go so long that he needs help. A lot of help, if he wants to pass. And he does. He knew we would help him (I know, I know - that's the problem).

My biggest issue with all of this is that J signed up for this project with two other boys in his class. It was supposed to be a group project. He told us that neither of the other kids have done anything on it. I suggested that maybe one of them could provide the food. He doesn’t want to rely on them to do it, and I don’t blame him. So J will have the whole project completed on time – the report, display and food – and his friends will also take credit for it. At this point, I feel it’s too late to tell their parents about it (assuming they don’t know), and I would also feel really bad if they got a zero on the project (even though it’s what they deserve), because it’s worth a lot of marks. I am torn.

Are you a procrastinator? Do you follow a set schedule or fly by the seat of your pants? What do you think about assisting children with their school projects? Do you think we should let J’s friends take credit for the project?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A letter to my brother

Dear Brother,

The day you were born was exactly two months before my ninth birthday. For almost nine whole years, I had been an only child. A spoiled only child who didn’t know any other way. And then there were two.

They brought you home; you had a new room with new things. You got gifts. You got visitors. You got a lot of attention.

As a baby and toddler, Mom always called you her “special guy”. I hated it. I told her it was because it sounded corny, but the truth was that I was jealous. Wasn’t I special? What made you so much more special?  I didn’t get it.

I don’t remember much of your early years. I remember you went through a spell of having nightmares and a lot of things scared you. I remember a music video that I had taped and watched that used to really scare you. Mom and Dad made me tape over it, but there was one small part that didn’t get recorded over and I secretly laughed when you saw it and ran away crying. I was mean. You were a sweet, sweet little boy and I was a mean, mean big sister.

When you reached school-age, I was a teenager and I couldn’t be bothered with you. You were just a little kid. Mom and Dad used to make me babysit you while they went to visit friends. I didn’t like to play. I didn’t like to do much of anything that was kid-related. As a rebellious teen, I invited friends over and we would sneak alcohol from the cabinet after you went to bed (did I even tuck you in? I can’t remember). I will never forget the night when my best friend drank too much and passed out in the bathroom. It was right beside your bedroom door. I had to call Mom to tell her what we had done because I was afraid that she might need to go to the hospital. I was crying, panicked. And you… you were sitting there, all alone in your bed wondering what was going on but too scared to find out. Curled up and afraid, you sat there. Alone. I only realized that you were even awake just a couple of years ago when Mom told me. It haunts me. And I feel so terribly guilty about it. I’m so sorry.

When I was in grade 12, I made the stupid decision to move out with my then-boyfriend. Mom was sad but she didn’t want to forbid it, worried that it would push me further away. You wanted my room, and reluctantly she let you have it. Less than a year later I moved back. And I got my room back. You had to return to your old, smaller room and I’m sure you weren’t impressed, but you didn’t complain. You told Mom that you didn’t mind because it meant that I would be coming back home. I thought that was really sweet.

As we both got older we started to get along better. I was rarely home though… either at work, out with friends or my new boyfriend (future Hubby). You didn’t have a lot of friends. You were shy, and the neighbourhood we lived in didn’t have many kids. I wonder if you were lonely. I was never around to find out.

I do remember when you were in grade three you got a Nintendo and we actually started to share time together, laughing and playing. Although Mortal Kombat might not have been the best thing for children, it is the first time I actually remember playing and enjoying something with you and it was wonderful.

But soon you moved away. Dad got a job in another province, and I made the decision to stay behind. I didn’t want to leave my friends or my new relationship. You were 10 and I was 19. You moved four hours away from me, and suddenly you became the only child. I only visited once or twice a year. Mom came back for visits, but rarely with you or Dad. I wasn’t in your life after that. I was barely in your life before that.

You started in a new school and, at the young age of ten, you realized that you needed to change in order to make new friends. You came out of your shell, never afraid to be yourself and you enjoyed being different and unique. You made many friends and joined sports teams. You were independent, confident and outgoing. You still are.

More years went by. I moved to a city even farther away with my newly-formed family and we saw each other even less. Last year, Mom and Dad decided to move here, too. And this time, it was you who chose to stay behind. You are now an independent young man, with plenty of friends, a girlfriend, your band, school and work. You have gone back to school, training for something you are obviously enjoying, getting excellent grades, and pondering going even farther in your studies. You have stayed loyal to your band and even recently released your own CD. You have been a wonderful son to our parents... never giving them the trouble that I did, but always having to walk in my shadow and be judged based on my mistakes.

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for not being there as a big sister, as a good role model, as a friend.

I'm proud of you. For getting by on your own, for being true to yourself, for being such a wonderful uncle to my kids - they are crazy about you.

I miss you. I miss your smile and your big, hearty laugh, your confident stride, your sarcasm. :-)

I wasn't there for you in the way I should have been, but it doesn't mean that I didn't always love you. I did. I still do. You are my little brother. You always will be. I hope you forgive me for everything I did (or didn't do). I hope we can connect more often. Please know that I am here for you. You can always count on me and can talk to me about anything. I won't let you down. Not anymore.

Take care, Little Brother.