Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Three Sons

It has been a very busy two months since I last wrote on my blog, so, I took a moment to read my last entry. It was written the day before my C - section and I remember all of the hope and fear I was feeling about the birth of my third child. Needless to say, as I sit here typing this, he got here safely and I survived the entire ordeal.
Well, actually, I somewhat hate to admit it, but, 'ordeal' might not be the right word for the experience. I couldn't have asked for a more supportive team of nurses before and after the surgery. They knew of my blood clotting history and went above and beyond to take care of me, physically AND emotionally. To them, it might have been just another day at work, but, to me, it was like having a huge cheering section during a very rough game. So, kudos, to all nurses and the wonderful ones I met that day.
Now, it's time to brag about the baby! A big and beautiful baby boy! He is healthy, happy, and an absolute joy to be around. It was a long and bumpy road getting to this point. There were times I didn't think it was possible and the injections I had to take were painful, but, it proved to be all worth it in the end.
My four year old has taken a little encouragement to pass on the 'little brother' title to our new baby, but, he is (gradually) warming up to having him around.
My six year old, well, two little brothers into it now, considers himself to be a pro at this and I have to agree with him! It is truly heartwarming to see the interest and devotion he has for his new brother.
So, I guess you could say I am very in love with and proud of my THREE sons! They inspire me, exhaust me, amaze me, humble me, and, complete me. I am truly blessed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

You Gotta Have Faith

Definition of Faith: Belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof

As life would have it, mine has taken a twist of fate this week and it has left me in an awkward state of fear and hope. I am going under the knife tomorrow. The doctor has decided, due to my history and the size of this baby, it would be in our best interest to have a C-Section. It was a path I did not want to take, but, at the same time, I have to be sensible about this.
For obvious reasons, this impending surgery has rattled my nerves and there is a part of me that cannot shake the fear of history repeating itself. However, I can still feel that slight glimmer of hope that life cannot be that cruel to me again this time.
Enter faith....I have been encouraged so many times throughout this pregnancy that, to put it simply, "you gotta have faith."
I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools, and was taken to mass every Sunday by my devoted mother who strongly believes that you do not question, you just believe. So, the concept of faith is more than familiar to me. I just wish I had my mother's clear cut insight about faith sometimes. It would be easier to be so full of faith that there was no room for doubt.
I think, for the most part, I do believe in the power of faith. I have felt comforted by prayer and I don't like thinking that life is just life, and, it ends as we no longer cease to exist. (Sure, there might not be angels floating on clouds with the soothing sounds of harps in the background when we 'cross over', but, I admit, I would like to feel some kind of eternal peace and be surrounded by loved ones who have passed before me.)
So, come tomorrow, I am leaping into my (more than half hearted) faith that the baby will get here safely and I will make it through the surgery without my body playing potentially fatal tricks on me this time.
With that said, I am looking forward to seeing this little boy who has been so rowdy in my tummy for nine months.....Enjoy your last night of raising hell in there, little guy, and mommy will be there, with open arms, to welcome you as your new adventure, called life, begins.

Image Credit: Little Angels by Santi Raphael

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Change is Gonna Come...God, I hope so!

Change is gonna come..... God, I hope So!

It is, finally, August! A month I have been waiting for all summer long!
This summer, my husband and I celebrated another anniversary. In good times and in bad, as the vows go, and, although, it went by without much hoopla, we are still together and that's what truly matters.
Our youngest son turned 4 years old and has quickly learned to ride his bike without training wheels. It took a whole 10 minutes to teach him! Yes, I am bragging about my very coordinated and awesome child! He never ceases to amaze me! He definitely does not get his impressive level of athleticism from me!
My oldest son's summer has been all about his teeth. He finally lost his first tooth after weeks and weeks of wiggling it with much anticipation. The tooth fairy paid its first visit to our house one late summer night and another milestone has been added to his list.
More memories, more days gone by, it always make me question where have all the years gone?
7 years and 20 lbs ago, I can still feel the combination of excitement and anxiousness I felt as I slipped on my beautiful wedding dress to begin this chapter of my life. It was that day, the only day, I have ever allowed myself to let my guard down and be a self indulgent princess. Although, I thoroughly enjoyed, but, do not desire that much indulgence in my everyday life, I quickly began a yearning to feel some sort of excitement and anticipation for something again.....
Then, the babies came along....two incredible boys, two years apart. The midnight feedings, teething, crawling, walking, the exciting and tiring life of parenthood. When one accomplished one thing, the other was not far behind. Oh, how my boys have kept me both entertained and busy over the years.....
These days, however, I have spent more time chasing my tail than my dreams. So, I have come to the conclusion that it may take change to renew my family and remind us of why we do it all in the first place.
That is the point where we are at now as August has swooped in like a breath of fresh air and put an end to a very long, hot and monotonous summer.
My youngest is following in his older brother's footsteps and starting his turn at preschool, and, so, his scholastic journey is about to begin. His adorable Diego backpack is purchased, his new sneakers have no idea the workout they are about to endure and the pleasure of watching him smile as he tells his brother he is a "big boy now just like him" makes my heart soar.
My frustrated husband is taking the proverbial 'leap of faith' at work as he has decided to make his life a little more complicated in an effort to move us out of our financial rut. He is returning to school to crossover into another line in his department. His pay will be temporarily cut while he finishes his training, but, his new position will allow him to access more opportunities, which will, hopefully, in a short amount of time, compensate us financially. I respect him for shaking things up and taking risks in the hopes of getting ahead. How many times in our own lives do we suppress our dreams or opportunities in fear of failure?
As for me, I am waddling (literally) straight into my third and final trimester. I admit it, it has been a long, hot summer and it has been physically challenging trying to entertain my very busy and rambunctious boys. I am, unselfishly, looking forward to some much need 'me' time when the boys are in school. I know it will be short lived, as the baby is due in less than three months, but, I will take it and love every minute of it, no matter how long it lasts.
So, change is gonna come and our lives are going in a different direction once again. This excitement and anticipation I am feeling for my family is just what this worn out and worn down lady needed.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Six Down, Three To Go

Six down, three to go......in terms of months that I have carried this child and what I have left until his arrival.

