Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014, and good riddance

1) What did you do in 2014 that you have never done before?

- Gave birth to my second child, a boy, in June.
- Had five articles published in the Edmonton Journal in November.


2) Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions, and will you make any more next year?

No, and yes. I think Dagmara Dominczyk said it best yesterday:

This year I am making New Year's Resignations. As in, I resign myself to the fact that I love French onion dip.


3) Any major life events happen in your life?

- June 1, my son was born
- October 4, my father-in-law passed away
- December 12, my mom passed away


4) Where did you travel?

To the hospital and back. Repeatedly. As in, I was on a first-name basis with the nursing staff at two major hospitals for the last eight months. And now, just 'cause 2014 wants to continue kicking me while I'm down, I'll be spending New Year's Eve alone in the hospital with my 7-month-old son, who was just admitted last night and will be on IV fluids for a few days.


5) What did you lack in 2014 that you would like more of in 2015?

A healthy self and a healthy family.


6) What dates from 2014 will remain etched in your memory?

See question #3.


7) What was your biggest achievement of the year?

See question #1.


8) What was your biggest failure?

Not telling my mom how much I loved her and how thankful I was for all that she did for me.


9) Did you suffer illness or injury?

I did, while pregnant, but it's hardly worth mentioning anymore.


10) What was the best purchase you made?

The health aids that made my mom's life a little easier towards the end.


11) What things / people inspired you the most?

My mom and my husband.


12) What things / people disappointed you the most?

The health care system. There's a lack of communication between nurses, doctors, patients, and family members. I often felt the doctors treating my mom were completely in the blind when making decisions and, because of this, I feel mistakes were made in her treatment. Repeatedly.


13) Where did most of your money go?

- Mortgage
- Daycare
- Hospital parking


14) What did you really get excited about?

Finally giving birth and relieving all that pressure on my bladder.


15) What song will always remind you of 2014?

Meanwhile Back at Mama's, by Tim McGraw




16) Compared to this time last year, are you:

- Happier or hardened? Hardened. I'm downright bitter these days.
- Thinner or fatter? Fatter.
- Richer or poorer? Poorer.


17) What do you wish you'd done more of?

Been more physically active.


18) What do you wish you'd done less of?

Simply existing in a sedentary lifestyle.


19) Favourite film this year? Least favourite?

Really enjoyed Philomena. Really did not care for American Hustle.



20) What was the one thing that would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Good health for me and the people I care about!


21) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Maternity wear. Even now, seven months after my son was born.


22) What kept you sane?

My husband, for being my rock. And my kids, for forcing me to get up in the morning.


23) Which celebrity / public figure did you fancy the most? Fancy the least?

Andrew Ference, the Edmonton Oilers captain, has such a great perspective on life, and he makes me want to go out for a jog or something.

The Kardashians, on the other hand, are his polar opposite.


24) What news story fascinated you the most?

The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 on March 8, 2014.

Seriously. WHERE. IS. THAT. PLANE.


25) What sports moment did you like the most? Hate the most?

The best sports-related event from this year came when my husband actually took interest in the Sochi Olympics and looked forward to reading all the #sochifails tweets online.

The worst moment involves the fact that the Oilers continue to lose.


26) Who is your 2014 Person of the Year?

Hands down, my husband.


27) Who do you miss?

My mom, obviously.


28) What do you look forward to in 2015?

Better health for myself and all those that I love.

I'm just so ready for 2014 to come to an end.



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Family is a haven in a heartless world

I'm devastated and angry and filled with regret.

My mom's suffering ended at 5:00 pm on Friday, December 12, just as my daughter was finishing up her Christmas Concert performance in the school gym with her daycare friends.

I wasn't in attendance, but my sister-in-law -- who flew in from Phoenix -- recorded it for me on her smartphone.

Instead, I was in the ICU at my mom's bedside, holding her hand as she took her final breath on earth.

The day before, on the morning of Thursday, December 11, the nursing staff found my mom unresponsive in her hospital bed. She had stopped breathing, and then her heart stopped beating.

Emergency medical staff were called in to perform CPR. They got her heart beating again, likely breaking a few ribs in the process, I'm told. And then they put a breathing tube in place to keep her alive.

What they didn't know is that, the night before when I last saw my mom on December 10, she told me she didn't want to have surgery done to remove her colon. I had made it clear to her that, without the surgery, there was nothing else doctors could do for her. And she accepted that. She didn't want to suffer anymore, and she was ready to die.

So when the staff got her heart beating again the next morning and brought her down to the ICU on life support, they were unknowingly doing so against her will. (She had signed a Personal Directive back in May stating that, if there was no hope for survival, she did not want to be hooked up to any machines and be artificially kept alive.)

The ICU doctor explained to me that, in light of this information, it was considered abuse to keep someone alive on machines against their wishes. The doctor instructed me to advise the family of her situation and then, when I was ready to consent, they would remove the breathing tube.

I did notify the family, and our parish priest was called to give her the last rites. But I just couldn't give consent for them to remove the tube. I know it's what my mom wanted, but I wasn't ready to make that call.

The doctor said that they could slowly wean her off the tube overnight instead, just to see if she still had some fight in her and could breathe on her own.

But the next morning, on December 12, they told me she struggled to breathe when they were lessening her dependence on the breathing tube, which essentially meant there was no hope for survival without it.

The doctor reiterated to me that I needed to gather the family and make the final call to remove the tube completely.

It's worth mentioning that, when taking someone off life support, it's nothing like what you see on TV. It's not as though the doctors just flick a switch and the patient quietly and peacefully appears to drift off into an eternal sleep.