I had my 24 week check up yesterday, and, for some reason, the severity of my situation started sneaking up on me again. The baby is fine. More than fine. He is growing on target, his heart rate is strong and he is moving around all of the time. Me, however, well, I am starting to crumble a little.
Blame it on hormones, or, that I may not be as brave as I thought I was, but, the impending birth has gotten me a little unraveled and I am not comfortable letting my demons get the best of me, especially now.
I unfairly told my doctor that, "I need to get through this without any complications this time."
Okay, yes, he is NOT God, and, ultimately, can only do what he has been trained to do, but, it was my way of admitting aloud that my past bad experience with blood clots has put fears in me that I never had before.
My doctor knows me well and is literally one of the most caring and compassionate people I have ever met, so, as expected, he did his best to reassure me that he is doing everything possible to get me and the baby through this safely.
I left his office reluctantly believing him after his somewhat necessary pep talk, but, I still felt a little uneasy for the rest of the day.
I woke up this morning with a little better outlook on the situation and read something that couldn't have come at a better time.... The Greek Philosopher, Aristotle, believed that "Fear is pain arising from the anticipation of evil." Hmmm, he may be on to something!
These unsettling emotions I have been feeling has prompted me to ask myself why I am still allowing myself to remain a victim to a painful event of my past? Even more so, why am I letting it distract me from the joy I should be feeling right now about meeting my new son?
So, I have decided that this may FINALLY be my opportunity to free myself of this fear that I have been suppressing for years! I need to GO through this and I need to GET through this to prove to myself that I can have happy endings again.
My final thought that I must keep reminding myself for the next three months is that my blood clot MAY have weakened my courage but it has NOT destroyed my faith!
What demons, if any, are you hiding today?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

And Baby Makes Three......

So, what do you do when you are already in financial and emotional distress? That's right! Have another baby! Yes, I am pregnant with baby boy #3 (no official name yet) and, although, I realize it might not be the ideal time for this, given our situation, I am quick to remind myself that children are a blessing. So, it is what it is and I am ready to embrace another member of our growing family......

When the test turned positive and the harsh reality set in that our family would be growing one more and FINAL time, I admit, I panicked. There was a little uneasiness about going through the whole process again because of my blood clot history, but, the main source of my distress was the very common reaction of "oh my god, how are we going to afford this!?!" I tried to fall back on the old adage that "if you wait til you can afford to have children, you never will" but it didn't work this time. I was not unemployed or already emotionally run down the last two times. My body was younger and more forgiving then. I was not scarred emotionally or physically by such a post surgery nightmare. I was, clearly, a different person, during my last two pregnancies.
However, I have decided to not drag this baby down by my fears or worries. It is blissfully and innocently floating around in a bubble of amniotic fluid and I am not going to do anything to jeopardize its sweet little world.
I have had to endure Lovenox injections in my belly daily to help with the risk of another blood clot. So far, a small price to pay for the wonderful life growing inside me. I distract myself with memories of my other children when they were little and how much they have brought into my life over the years.
I have no doubt that this child will be adored just as much as his brothers, and, I know the fear, the injections, and the impending surgery will be forgotten when I get to see his little face and hold him for the first time.
I am feeling cautiously optimistic that, soon, I will be able to tell myself that I have worried for no reason and I am truly looking forward to the joy and hope a new baby brings into your life.
Now, if I could just think of a name for you!! :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Humble Pie, the Cavalry, and Hope

So, it's time for me to start sharing some confessions and observations about being unemployed for the past two years:

First and foremost, I had to get over the stigma of being unemployed that I have formed over my adult life:

I am not ignorant, nor lazy; I do not see it as collecting easy money off the government while I sit home and do nothing. Granted, because the number is so high now and the efforts it takes to find a job are so much more difficult, I don't think admitting unemployment tarnishes ones reputation like it once did. However, I still had to swallow a hefty dose of humble pie in admitting that I have fallen into the grasps of losing a job that has been impossible to replace. The humiliation is definitely not as strong as it once was, but, I don't think my pride or bloodline will totally allow me to shed myself of all the embarrassment I have felt over admitting that I am stuck in this awful situation.

Secondly, if you are waiting for the cavalry to come swooping in and save you from the battles you are facing, well, you are going to be waiting a long time!

I, ignorantly admit, that I thought my period of unemployment was going to be short. I had worked for 8 years in the construction industry building a name and reputation for myself. I had become a trusted office contact for many subcontractors, many coworkers had left and moved on to other companies that were still in operation, and I was sure someone would call with their condolences and offer me a job right away. The phone never rang....Not even once. I felt betrayed, even a little angry, that no one had offered to help me. In reality, it was and still is a dog eat dog world. People were lucky to still have the jobs they had and there were no extras to throw around. Ultimately, I had to be prepared to help myself and not depend on anyone else to get me out of this.

Hope for America? Well, I was not so sure, but, the platform he was selling sure sounded good.

I openly admit I did not vote for Obama. There, I said it! My decision had nothing to do with his political party or the color of his skin. I simply did not know enough about the man and did not feel like he had enough work experience to take on the task of leading AND fixing our nation.

So, we are almost two years into his presidency and where are we now?
I have seen the government bailout the banks but I am still waiting for my own personal bail out. (which I guess goes back to helping yourself!)
He signed a $787 billion stimulus package to "set our economy on a firmer foundation," yet, this American soil I am standing on still feels pretty unstable these days.
He did help me with getting my unemployment benefits extended...for a little while. However, I have reached the end of receiving benefits and have not found any other assistance or instruction beyond this point.
This is, in no way shape or form, meant to create or stir up a political debate, but, if there is real progress or aid as a result from the Obama administration taking over, it has not trickled down to me and many others I know. So, hope for America, I would love to see it, but, I haven't seen it yet.