In real life, it can be horrifying.

While on life support, my mom was still suffering. She kept trying to tell us something, but of course she couldn't speak with the tube in place. And there was a lot of fidgeting on her part, as she kept trying to remove the tube herself, which is why they had to tie down her arms overnight.

So many images exist from those days that I'll never forget and will never be able to properly articulate in here.

And it was devastating for everyone, including my 85-year-old uncle, who is my mom's only living brother. He fainted in my arms at my mom's bedside.

It seemed as though the entire ICU medical team rushed to his aid at that moment, with my mom completely oblivious to what was happening right next to her.

The stress of seeing his younger sister like that was just too much for him, and he had to go home and lie down.

Finally, with some family members present, I made the call to have medical staff remove my mom's breathing tube at 2:30 pm on December 12. They had given her some morphine, but she was definitely still in a lot of discomfort when they removed all the tubing.

Without the apparatus in place, she again tried to speak, but nothing coherent came out. Surprisingly, though, she continued to fight and breathe on her own for another 2.5 hours. By that point, though, they had given her so much morphine that, I'm told, she hadn't been able to feel anything for quite a while.

I knew her final gasp for air was coming, but it was still devastating.

Even though I had already been mourning my mom for months prior to this moment, nothing had adequately prepared me for these events.

The doctor ruled her official cause of death as being Clostridium difficile Colitis.


My mom, with the loves of her life, Marina and Wyatt.
June 4, 2014

---

The Obituary:

On December 12, 2014, Mrs. Adua Marghella (nee Barone) of Edmonton, formerly of Italy, passed away at the age of 78 years.

Adua is survived by her daughter, Giovanna (Steven) McGowan; grandchildren, Marina and Wyatt; sister, Filomena Miceli; brother, Raffaele Barone; stepchildren, Joe (Emma), Toni (Tony) Baviello, Mike (Fran), Josephine (Joe) Chiarello, Anna (Victor) Chiarello, Teresa (Rob) Cerisano; and Ida (Scott) Collingwood and their children and grandchildren. Predeceased by her husband, Attilio.

The family would like to extend their thanks to Dr. Dina Kao at the University of Alberta Hospital and the nursing staff at the Misericordia Hospital.

Prayers Wednesday, December 17 at 8:00 p.m. at Santa Maria Goretti Roman Catholic Church, 9110 – 110 Avenue.

Mass of Christian Burial Thursday, December 18 at 9:30 a.m. at Santa Maria Goretti Roman Catholic Church. Reverend George Puramadathil CFIC officiating with entombment in Holy Cross Mausoleum.

In lieu of other tributes, donations may be made to:
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada
3100 246 Stewart Green SW
Calgary, AB T3H 3C8

---

The Eulogy (as read by my husband):

On behalf of my wife and family, as well as all the Marghellas, Micelis and Barones, I’d like to thank you all for taking the time today to recall the life of my departed mother-in-law, Adua Marghella.

Adua was born Adua Barone, in Lago Cosenza, Calabria, Italy on July 5th 1936. She was one of a set of twins. She lost her twin sister Libya in infancy.  She grew up in the Italian countryside, and it wasn’t until she was in her mid 20s that she immigrated to Canada.

Once here, she met and later married Atillio Marghella, a widower with a large family.

When her daughter, my wife, Giovanna, was born, she became known to one girl in this world as Mom. Twenty-nine years later, I would take her daughter’s hand in marriage, and I would come to call her Ma.

A eulogy is meant to be a final praise of the life of the departed, so I’ll start with an apology for my inability to deliver this in her language – mi dispatche, ma non e pausibile per me cause – that’s the extent of my Italian, mea culpa.

However, there is more that I should be sorry for. No matter what somber words I could deliver to you today, they simply cannot equal the testimony to her love of family that your presence here provides.

That being said, I’ll try.

Adua Marghella was the cornerstone of our family. Some of you here today know well the joy of her home for a Christmas Eve feast, or the Christmas afternoon lunch. It would be most inappropriate for me to brag, but I’ve enjoyed her cooking and her care for nearly a decade, and it shows.

Adua was happiest when the children were visiting – when Victoria, Spencer and Taylor were playing games and laughing in her living room or basement.

She found joy in being hospitable. She loved to serve her guests, and she delighted in hearing stories about how everyone in the family was doing.

Like most Italians of her generation, she kept a massive vegetable garden, of which she was very proud. She and her older brother spent countless hours over the years tending to their harvests. I’ll confess that when I met them, I couldn’t understand why they were so devoted to gardening. After all, why would someone work so hard when they can simply buy vegetables at a grocery store? Yet I learned from Adua and her brother what most of you here today have known for years; that once you’ve experienced a home-grown tomato, a grocery one simply will not do.

Adua will certainly be remembered in countless ways and for innumerable things by each of you, yet what I’ll remember most about Adua is her love. When her daughter invited me to move to Canada, it was Adua who opened her home to me. It was Adua who made sure that I was well fed and well looked after so that I could pursue my education and become a teacher. She was a beautiful, selfless and caring woman who taught me more about love, about family and about faith than I could have ever hoped to learn.

When my daughter Marina was born, Adua joined us at the hospital. Of course, she was barely able to contain her excitement at being able to immediately meet her neputa, yet even so, she saw it as her responsibility to be there for me. Was I going to be okay? Did I have enough to eat? Was I ready for what was to come? Adua was there to support us, simply because that was who she was most.

When I lost my father this year in October, Adua was under the care of Misericordia hospital. When I went to see her, and to tell her about my father’s passing, she told me how sorry she was, and she asked me if there was anything she could do. Even in her hospital bed she wanted to be there for me, to comfort me, to take away my pain. Even then, she was more concerned about mothering me, and protecting me, than she was for her own well-being.

Adua was a devoted, doting Nonna to Marina and Wyatt, so much so that when her health started failing, and it was clear that she would have to come live with us, Marina was overjoyed. Really, who could blame her? Her Nonna would be with her all the time. What could possibly be better?  I know that I have always found the greatest joy in moments when she was there.

Adua was so vital to the happiness of our family that we simply would not take our vacations without her. On numerous trips aboard Caribbean cruises, we saw Adua truly at peace on the balcony of her stateroom, taking in the afternoon sea air and the sunshine while dutifully praying her rosary.

In Cozumel, Mexico 
April 22, 2011

Her faith was important to her. Some of us have been known to tell people, in jest, that she worked as the Pope’s spiritual advisor – and yet, I find peace in imagining that perhaps now she has moved on to looking after the spiritual needs of our savior, Jesus Christ.

Often, the words we offer at a funeral can be words that are spoken too late. Yet it is in this that I can draw some comfort, for I had learned from my father the importance of always telling people how you feel about them and how much they matter to you. It was because I knew this that I told Adua, many times over the years, that I loved her. Joanne and Marina also shared their feelings with her.

Although Wyatt was too young to verbalize his feelings, the smiles that graced his face when his Nonna held him conveyed the love he keeps for her in his heart. But even if you didn’t say it directly, if you spent time with her, and you enjoyed her company, you too expressed your love.

The deepest regret I hold today is, in looking back, I’m certain that, though I told her how I loved her, I didn’t thank her nearly enough.

Ma, thank you for giving me my beautiful wife, for caring so deeply for our family. Thank you for your patience, for your strength, and for your faith. Really, thank you for my life. Thank you for everything, Ma. Our lives have been blessed because of you, and your passing leaves us deeply grieving. I know you are at peace now, but selfishly, I wish you were still here with us. I want to hear your laugh with Marina, see your smile while playing with Wyatt, or simply sit with you in silence and enjoy an espresso while reading the newspaper.

In closing, because of my own Irish-Catholic heritage, I would like to offer words that are often delivered at Irish funerals, and I hope that, as you hear these words, you can find some solace in them.

A Death Has Occurred

A death has occurred and everything is changed.
We are painfully aware that life can never be the same again,
That yesterday is over,
That relationships once rich have ended.

But there is another way to look upon this truth.
If life now went on the same,
Without the presence of the one who had died,
we could only conclude that the life we remember
made no contribution,
filled no space,
meant nothing.

The fact that Adua left behind a place
that cannot be filled is perhaps the highest tribute to her.

Life can be the same after a trinket has been lost,
but never after the loss of a treasure.

By Paul Irion

---

The Online Tributes:

December 23, 2014

As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life's routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
~  Joe & Emma

December 19, 2014

To all the immediate family: Adua was the most wonderful person I have met. It breaks my heart to know that she is gone. Our deepest sympathy go out to all of you. We are sorry we could not attend. We are thinking of all of you in our thoughts and prayers.
~ Love Gina Pino Valentini and Family

December 18, 2014

Sending you our deepest condolences on the loss of your mother, grandmother and friend. Remember the good happy times you spent together. She will always be in your heart. She will be your Angel looking down on you and protecting you.
~ From your Comare Maria, Anna,Vince Josie Cristello. God Bless!

December 18, 2014

La mia piu' sentite condoglianze a tutti in famiglia. Siamo vicini nello spirito e nelle preghiere. Che Dio via dia la forza di superare questo periodo molto difficile.
~  Antonietta Cristello, Edmonton, Alberta

December 18, 2014

To all of the families and relatives, we send our heartfelt sympathies and condolences. Our hearts go out to you all in this difficult time of sorrow of losing a Mother, Mother-in-Law, Sister, Zia and Nonna. She will always be in your hearts and watching over you. Take comfort in your wonderful memories.
~  Josie Saporito & Family, Edmonton, Alberta

December 18, 2014

Our deepest sympathies Joanne, Steven, and family, and all of the Marghella families. You are all in our thoughts and prayers.
~  Harold, Jean, Corey, Shelley and family, Edmonton, Alberta

December 17, 2014

Steven and Joanne,
We are deeply saddened by your loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to you an your families.
~  Knights of Columbus Santa Maria Gorretti Council 12836, Edmonton, Alberta

December 16, 2014

We are sorry to hear the loss of Zia Adua! She was a wonderful woman and will be greatly missed by all who knew her. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of you!
~ Love Rosaria and Luigi Cuglietta and family {cousins}, Kamloops, British Columbia

December 15, 2014

I am so sorry for your loss. Take comfort in the memories that will be with you forever. Thoughts and prayers are with you and your family xo
~  Giuliana Vecchio, Burnaby, British Columbia

December 15, 2014

Zia Adua's gentle loving way lives on in all those who love her.
~  Tiff Pino and Family, Edmonton, Alberta

December 15, 2014

Thoughts and prayers to you and your family during this sad time. I'll always cherish all the great times we shared over many big delicious meals at Zia's house. Take care xo
~  Concetta Vecchio Britton, Airdrie, Alberta

December 15, 2014

We are sorry for your loss
~  Love Bonnie, Brad, Kennedy, and Dallas Scott, Spruce Grove, Alberta

December 15, 2014

We are so very sorry for your loss Joanne and family.
~ From your friends at HSLAS.