However, I will say that the condition of our economy and the issues that led up to it, were not easy for anyone voted into office to overcome, and, it did not happen overnight. Therefore, it will not be solved quickly either. I just hope I still have a roof over my head by the time this is over.....

Image Credits: All images were found on http://www.bing.com/ Note: The Obama "Hope" poster was created by artist, Shepard Fairey.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Just in Time for Mother's Day

It is the eve of Mother's Day and I have decided to start it off by reminding myself of something nice for a change! No moments of sadness about our financial situation, no thoughts about our government or the economy, no reflections of how we got to this point....I decided, for Mother's Day, I am giving myself a 24 hour pass from my usual and depressing train of thought.
My mother in law is totally to blame for this! She gave me an early Mother's Day present the other day, and, I think it started to actually trigger some happy thoughts in this jumbled mess of a head of mine!
She gave me a gardenia plant. To some, it might seem like a nice but unusual choice. However, for people who know me best or have read this blog, well, then, you know there is a much more meaningful sentiment behind this gift.
She first became aware of my gardenia fondness when she read my entry about my "happy places." The gardenia represents a much more simpler and happier time in my life when I was a child and the wonderful scent from our gardenia bush used to permeate in the yard at my child hood home. I loved the smell so much and that love for gardenias has always stayed with me.
I knew the moment I saw her gift, she was giving me something that she knew would give me a constant source of much needed happiness. The thought and meaning behind it was as much appreciated as the happiness that it instantly made me feel when I saw it. She, unexpectedly, reached out to me when I needed it simply because she cares and I hope she knows how much it meant to me.
So, tomorrow, I am going to water my gardenias, drink my coffee, read the Sunday paper and spend the rest of my time celebrating motherhood with my boys...Some simple pleasures that make me happy.
Thank you, Bertha, for snapping me back into reality just in time for Mother's Day :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How Low Can You Go???

How low can you go? How low can you go?................
Oh, the challenges of life, and, just when you think it can't get any harder, yep, that bar drops one more notch again! Then, your mind starts chanting, "how low can you go?" It starts softly but gets louder and louder. So, you bend a little more, pray that your legs won't fail you now, throw that head all the way back until it barely misses the floor, and, hold on, wait a minute, I'm almost there....WHEW! I made it! (until my next turn!)
Being laid off and looking for a replacement job that doesn't exist in my field while trying to figure out how we are going to keep up with the bills, provide for our children and not lose our minds, has been our ongoing game of limbo for two years now. Yes, I have made it through every round, SO FAR, but, I have to admit that the short lived euphoria of figuring things out, temporarily, until the next time, does not come without a lot of inevitable worry.
I have ducked the bar of losing my house, having my unemployment run out, and, oh yeah, my favorite and frequent bar of keeping my sanity through these very difficult times.
How? Well, to put it simply, I have convinced myself not to give up because of my kids. Children and the list of responsibilities that come with them have inspired me with the will to make it through this rough patch my family seems to be stuck in. So, I look at their little faces and tell myself I will not give up.
With that said, I am READY....ready for the bar to drop AGAIN.......ready to bend over backwards even though I might fall on the ground THIS time.....ready to take my turn NO MATTER what the outcome. Yes, I will keep playing the game of limbo! Then, hopefully, one of these days, that short lived moment of euphoria I mentioned will finally turn into a permanent and profitable solution I have been praying for.
Yep, that's my life. The same life that 5.5 million other unemployed Americans are living right now. Are you one of them?

Image Credit: image found on http://www.bing.com/

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fire Friday

"Fire Friday;" That was the catch phrase we used for the last day of the work week in our dwindling company when a manager would swoop in, at the very last minute, and, lay off another unsuspecting worker.

It was said in jest every Friday morning, yet, underneath, there was a hidden panic we all shared, but, never talked about. The mere thought of having your income cut off in such a shaky economy terrified us all, even more so, because, we all knew a salary that had taken years to build in the unstable field of construction, would be virtually impossible to replace at this time.

So, the tense expressions consumed our faces every Friday morning as we piled through the back door and politely greeted each other before scurrying into our empty offices trying to look busy before management's watchful eyes fell upon us.

It was a HORRIBLE feeling that I felt for a very LONG two years....
Two years of watching the clock and the door and wondering if today would be my "Fire Friday." It was a heavy sigh of relief, week after week, as the axe fell and missed me. Yet, my heart would literally break for others as I saw the looks on their faces and said my many tearful goodbyes.

By Monday, I would push the notion of losing my job to the very back of my head and distract myself with anything to occupy my time. Then, slowly, it would creep back to the surface by mid week and boldly taunt me all over again.

I knew it would happen eventually, but, like the rest of us, I was hoping to just buy some more time. I would tell myself I was well liked and I had dedicated eight years of my life, 40+ hours a week, to this place. I had volunteered for everything and I'm sure they have recognized my strong work ethic...That had to mean something, right? Well, it did, for awhile, but, I knew they weren't going to keep paying me because they liked me! It was a very obvious and harsh fact that we were not selling enough houses and even more cut backs were inevitable.

So, when my phone rang and the call was coming from my boss' office at 2:45 PM on a Friday afternoon, I should have known to expect the worst. However, I walked into his office still not expecting to hear THOSE words come out of his mouth. He could barely look at me as he softly informed me that he had been told to let me go. "Hmmm," I thought, "so, THIS is how it feels." I wanted to make him feel guiltier than he already did...I wanted to yell or plead, but, neither were my style. Instead, I left, I found a box, and, I quietly started packing up my belongings, so, I could slip out the back door unnoticed. I did not want the tearful good byes or pep talks. Nope, just let me get the hell out of here as fast as I can!