December 15, 2014

Heartfelt condolences to all of the family at this very sad difficult time.
~  Kerry Cuglietta, Edmonton, Alberta

---

The above publicly-posted online tributes are only a fraction of the condolence messages our family received. We also heard from people via private messages, cards, phone calls, and home visits. Friends and family also brought food to our house and had flowers delivered here and to the church. Additionally, a number of people also donated to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation in memory of my mom.

 She would have been touched by the outpouring of love.

---

"If you ever decide to leave me, I get to keep your mom."
- My husband, speaking in jest over the years. Sort of.

Snorkeling expedition, Cayman Islands
May 5, 2009


Friday, November 28, 2014

Of blizzards and aching thighs

Boy, the things I do just to return some library books and videos on time.

This is what I was thinking this morning as I braved the unplowed library parking lot and the unshoveled sidewalk in the -20 C weather just to get my stack of borrowed items back to the library.

I'm totally hardcore and bad ass, I thought to myself as my thighs ached from walking 50 feet through knee-deep snow. (Knee-deep for me because there were snow drifts and I'm short, yo.)

And then I snapped back to reality and was all, like, what have I become???

Twenty years ago, Divulge with Dani and I would have walked (up hill, both ways) from our homes to get to the library and back in the middle of a freakin' blizzard. Because we had no choice.

We would have brought my beloved Lindy with us -- because she loved her walks, even in a blizzard -- and we would have cursed our fate the entire time, but we still would have done it.

We were bitter and envious of all the kids from privileged families who not only managed to get their licenses on their 16th birthdays, but also had brand new vehicles.

And there we were, walking through blizzards because we had no choice.

Yet, today, I looked back on my former self and kind of wished I had the strength to do something like that again.

I'm sure that I could do it, you know, in the event of an emergency or something. But these days I would never just voluntarily walk that distance in that kind of weather just to return some library items.

Hell, it was a challenge just motivating myself to drive out there at all today.

This is the laziness that I have become. And this is why I longingly look back on those days when Dani and I were getting a poor man's cardio workout without even realizing it.

Sometimes it's the simple things in life that we long for again.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Regrets, we have a few

All parents have regrets about something they did or didn't do, and of course my husband and I are no exception. We make mistakes daily.

One thing we wish we had put more effort into was researching life insurance for us and our kids.

We seem to be okay in all other departments; we've set up education and retirement funds for both children. But it's the nagging thought that all of us are going to die at some point that has us flustered and not even sure where to begin in terms of protecting our family from financial ruin.


The back story: When our daughter was born, we booked an appointment to have someone come to our home and talk to us about life insurance. Admittedly, we weren't really prepared for this appointment, and much of what the gentleman told us just went over our heads.

But, of course, we signed up anyway and arranged to have monthly withdrawals come out of our account.

Four years have now gone by, and so another representative from this insurance company came to our house over the summer to ensure we were still happy with our plan and to let us know about other plans they carry.

During this conversation, it was revealed to us that the plan we had signed up for was only a term (temporary) plan. Meaning, in 11 years time, if we're still healthy and alive and the insurance remains intact without any claims, then it just expires and we lose all of the money we paid into it.

Huh?

My husband and I are baffled by the fact that we signed up for something in which we could stand to lose such a large sum of money and potentially receive nothing in return.

We expressed this shock and disappointment to the new representative, and he offered us an alternative. Essentially, if we acted right that very day, he could convert our plan into a more appropriate lifetime plan, so that way the money we had already paid into it would not be lost.

However, in order to successfully pull this off, we would have to then drastically increase our monthly payments, which, with me being on maternity leave, just isn't possible right now.

So he then suggested that we cease contributing to our RRSPs and instead use that money for these life insurance payments.

RED FLAG! RED FLAG! RED FLAG!

We've worked so hard over the years to ensure we're able to max out our RRSP payments each year, and so the thought of just abandoning them is terrifying to us.

But this representative's reasoning was that, with this new life insurance plan, we won't have any need for RRSPs. As in, we can borrow money from our own plans to be used in retirement -- interest free and tax free -- and not be penalized for it.

It was all very new and confusing to us, which made us very non-committal at the time, so we instead just decided to cut our losses and cancel our plan altogether.

And, essentially, we're now back at square one, looking for a life insurance plan that best suits our needs.

We want a plan that won't break the bank in terms of monthly payments, yet it has to grow enough to the point that our family will be secure should anything tragic take place.

Does anyone have any suggestions? We want to go through someone trustworthy and who is not just trying to make a sale.

Please share your thoughts with me!


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Where music dwells

Unless I'm trying to sleep, complete silence makes me antsy.

From elementary school to university to now, I always have some music (or a hockey game) playing quietly in the background so that I can focus on whatever I'm doing. If it's too quiet, I can't concentrate, which is why I was often found studying in the campus libraries with my yellow Sports Walkman.

Yes, a Walkman. With cassette tapes. I really am that old.

---

Why do you have to turn on a radio every time you enter a room, my husband now asks when we're at my mom's house. I'm waiting for him to ask the inevitable, why do you even have a radio in every room, but he never does.

---

My listening tastes seem to change as often as my hair colour, or my dress size, for that matter.

At age six, I'm in bed listening to my Rainbow Brite  Paint a Rainbow in your Heart tape in my cassette player. I don't have headphones, so I hide the player under the covers so as not to be discovered. I love this tape, and it helps me to fall asleep. Make Room for a Rainbow Inside is one of my favourites.

At nine, I want to be Dolly Parton. I want her voice, her laugh, her waistline. But not her breasts. How are those even functional? I have a twenty dollar bill in hand and walk over to the nearby Zellers store, back when there was still a Zellers and when Meadowlark really fit the description of a shopping mall. My sole intention is to purchase Dolly Parton's Greatest Hits, simply because I love the Islands in the Stream duet with Kenny Rogers. I listen to the entire cassette, from  9-to-5  to  Two Doors Down  to  I Will Always Love You, and I pretend that I'm a farm girl, like Laura Ingalls, because that's the simple life I dream of living.

At eleven, I discover boy bands. The New Kids on the Block send me into hysterics, and I spend a small fortune buying teen magazines at Coles in Meadowlark, just so I can cover my bedroom walls with their pictures and hopefully find out about Donnie Wahlberg's favourite foods. I'm told, these days, that he's a big fan of burgers.

At fourteen, I leave all my friends and choose to attend a different high school that's better suited for me. During this time of discovery, I stop listening to John Garabedian's Open House Party radio show on Saturday nights, and I instead change the dial back to CISN country. I always have a blank cassette tape ready in my tape recorder in case Garth Brooks' The River begins to play on the radio.

At eighteen, I still love country music, but I'm in university and my tastes are broadening again. When my mood dictates it, I change the radio station in my bedroom to Mix 96 and listen to some hot adult contemporary music. Because that's what I am now, an adult. (But not really hot.) Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, and Jewel help to see me through the college years, but I still don't stray too far from country all that often.

At twenty-eight, I'm pretty much listening to only country music, except for when I'm at work and forced to listen to the very tame music on satellite radio. But I'm strong and confident and growing tired of the hi-jinks on CISN, so I switch over to Big Earl 96.3, which is some welcome competition in the FM country stations. For some reason, CISN won't play Eric Church's music, but Big Earl will! And so it's Earl that wins my heart.

At thirty, I'm married and finally in a job I like. Big Earl has gone under and so CISN is again my only option for country music on the FM dial. But I hate it. It's juvenile, there are too many commercial breaks that last too long, and they just don't play the oldies anymore that I still love. So I take the plunge and switch to AM listening. CFCW has my heart now, and I stop and marvel each time I hear Glen Campbell's Gentle on My Mind.

At thirty-two, I'm a parent for the first time, and my life is all Dora and Elmo and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I've heard Jewel's version of this song on repeat at least 3 million times, which is only a small exaggeration. But this isn't a complaint. I'm grateful that my daughter loves music and that Jewel thought to make an album of lullabies for families to enjoy. But when I'm not in mommy mode, I'm still listening to CFCW and doing what I can to win their Recipe of the Morning food contest.

At thirty-six, I'm a mother for the second time, but my beloved CFCW is changing. And at this age and hormonal frame of mind, I don't handle change all that well anymore. (Did I ever?) Danny Hooper left the morning show a year ago, and now Sharon Mallon has announced her retirement. But how will I make it through the day without her stories? Or the Recipe of the Morning?

I've grown to love this station because its announcers are real. They share their lives with the listeners and don't waste my time playing juvenile games. But that seems to be changing now. While I really do love the new morning show hosts, I hate the call-in aspect that they've now incorporated to their program. As in, If you've ever brought shame to your family while on vacation, call us now! We want to hear about it!  Or something like that. Every damn morning. I just hate it, and it's a big part of what drove me away from being a CISN listener.

Frankly, this sort of thing is just a time filler and is a mediocre replacement for genuine story telling. It's like the announcers are just phoning it in. Pun intended.

But I'll still stick with CFCW. And I'll still read Sharon Mallon's blog, because she really is the best storyteller I've ever encountered. And when she finally publishes her book, I'll be sure to read that, too, albeit with the radio playing quietly in the background so that I can concentrate.




Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Forward



What I'm looking forward to at this very moment:

Setting down my son for his nap.
Taking a shower.
Putting on some slippers because I have no circulation and it's darn cold in here.
Sauteing some garden-fresh tomatoes with a garlic clove for lunch.
Drinking the rest of my smoothie, not because I like it, but because it's good for me.
Finishing the Excel spreadsheet I started that depicts the state of our finances, including what's left on our mortgage. Because I'm a little OCD like that.
Watching the gloominess of the sky open up so that I can see a blue, clear, sky once again.
Seeing my daughter's happy face as she runs toward me when I pick her up from daycare.
Having my husband arrive home late tonight after his 12-hour work day.



What I'm looking forward to this month:

Finishing my Christmas shopping, because I loathe leaving it to the last minute.
Taking down the Halloween decorations and setting up the Christmas lights before it snows.
Buying a new daytimer for the upcoming year.
Finally organizing our office so that it's presentable and functional once more, because, frankly, I can't stand to even walk past that room in its current state.
Finally organizing our laundry room, because, see above.



What I'm looking forward to for 2015:

Writing in my daytimer.
Being at a healthier weight than I'm at now.
Maybe talking my husband into getting some sort of pool that we can enjoy as a family.
Having a healthy family once again. (I'm talking to you, Mom.)
Writing more. And Reading more.
Hopefully going on vacation to some place warm.
Camping, even if it's just in the back yard.
Attending not one, but two, destination weddings.
Lilac blossoms.
Having my son use his passport for the first of what will hopefully be many times.
Wearing shorts and skirts and sandals and not having to remember to bring a jacket every time I leave the house.
Moving more.
Helping my daughter overcome her fear of all things wild. Including spiders.
Eating less fast food.
Selling more baby clothes on Kijiji and at consignment stores. Even though it breaks my heart to part with them.
Cooking more meals as a family. And actually having my daughter eat what I cook without having to wage WWIII every night.
Loving more.
Yelling less. Better yet, not yelling at all.
Laughing more, even if it's at my own expense. I need to take a lesson from my husband and stop taking myself so seriously.
Living more.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

In remembrance

My motivation for writing in this blog and keeping it active has evolved over the years.