Then, a coworker and friend, who was in upper management and knew of my lay off, stood in my door way. Her eyes were on the verge of tears, and, I could tell she didn't know what to say, but, wanted to comfort me somehow. Okay, so, maybe I did want a little sympathy and was secretly glad that she was there to console me!

She and my boss helped me carry out my belongings, we hugged, and I got into my car. I looked at the building for the very last time and slowly drove away as I was still trying to take it all in. It took a good minute or so, for the severity of my situation to set in, and, my hands began to shake. I pulled off onto the side of the road and told myself to just BREATHE! You have survived harder things than this!

I had always taken a back road to work. It cut through the country and I loved taking in the view before walking into my office. Now, I was sitting there, on that same road, trying to figure out where to go from here. Then, I began to look around and realized I was in a place that had always brought me a sense of calmness when I needed it.

I put down my window and felt the breeze on my face as I looked at the pine trees that wrapped around the lake. There was a beautiful silence here. It somehow managed to escape from the bulldozers in the distance and I really appreciated the soft hum of nature that was very hard to find in this town. It was at that moment that I realized I was going to miss this more than the life I was about to leave behind. Despite the heartache I had just been through, the world didn't look any different. The sun was still shining, the birds were still singing, and I had a lot to fall back on.

When one door closes, another one opens, right? I just hope I can find that OTHER door fast!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lipsticks to Lollipops and Everything in Between......

You can tell a lot about a woman by her purse. Yes, her purse!

Not just the size and shape of it, or the label, or the color.... Although, all of those are very relevant in proper purse shopping!

It's the contents of the purse that really shouts out what a woman is all about. Think about it. It goes everywhere with you and you carefully pack it full of items you THINK you can't live without.

No, not the credit card receipts or the chewing gum....you have to dig deeper to find the real you in there, but, TRUST ME, it's there!

My purse, (a very sweet Java Blue Vera Bradley tote), which holds a large mixture of necessity and sentiment, is the inspiration behind the title of my blog. I playfully describe the disorganized clutter inside of my purse as,"lipsticks to lollipops and everything in between." Hence, my life, in a portable satchel of fabric I drag around with me everywhere.

Lipsticks: My extreme indecisiveness means I usually have about 4 or 5 of them rolling around somewhere in the bottom of my purse. I remember rushing into the parking lot at work after dropping my two kids off at two separate day cares and taking a final glance at myself in the rear view mirror before I opened the door. Now, you would think since I had several shades to choose from, I would always be color coordinated! Honestly, I would grab the first one I found, after digging and cursing for a good minute for ANY of them, and, that was as good as it got most mornings. However, a little bit of lipstick on this tired and busy woman's face before a long and expected day of chaos and frustration, seemed like a moment of...pure indulgence. Something that makes you feel somewhat presentable and a little prettier, well, the boss and the phone and the build up of paperwork, all seem a little easier to bear. So, lipsticks, and plenty of them, have become my little tubes of quick transformations, and, much needed instant pick me ups.

Lollipops: My side pockets always have a lollipop or two shoved in to quickly soothe or distract one or both of my children when they see fit to misbehave at an inopportune time. (I know, candy! Hey, it works like a charm, and, I have usually exhausted all other resources by the time I give up and yank one out and straight into their mouths!) It's funny, I am usually at my wits end with my boys when I resort to yanking a lollipop out, but, when all is well, and I catch a glimpse of one of them in my purse when I am hunting around for something else, they usually make me smile. They have become an instant symbol of my children, however good or bad they can be, and motherhood is a happy place for me. So, something as simple as a sticky and sugary confection on a stick, is a nice reminder I gladly welcome, throughout the day.

and, finally, EVERYTHING in between: Well, I guess that part, is best described as LIFE and everything it throws at you! The dreaded time of the month and a bounty of tampons stuck in there; the always leaving too late and rushing to work that finally caught up with me in the form of a speeding ticket; the daily progress report from my son's preschool and the mostly funny notes that it shared; the "hopefully" empty jars of baby food from my other son's feeding therapy session; the crumpled movie ticket stubs from my last and rare date night with my husband; the vet bill that hurt my wallet and sadly reminded me that my beloved bulldog was on his last leg;

Life. It's all in there whether you have noticed it or not. Take a look in your purse and see what it says about you right now.

Image credit: vintage purse ad found on www.bing.com

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Unexpected Answer

There is nothing worse to me than having a question without an answer. I am a person of faith but I also benefit off reason. So, I usually find myself in complete and utter turmoil when neither of the two provide me with a believable answer.
I spent months convincing everyone that there was an issue with my son's feeding skills. The majority (i.e. my family, the doctors, the babysitter) kept telling me that he would figure it out and did not share the same level of concern that I had.
I was not a first time mother, I did have some medical experience, and I am not inclined to assume the worst, but, none of that seemed to gain any support to my beliefs.
Then, it happened! I took him in for his one year check up and we saw another doctor in the same practice. He looked at his growth chart and realized there had been a significant drop in his weight. Finally, not just a new set of ears to preach to, but, a set of eyes that were actually really paying attention to what I was saying, for a change.
He admitted he did not have an answer for me, but, decided to delve into my concerns and suggested we send him to a therapist for an evaluation. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! It was the first time in 6 months I had felt acknowledged and hopeful with this situation. Could this finally be the answer to my question concerning his difficulty eating?
I scooped up his referral, thanked him sincerely, and didn't waste any time in setting up an appointment. In fact, when I was told they didn't have an opening for months, I called the doctor back and asked him to pull some weight and see what he could do to speed the process. It worked! I had an appointment, and, that in itself, meant so much to me.
Then, the day finally came. I had been granted 30 minutes to have a "professional" feed my child and see if I was onto something or not. I knew it was going to be the beginning or the end and I begged God to provide me with some kind of answer that moment.
The therapist listened to my concerns, performed her own feeding evaluation and provided me with a final conclusion. "Your son, undoubtedly, has a sensory issue." "Well, there you have it," I thought, but, "what exactly does that mean?"
She went on to explain, "that we all involuntarily react to our senses; taste, touch, smell....your son's brain is not telling him what to do with the food, so, the reaction to swallow is not happening with him. We will, literally, have to teach him how to eat." It was not the answer I was expecting, but, it was an answer!
He was sent to a children's hospital for a swallow study to rule out any physical issues, but, it came back with the same result. His issue was all sensory related. I was given a bunch of information, set up for feeding therapy, and sent out the door even more confused than I was when I first entered. It was not a "pop this pill and you will feel better in the morning" kind of situation. We were beginning a journey with no time line and no real way of understanding when we would see results.
However, I was praised by the therapist for my persistence. She told me that it is often over looked by the doctors and that many parents delay taking care of it because they, ignorantly, think it is admitting there is something wrong with their child, and, in time, they will grow out of it (which they NEVER do).
She gave me direction and hope that early intervention and therapy was the best method for his issue and I was willing to put EVERY ounce of trust I had in her to help him get through this. I have learned SO MUCH about sensory issues, myself, and my son through this experience:

There is a strong bond between your child and your self. There is such a thing as Mother's intuition and ALWAYS recognize and listen to the signals your child is sending you.

Be persistent and be prepared to try and try again, if necessary!!! Don't let your feelings be dismissed or go unnoticed. You owe it to yourself and your child!

Sensory issues are what they are. There is no rhyme or reason as to why some senses do not develop. So, get over the "how" or "why" and quickly dig into the "what can I do" and "where do we go from here" modes.

Unfortunately, there is not enough awareness or understanding about sensory issues until you experience it first hand. I have had to explain even more times than I can count that my son is not "autistic" or "delayed" or "not normal." Even when we were provided with a diagnosis, it was not a well accepted or understood reaction from others. Do not take it personally and see it as an opportunity to inform them of sensory issues.

Utilize EVERY resource possible in your community. There is an organization, provided through our local hospital and funded by our state, which has paid for all of his therapy for the first two years. Then, the school board has picked up where they left off.

My son is three years old now and has fully gained control of his sensory issue. He is able to enjoy all foods and there is no indication, whatsoever, of his earlier difficulties.

This website provides a wonderful explanation of sensory issues: http://sensoryintegrate.com/sensoryperspective.html

Image found on www.bing.com

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Mother's Intuition

Carl Sandburg once said that, "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on." I love that saying, and, once again, hearing it has made me smile.
I am the kind of person who cheers for triumph over tragedy; I always hope for happy endings; I expect it to take a lot of patience and practice to get things right, but, I am comforted in knowing that it almost always works out in the end. However, the last couple of years has even tested the true optimist in me.....until I had children.
They have made me want to believe in the world, and, what is right with it, all over again. Having them in my life and under my care, has given me a renewed strength that failure is not an option, sadness and fear is not welcome, and life may get difficult but not impossible.
So, when I started to notice that there was something wrong with my youngest child, I no longer cared about the recession, the turmoils developing at work, my own long and painful recovery from my own ailments. Nope, none of it had a stronger bearing on me than trusting my intuition and staying focused on listening to the words he was not able, yet, to say.
There are many challenges in interpreting babies, for obvious reasons. Their only outlet of frustration is to cry and it is our job to translate their emotions in order to fix the problem. In every other respect, it was normal issues. Wet diapers, teething, crankiness, but, hunger....that became the tricky one.
By six months, he did not want food. He did not want me to change the size or flow of his bottle's nipple. I immediately brought it to his pediatrician's attention, and, was reminded that each child develops differently. There was no reason to overreact. My mind told me to listen to the doctors but my heart told me to listen to my child, and, I knew deep down, that it was not a typical rejection.
His little eyes, kind and innocent, would quickly change to torment and fear if I approached the subject of eating. He would panic and gag and cry. So, we compromised. I watered down the cereal, I didn't force anything than wasn't pureed and I kept insisting at every check up that there was a problem with his feeding skills.
It was not until he reached his first birthday, that I had actually allowed myself to have my only real breakdown over this ongoing situation. It occurred after the party was over and the guests had gone. About an hour beforehand, when the ceremonial first candle was lit, and, the adorable Winnie the Pooh cake was sat in front of him, the crowd of family and friends sang and anxiously awaited for him to smash his cake. I'm sure most of you know the importance of this moment which is proudly caught on camera and video at every first birthday. I admit it. I too, had sat my own feelings aside, in hopes that my baby would somehow get caught up in the moment and please the crowd with a smeared mess of icing in has hands and across his face. Then, one eager guest grew impatient and helped him along by physically encouraging him to touch his cake. He cried. It was that same unconsoled cry that only I knew. It fell on a roomful of sympathetic ears, but, I crumbled. I wanted to rush to soothe him and end the uncomfortableness of it all. I tried to put on a good face, but, secretly, my heart sank and I shook inside because I knew, at that moment, that enough was enough. I had to make someone listen to me and save my child from whatever THIS was........

Image Credit: Mother and Child - Mary Cassatt

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Beginning of Another Great Depression?

Every time I see this photo, it has the exact same effect on me. I see this tired woman, draped by her urchin children, obviously aged beyond her years from, what I'm guessing, is an unfortunate turn of events that has unfairly led her and her young family to this unfair point in their already difficult lives. I'm sure she was unaware at that moment that her perplexed face was being captured on film as a symbol of poverty and the inevitable effects from hopelessness. Her honest expression humbles me and reminds me that my own life can always be worse than it has ever been.
This poignant photo of a 32 year old destitute migrant worker and mother of seven, Florence Owens Thompson, entitled Migrant Mother, was taken in 1936. It is the most recognized out of a series of photographs, by Dorothea Lange, depicting the reality and despair of America's poorest and most forgotten during the height of the Great Depression.
Despite her hardships, Florence lived to be 80 years old. It saddens me that her daughter, Katherine, pictured on the left, was quoted in 2008 as saying the photo's fame made her family feel "shame of their poverty." I wish she could see how that emotional image of her struggling mother helped humanize the tragic consequences of the economy to the rest of us. It commands empathy, not pity, and, triggers me to encourage her to persevere. That sentiment is something that will forever be immortalized thanks to Florence, and, we will always be able to relate to it, no matter what generation gazes upon it.
I have viewed many other moving images from this era, varying from the huge crowds gathering on Wall Street right after the 1929 crash, the faces of the unemployed men picketing in the streets for work and food, the growing numbers of women forced into the workforce as men were drafted into the armed forces, and the devastating effects of the Dust Bowl.
Photographers documented history in the making, and, in turn, their unforgettable images will forever serve as proof a crucial time in America where the nation, and its people, were tested like no other time, until now.
Many decades later, our prosperous world, full of greedy undertones, came crashing down upon all of us right around the time I re-entered the workforce after the birth of my second child. It was 2006 and I was in the middle of the housing bubble as it began to burst in my unprepared section of Southwest Florida.
I was working for a home construction company that had gone through many changes since I first walked through its welcoming doors in 2000. Back then, it was a much smaller and humbler version of the ravenous beast it had grown into. Our reputation as one of the area's best home builders quickly transformed us into a champion in the competitive world of seducing clients into hiring us to build their elaborate dream homes in our piece of tropical paradise.
So, we steadily drew them in and took their gorgeous money and reaped the benefits for several years. However, in the spirit of Sir Isaac Newton and his concept of "what goes up must come down," those self indulgent days of upper management's hefty bonuses and frivolous spending, fuelled by our overwhelming number of dramatically increased home sales, came to a screeching halt, and, our company, like so many other home builders, were caught with its pants down, so to say, as we had not prepared financially when we should have, for that kind of halt in home construction.
The jovial and close knit environment I had grown to love was sucked out and replaced with a hollow and untrustworthy version I could not relate to. The so called "survivors"of the lay offs and pay cuts were constantly reminded to feel lucky that they still had their jobs, but, the trade off was somewhat unbearable.
My salary was frozen, my workload had tripled, and we were quickly taught to feel guilty if we were caught socializing, or, even worse, laughing during work hours. The somberness of the effects from the collapsing housing and credit markets with the lurking probability of a nationwide recession had numbed our society and crippled our sense of stability.
We knew we had become a nation driven by money and the pleasures that came with it. The bank loosened its qualifications and funded us for houses and other luxuries that most of us knew we couldn't afford. It was a "take it and worry about it later" kind of approach which America is still heavily paying for now.
So, where did we go wrong? It took a long time for our world to recuperate from the Great Depression, but, we did. We even went on to establish a united dream, which we gloriously entitled, The American Dream, and life was good for many decades.
So, fast forward to 2006 again, and the beginning of our generation's version of another Great Depression. We all knew there was a risk in getting our hands caught in that tempting cookie jar, and, yet, it never bothered us when it should have. Sure, we could blame the government, or the banks, greed, or ourselves, but, we were, undoubtedly, headed for another economic decline.
The unemployment rate rose, the foreclosures began and the ridiculous lending stopped. It was not a good time to be in Florida and employed in the construction field. I did not expect my life to end up like Florence's, but, I knew troubled times were unavoidable for me as well.
Was it the beginning of another Great Depression? I don't know if it is even fair to make that comparison. I think about those faces from back then and wonder what they would say to all of us now. Maybe their world was simpler than ours, but, why is it that they still seemed to practice a much more controlled approach to life and prosperity than we do now? Also, although, there was severe hardship and suffering in their photos, you can also see plenty of hope and determination to rebound, that I haven't seen this time around.
Maybe we should have realized when this started in 2006 that it was not going to simply go away by putting our halfhearted faith in the government and time to correct our unsightly ways. It will be interesting to see how, many years from now, our economic crisis is portrayed and if there is anyone that stands out, like Florence, who hit rock bottom, but, rose again, as a result of perseverance instead of waiting for that infamous and unseen bailout.

Image Credit: Migrant Mother, Circa 1936, by American Photographer Dorothea Lange

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Scream

Have you ever had one of those days where you wanted to just walk outside, throw your face up in the air and scream as loud as you possibly could and didn't care if everyone in the rest of the world could hear you? Well, that kind of day turned into the next couple of years for me.............
My internal version of this kind of screaming began to bottle itself up inside of me shortly after I returned home from the hospital. I had barely escaped death and found it was not as easy of a transition back into my old life as I thought it would be.
My mind was still groggy, my body was undeniably weaker and I faced more demands than I had ever expected. Frequent check ins to the coumadin clinic, healing from a Cesarean section surgery AND a pulmonary embolism at the same time, a thriving newborn and a busy two year old, it was all just too much to blend into the life I was able to balance so well before.
So, I began to split myself into two separate figures that had no resemblance whatsoever to each other: Who I was (pre blood clot) and the person I had become (post blood clot). It was both amazing and disturbing to me what a little, yet, furious clot of blood had done to me.
Once the dust had settled from the whole experience that I had been through, the depression and the anger began to show almost immediately. It was not a soft "why me?" but a very hostile "why me?" that began to build up inside. Then, it turned into the harsh realization that it was not a simple injury that would eventually disappear with time. The sharp and jagged pain was, undoubtedly and unfairly, here to stay.
I felt robbed of enjoying the pure bliss you feel from having a baby since I was so rudely plucked out of his homecoming, the offerings of support became fewer as people had to return to their own responsibilities and I was STILL not able to admit that I needed help, even given the circumstances.
So, the internal scream I mentioned before began to fester inside of me even more......side splitting pain, shortness of breath, pressure to return to normal.....well, made me want to SCREAM.....feeling guilty for hating the way I felt even though I should be thankful for my life, work calling and telling me I need to return despite my injuries, you, guessed it, more SCREAMING.
Why couldn't I pull it all together? The old me would have booted feelings like this to the curb but not this new version. This wounded, bitter, and sad version wouldn't let me shake off the trauma or severity of the situation so I could return to normal.
Maybe I just needed time, but, life doesn't work that way. There is no grace period or pause button or even much compassion, for that matter, when you re-enter the world and realize that you are still not up to it.
I reluctantly returned to work, sadly put two children into day care, and I silently learned to ignore the pain....or so, it seemed. All the while, the world began to drastically change and I had, unfortunately, changed along with it.
Our glory days at work were over and the recession began to rear its ugly head. For someone already hiding an underlying pain and depression, the beginning of many lay offs were even more hard to bear. One by one, I said goodbye to dear friends and respected coworkers as I was always left to wonder when my inevitable turn would come.
Our youngest son began to show signs of a feeding issue and another scary and unknown chapter was about to unfold in our already disheveled lives.
I yearned for the old me, the stronger version, that could have handled this turmoil and stress, but, she was definitely gone, and, at that moment, it didn't feel like she was ever coming back. How could she leave me now when I needed her more than ever?
So, yes, I felt like screaming, a deafening and desperate and necessary scream, in the hopes it would shatter this ugly barrier and free the old me again. Was she still there, somewhere, trapped inside of me?