I initially began blogging so that my writing could be recognized by those outside my own household. (Read: I wanted to get published.)

Then I continued to write simply as a means of further honing my skills, all the while using this as an outlet for my pent up thoughts and emotions.

And while the above is still true, it seems that lately I've mostly been writing to chronicle the events of my life so that my children can later have some insight into what things were like during their youth.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my father-in-law was battling stage IV colon cancer. Our family had been planning to take a trip to upstate New York for last August so that our newly-born son could meet his only living grandfather, but, because of my mom's poor health, I wasn't able to travel.

Instead, my husband made the trip alone in mid-September. It was the last time he saw his father alive.

Ken McGowan Jr. passed away at home the evening of Saturday, October 4th, in Potsdam, New York. My husband's greatest regret is that his father was not able to meet his grandson before he died.

Our daughter was lucky enough to have met her grandfather a few times (twice on separate trips to New York in 2010 and 2013, and also on a Caribbean cruise we took together in 2013), but I know that in a few years she'll have no recollection of these meetings.

So this post is for my children, so that they'll have some insight into the man who was their grandfather.


My daughter, husband, and father-in-law outside the old barn on his property in upstate New York. (June 2013)

---


The Obituary:

Kenneth A. McGowan Jr., 70, of State Highway 11B, passed away October 4th, 2014, at home surrounded by his loving family.

Ken was born in Potsdam on March 1, 1944, the son of the late Kenneth A. and Katherine Gorman McGowan, and was a 1962 graduate of Potsdam High School where he excelled in hockey. He earned his Bachelor's degree in Economics from Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. He served in the United States Navy from 1968-1971 and was honorably discharged.

On November 22, 2000, Ken was married to his best friend, Jeanette Robertson.

Ken worked in sales for many years, first at Harold's Men's Shop and then as the store sales manager at Kriff's Furniture Inc. for over 23 years. Upon Kriff's closure, Ken worked for Blevin's Nisson, Memory Lane, and as a volunteer driver for St. Lawrence County. He was a lifelong member of the Potsdam Elks Lodge #2074 and served in several leadership positions, including as Exalted Ruler. Ken, along with his 1959-1960 (12-1-1) and 1960-1961 (14-0) hockey teammates, was inducted into the Potsdam High School Hall of Fame in 2007 and was a member of the winning team in the first ever Silver Stick International Hockey Tournament in 1958. Ken enjoyed spending time with his family, golfing, traveling, and playing cards.

Surviving Ken are his wife Jeanette and his six children: Sarah & Rich O'Neill of Phoenix, Arizona; Robert & Crystal of Bellevue, Washington; Steven & Joanne of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Kevin & Mary of Brewer, Maine; Shawn of Syracuse, New York; and Jen & Bobbie of Lincoln, Nebraska; three step-children: Stephanie & Mark Brittain of Pulaski, New York; Tod Robertson of Potsdam, New York; and Betsy Wood of Edwards, New York; grandchildren: Keller, Amara, & Nora of Bellevue, WA; Marina & Wyatt of Edmonton, AB; and Caroline & Nicholas of Brewer, ME; step-grandchildren: Beth & Casey Youngs of Fisher, Indiana; Melanie Brittain of Cazenovia, New York; and Taylor Robertson of Rochester, New York; and two great-grandchildren: Natalie & Carrigan Youngs. Ken is also survived by his brother Charlie of Potsdam; his brother-in-law and close friend Fred Brousseau of Slingerlands, New York; and several cousins, nieces, and nephews. Ken was pre-deceased by his two sisters, Theresa (Terry) Gallagher and Kathleen (Kathy) Brousseau. 

Arrangements are with Garner's Funeral Home as follows: calling hours Wednesday, October 8 from 2-4 pm and 7-9 pm. Funeral service will be held at 11 am on Thursday, October 9 at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Potsdam.

The family would like to sincerely thank the following people who were so caring and compassionate during his battle with cancer: the team at Hospice and Palliative Care of the St. Lawrence Valley, Dr. Howard Gold and Ryan Garfield, PA, the nurses and staff at the Potsdam Cancer Center, the nurses and staff at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, and Brook Madlin, Pharmacist, Potsdam Walmart.

Ken and the family also want to recognize the exceptional care and kindness of Dr. Andrew Williams.

Memorial contributions may be made in his name to the Potsdam Cancer Center or the Potsdam Animal Shelter.

---

The Eulogy (as read by Sarah):

Thank you all for being here to celebrate and remember my dad’s life. I’m glad to have the chance to share some of my favorite things about him here with you today.

My dad was about the most social a guy there was. If it involved interacting with people, my dad was all for it. He loved walking around town, bumping into friends from his 70 years in Potsdam. On occasions when he traveled outside the North Country, it was a running joke that it wouldn't take him long to find someone he knew or for someone to recognize him.

Dad built connections easily. He enjoyed many life-long relationships- ones that grew from childhood hockey, his father’s pharmacy, his sales jobs at Harold’s and Kriff’s, and the Elks. Many of dad’s friends and relatives grew up playing with him in and around his childhood home at 72 Elm Street.

My dad was fiercely competitive, beginning as a small boy. The Courier newspaper reported in July 1947 when my dad was just three years and four months old, that Kenny McGowan was the first place winner in the tricycle handling competition. From there, he went on to excel in hockey and was later inducted into the Potsdam High School Hall of Fame. He was an excellent bowler and played a pretty decent round of golf.