Image Credit: The Scream By Edvard Munch http://www.edvard-munch.com/

Friday, January 15, 2010

Nothing To Do But Think

What would you think about if you had an endless amount of time to literally do nothing but just sit there and think?

Okay, let's kick it up a notch by adding that these thoughts you come up with might be the last ones you may ever have? Well, if you are ever aware that your life is in danger, you may surprise yourself with the random, emotional, selfless, and surprising things that will fill your mind...........

There was a slight tug on my left arm and a faint voice calling to me when I slowly awoke the next morning after I was given a partial death sentence. To my surprise, I had made it through the night; A night I had sworn to stay awake through for fear that I would never wake up. I quickly reminded myself that I was still alive, but, barely. My mouth was dry, the entire right side of my weak body was immensely aching and my confused mind was searching for answers.
The faint voice I had heard was a nurse and that tugging was her effort to untangle the I.V. I had managed to wrap around my restless arm. She thoughtfully asked me, "How are you feeling and do you needed anything?" I wanted to tell her, "I feel like I have been to hell and back, I am trembling with fear inside, and I really need my family," but, I defiantly shook my head, and whispered, "No, I'm fine."
After she left, I curiously looked around the room and tried to gather my thoughts. My first reaction was, "What time is it?" They always say on those medical shows that the "first 24 hours" are the most important. I knew it was early morning and I wasn't out of the woods just yet, but, I did wake up this morning and that seemed like a good beginning.
Secondly, I was a little surprised that no one was there with me. There was a room full of family in here last night. No bedside vigil? Nobody clinging to me and begging me not to go into the light?? Come on, people! I know I matter to you and you could, at least, be here cheering me on or tearfully saying your goodbyes!
At that moment, my husband quietly peaked through the door. He seemed surprised that I was awake, and, had apparently stepped out into the hallway but had been there all night. The others had gone back to our house nearby and were taking turns attending to our children.
It was so good to see his encouraging face, even though I could see the strain caused by worry and lack of sleep he was trying to hide. My last words to him were the kind of words a spouse never wants to hear. An explosion of unwanted words caused by fear and a plead to be strong and make sure our boys knew how much I loved them. I repeatedly told him to raise them to be good people and encourage them to do wonderful things with their precious lives.
So, here we were, face to face again, and, he was still trying to reassure me that my fears weren't necessary. He reminded me it was the morning after a very long and scary night, but, I had made it. I had broken through to the other side, and, today, and everyday after that, I had to keep doing the same thing. "Agh," I thought. "That was just what I needed to hear! That loving voice of encouragement." It made this difficult task of healing a little easier.
That first day turned out to be the first of many days that I would spend in that room. I aimlessly stared at the walls, endlessly hoped to see my children, and tried to forget about the relentless pain. I eventually learned that the most comforting thing to do was to let my mind wander and where it took me became my best distraction. It was not a far stretch for a chronic daydreamer like me, but, the days I spent laying there and thinking these thoughts were not typical days either:

I pondered about my shortcomings and how differently my life could have been if I wasn't my own worst enemy.

Why didn't I stay focused and care enough about myself and my true passion for Art when I had the opportunity? I worked so hard to get accepted into that incredible Art School and I would have really enjoyed every moment of it, and, now I will never know where it could have taken me.

What ever happened to that fast bike with the sparkly blue seat and handle bar streamers I had loved so much as a child? I vividly remember disappearing on it down that uneven sidewalk in front of our old house and racing straight into a magical place without a care in the world. I miss that burst of excitement and freedom. Would I ever feel that way again?

My best friend from the past. I had an amazing one for a really long time. She was the only person I have ever completely opened up to and I am sure we knew every little and monumental thing you could possibly know about each other! Our crazy hopes, silly fears, frequent laughs, and heart wrenching tears, we shared them all and MANY times! I always knew it was a "once in a lifetime" kind of friendship that could never be duplicated. She had made a permanent impression on my heart and my mind had never let me forget the memory of her. Why is it making me re-hash it all again now? The disagreement that had torn us apart and that I held onto as an excuse for not talking to her all of these years had completely escaped me now and why did it take something like this to make me realize how much I still needed her in my life? Did she ever still think about me?

My Mom. Every child expects to lose a parent but no parent ever expects to lose a child. Even though I wasn't a little girl anymore, I was still her little girl. She turned to God to help us both through this and reached out to a priest to come and bless me, as it was not clear if I would survive through the night. It was important for her to let me know that God was there for me and I will have to remember to thank her for that. It was a comforting feeling.

My Dad. I missed him so much and there are so many things I want to tell him. Is there such a thing as afterlife? If so, I would really love to see him standing there on the other side of this world with that playful grin that always warmed my heart. I would run to him, hug him dearly and ask him to share that dance with me I had always imagined,but,we never got to have at my wedding because he left us way too early.

My husband. Wow, what a huge predicament I would have put my him in! You never get married and have children with the assumption that someday you would be doing it on your own, and, especially, so soon. We had only been married 3 years and he would have been 31 years old with a 2 year old and a newborn and a wife to bury. That just didn't seem fair. Our wedding was an absolute fairytale come true and how did we almost get to this point from there?

My boys. My sweet little boys. It had not been easy getting either of them here but I would do it all over again if I had to. Both of them mean so much to me and they are too young to realize how much their adorable faces inspire me to get stronger. I want so much to be there for them throughout their lives and I can't imagine just being an unfamiliar face in a photo if I have no say in this situation. Could I rely enough on my family to tell my sons about me often and what I was like since they wouldn't be able to remember at this age if I left them?

I thought about my sister and how different we were. We had never made the effort to put aside those differences long enough to really entertain the notion that we could have a meaningful bond from being siblings. Where did we go wrong and why was it so difficult for us to show each other affection?

My beautiful niece and how she was always like the daughter I never had and I hope she knew how important she had been in my life.

It was hard missing my nephew's first birthday and I watched the clouds form outside my window that day. The rain began and I knew it was going to interfere with the outdoor party they had planned for him.

Strangely enough, I thought about flowers....the intoxicating smell of gardenias, the unexplainable fondness I had for tulips and how pretty the Calla lilies were at my wedding. I wish I had an arrangement with all three kinds on my bedside table right now.

Food. I thought about that too. The hospital trays were good. Better than good. Why did people always complain about hospital food? The coffee was fresh, I asked for pancakes and I got them with lots of maple syrup and fruit, just the way I like them. So, if I had to die, I, at least, enjoyed my last meal.

I was surprised and touched by the frequent visitors drifting in and out of my room. Some I expected, many I didn't, and some I hadn't seen in years. They came bearing get well wishes, baskets of homemade goodies, magazines to help kill time, and, most of all, sincere expressions of real concern and encouragement.

Everyday, I awoke in that hospital bed and mentally marked off another day of victory! Then, I would allow myself, once again, to get lost in many hours of endless thoughts. Sometimes, as cruel as it may seem, life has a way of abruptly reminding you that there is no such thing as immortality. However, my life was spared this time and I chose to use my near death experience as an opportunity to explore myself and come to terms with a lot of thoughts and issues that had been bottled up inside of me.
When I finally grew strong enough to leave the hospital, the hot and humid July air had never felt so good as it swept across me when the automatic double doors opened. It was hard gazing out the window and helplessly watching the outside world go on without me and I loved being a part of it once again.
So, I re-entered the world that day and began my new life. I decided in the hospital that I would leave my temporary home with a lot of baggage that I no longer wanted or needed and, as a result, I knew I would never be the same person I was again.
I survived the unthinkable and I was determined to never forget I was given my life back for a reason. So, I embraced my new lease on life and I was truly amazed with the renewed appreciation I felt for myself and the world around me.

Image Credit: The Thinker - By Auguste Rodin (http://www.rodinmuseum.org/)

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Stairway to Heaven.....Or Not

It is hard to understand why a few people survive things that many others do not. Is it from divine intervention, maybe sheer will or how about pure luck? I don't know, but, I have asked myself that question many times in my head and I have never found a real conclusion.
So, when I was told quite sternly by an E.R. doctor four days after my C-Section that "You have a pulmonary embolism and it doesn't look good." I am not quite sure why I am still here, but, I am. I have also come to the conclusion that I believe God, willpower and luck have ALL played a huge part in it......
When I found out that my blood clot was severe enough that I had about a 20% percent chance of making it through the night, well, there are not many positive ways to respond to something like this. I was not expecting such a grim prognosis and I am sure I reacted the same way as most that have ended up in this quite sudden and completely horrifying moment. A tale spin of shock and disbelief, followed quickly by fear and overwhelming panic. Then, outrageous anger, and, finally, profound grief.
However, even in my weakest state, my strength started punching its way through. Despite the unbearable pain, my mind was screaming at me to refuse to accept this. We have all heard the phrase before, but, is there such a thing as mind over matter? I didn't know then, but, I was about to find out.
I tried to unscramble my thoughts and stay focused on all of the less hurtful facts that were, for obvious reasons, being over looked:
Fact #1: I wasn't dead....yet!
Fact# 2: I was in a hospital, a really good hospital, which seemed like the best place to be and they fix things like this....sometimes.
Fact# 3: I had just given birth to a sweet and wonderful baby boy that deserved to have his mother...... There was no way on Earth anyone or anything was going to block me from being in his life! Only four days together? No way in hell was I leaving that child or his brother behind!
Then, I tried to rationalize the situation. I thought about how the most important challenge to combating a potentially fatal blockage is time. They have to be recognized as soon as possible and treated immediately. So, how long has this one been there and how much damage has it already done? I did no justice to myself by spending an entire half a day ignoring the symptoms. It was my fault. I gave it time to fester in my lung and now I was asking the medical staff to jump through a lot of hoops to save me but I was not going to just lay there and do nothing. It had to be a team effort. So, I did the only real things I could do to help. I prayed. I pleaded. I fought.
Despite the annoyance of many tubes running in and out of me, the drunken effect of the strong painkillers, and the constant drip of heparin acting as my toughest soldier in the beginning of, what seemed to be, a long battle, I was starting to feel optimistic. It's weird to say it, but, I did! Something inside of me told me that today was not the right day for me to die. I know it sounds crazy, but, I honestly did not feel like I was at the end of my too short journey through life, and, if there is such a thing as a stairway to heaven, I was determined that those magnificent pearly white steps were not going to appear in my room that night!

Image Credit: Stairway To Heaven - by Jim Warren: http://www.jimwarren.com/