His competitive spirit was most apparent, however, around the card table. Dad told us he learned to play in his father’s lap around their dining room table. Dad loved bridge, pinochle, Philadelphia Rummy, and cribbage. He played for countless hours at the Elks and around homes in Potsdam and with scores of different people. It was intense being his partner because he didn't have a lot of patience. If you were playing cards, you were playing cards. Pay attention to the bid, keep your cards organized, and don’t bid what you can’t support. Dad was often quoted as saying that when God handed out patience, he skipped right over me.

Dad had plenty of other skills. He could simply eyeball a guy and tell him he was a 44 long jacket 32 inch inseam, and wore a 17 ¾ inch neck. No measuring tape necessary!

He was also skilled at making people laugh. He set people at ease through his quick wit and sarcasm and most recently, during his illness, used his humor as a coping mechanism. Even on some of his toughest days, his one-liners were still razor sharp. He enjoyed inside jokes with each of us nine kids.

My dad had many loves: peanut butter, riding his lawn tractor, his favorite cat, Muffin, and making people laugh. None of these loves, however, compare to the love he had for family. Whether he was doing the jitterbug with his sister Kathleen, having family dinners to celebrate holidays and milestones in Pulaski, Norwood, or at Hilltop, taking overnight road trips with his wife, or playing cards with us kids, Dad cherished the opportunity to spend time with those he loved.

He was one of a kind, and we will all miss him terribly.

---

The Online Tributes:
Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kenny's Potsdam high school hockey photo is in my home: my four-year-old son can name "Kenny the Keeper", "Bapa" (Peter Gilligan), and Conrad Stebner. Gone but not forgotten, in our prayers always: the McGowan family and Potsdam Sandstoners. Love from the Gilligan Family.

~ Tara Gilligan Reimer, Lynden, Washington


Friday, October 17, 2014

Shawn,
I am saddened to hear of the loss of your father. My prayers are and thoughts are with you and your family during these difficult times.

~ Maria Seguinot, Providence, Rhode Island


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived.

~ Carolanne Pryme


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

I have nothing but good memories of Kenny, He and I were classmates from grade school through college @ Providence College. We played hockey together from age of 5 through HS. Kenny was a great guy, huge heart, he will be missed

~ Peter Gilligan, Sonoma, California


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

It makes me very sad to hear of Ken's passing. He, Doug Pike and Bill Lowe and I grew up on Elm and Grant St. I remember all fun we had growing up playing Hide & seek, kick the can, among other fun kids games we sometime got in trouble for, delivering Sunday papers from the back of his parents Woodie Ford Station Wagon, going to McGowan's Drug Store for many cherry cokes when his Father was not there, then hearing about it later. Playing hockey on the next door Fraternity hockey rink, as well as all through Pee Wees and High School, being a Rink Rate at Clarkson Arena,with and many others. Thank you Ken for being a great friend, neighbor. I am truly sorry for not making contact with him at our 50 year Reunion, You will be truly missed. He loved and was so proud of his family.

~ Butch (Earl) Kidd, Mukilteo, Washington


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Kenny & I spent a lot of our "good" years together playing golf and bridge..they were the best of times and I will never forget them. God speed by good friend.

~ Lee Matott, Bushnell, Florida


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Ken and I were boyhood friends and spent a lot of time together. He was a wonderful person who was full of life and I will miss him

~ Jim Lashomb, East Windsor, New Jersey


Monday, October 06, 2014

So very sorry to hear of Ken's passing. Ken and his family were mainstays of Potsdam. Ken and his dad lived for Potsdam Hockey, and Ken's dad always allowed us to have Coke Floats, and Cherry Cokes after all the games. All great memories!

~ Tony Rishe, Roseville, California


Monday, October 06, 2014

Kenny was a team mate and friend growing up in Potsdam. I only saw him once after graduation and that was at the reunion of our hockey team. I know he made every effort to make life better for those around him and we send our condolences to his family and will light a candle for his good soul.

~ Bill Martin, Boston, Massachusetts


Monday, October 06, 2014

Kenny was a lifetime friend of my fathers and it trickled down to all of my mom/dads's 8 kids. Sad!!! His wings will span large and we will all feel his presence to soothe us all to know he is now in the elite group of heaven! God bless!!

~ Eric/Stephanie Matott, Potsdam, New York


Monday, October 06, 2014

We were saddened to hear of Kenny's passing. Dave and Kenny grew up playing hockey together and were high school classmates. We have wonderful memories of those years. Our sincerest condolences to Kenny's family.

~ Dave and Diane Jarrett Snyder, Alfred, Maine


Monday, October 06, 2014

Bob and I send love and support to all of you. We know this has been a tough battle for Ken and the family. Please let us know if we can help in any way.

~ Love and Prayers, Bob & Gloria Williams


Monday, October 06, 2014

Linda and I send our most sincere condolences to the McGowan family. Ken was a very good friend and golf partner. Our hearts are sad as he will be missed.

~ Al and Linda Albrecht, Russell, New York


Monday, October 06, 2014

I knew Kenny during high school and after, such a wonderful man. My condolences go out to his entire family. He will be missed but left many wonderful memories.

~ Carol Warner, Massena, New York


Monday, October 06, 2014

David and I send our condolences to all of you. I know that this has been a tough battle for all of you and I am praying for your strength. If I were there I would hug you all. The next few days will be like a whirl-wind but be there for each other. Your dad was a special man and you all have wonderful memories of him. God is there now and will always be there. I love you all.

~ Valerie Attell, Atlanta, Georgia


Monday, October 06, 2014

Our condolences to the McGowan family. We didn't know Kenneth but in 1963 we lived next to Charlie and Suki McGowan on outer Elm St.. They became good friends. We'd enjoy hearing from anyone in the family concerning Charlie and Suki. We moved to Lowville in 1967.

~ Liz and Gordon Allen

---

One of the higher profile tributes came from Lou Lamoriello, President and General Manager of the New Jersey Devils hockey team. As mentioned above, my father-in-law played hockey in college at Providence, which is where he got to know Mr. Lamoriello and his brother, who were playing there at the same time.

Over the years, my father-in-law always spoke highly of the Lamoriellos and was a Devils fan because of them. Earlier this year, my sister-in-law contacted him and mentioned that it would mean a lot to her father to be able to hear from him.

So Lou Lamoriello gave my father-in-law a call this summer and offered his personal cell number and email address in case there was anything he could do for him. It was a simple gesture, and it truly made my father-in-law's day.

When he passed away, Sarah again contacted Mr. Lamoriello and sent him a link to the obituary. He emailed her back and said that he was so sorry to hear about Ken's passing and to remember the good times they had together. He also sent flowers to the McGowan home.

Incredibly classy.


---


In addition to the above tributes, my husband and his siblings were also regaled with numerous anecdotes about their father, some of which I've been urging my husband to write down so that they're never forgotten.

For instance, during the calling hours, one of Potsdam's prominent lawyers came to my husband and shared that Ken sold him his first suits when he moved to town, and he just really made him feel welcome.

This sort of interaction is indicative of small town living, and I think it's important that our kids are exposed to that sort of neighbourly environment as they grow.

Speaking of which, I'm told that the Amish family living across the road from my father-in-law also attended the funeral, having parked their horse and carriage in town amongst the motorized vehicles that were present.

Had I been there, I definitely would have taken a photo of that, as it's reminiscent of the olden Little House on the Prairie-type scenes I have running through my head.

Again, this is also something I want my kids to know about and to appreciate, as this was the environment in which their grandfather lived.

But the scene that I think my husband will remember forever is the flag-folding ceremony at the end of the funeral.

My father-in-law had a Full Honors Military Funeral, and, at the end, my husband was to fold the American flag that had been on his father's casket.

There are precise instructions on how this is to be done without error, but, of course, a huge gust of wind began blowing at the exact moment he was to perform this task. And he was beyond frustrated by this.

Naturally, everyone had a good chuckle after the fact, with many commenting that "Kenny would have been laughing his ass off at that, watching you struggle."


---


And this is the man who was my children's grandfather. Such a shame that all they'll really have for which to remember him by are these words and their father's memories.






Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Horn tootin'

For those who don't know, I graduated from the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry (now known as Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences... or ALES) at the University of Alberta way back in the year 2000.

The faculty will be celebrating its centennial in the next year, so a number of festivities are now underway to help commemorate the last 100 years. And at the heart of these festivities is the Centennial website, which is currently featuring an anecdote written by yours truly.

I'm told that a number of submissions were received, but only four stories will be featured at a time on the site. This link will take you to a list of these first four (with mine leading the pack!) as well as a very brief note about me and my daughter.

Given that the stories will be rotated throughout the next year, it's unknown as to how long mine will be featured...... so go and check it out while the link is still active!




Friday, August 29, 2014

So at least I have that going for me

Last year around this time I did a very brief review of my summer, in which I mentioned some of my major highlights. Sadly, this summer has really sucked. Like, big time.

There have been no beach days, no dinosaur adventures, and only a handful of River Valley escapades. Plus, I've barely seen the sun and am still the same pasty white shade that I was last February.

Here's the Cole's Notes version of the last four months.


April 23
My husband was out of town, I was 7 months pregnant, and I brought my mom in to the ER. This was hospital visit #1, where she remained for the next 3 1/2 weeks. I had no choice but to use my vacation time and take an early leave from work prior to my scheduled upcoming maternity leave.

April 27
My daughter performed on stage at her very first year-end music concert. We recorded the performance and played it for my mom in hospital.

May 11
We "celebrated" Mother's Day in the hospital.

May 16
My mom was released from hospital.

May 26
My mother-in-law arrived from New York to stay with us for the next month.

June 1
My sweet Wyatt was born via emergency C-section.

June 8
My sweet Marina turned four.

June 16
My mom fell ill and was again admitted to hospital. (Hospital stay #2.) Also on this day, her toilet tank broke and caused major water damage in her home. As in, walls had to be torn down, floors had to be removed, and ceilings were ripped apart in an effort to fix the place up. I'm still dealing with the insurance company and contractors, as renovations are still underway as I type this.

June 17
My husband turned 36. I honestly don't remember if we had a cake for him or not.

June 21
I had to leave my daughter's belated birthday party to rush to the hospital. A surgeon was called in to deal with my mom, who was becoming toxic and bordering on needing emergency surgery. She was not considered a good candidate for surgery, though, so a nasogastric tube was inserted instead. Luckily, this alternate procedure probably saved her life.

June 23
My mother-in-law went back to New York, and I was reminded of what it was like to deal with a newborn all on my own again.

June 26
The freezer portion of my mom's refrigerator broke down, leaving a huge mess on the floor from thawed-out food. Everything had to be thrown out. What a waste.

June 28
My sister-in-law and her husband, who was best man at our wedding, arrived for a visit with us from Phoenix. Together we discovered the sinfully wonderful dining experience that is Soda Jerks.

July 1
Being a chronic stress-eater, I gained 5 lbs. in the last month alone and decided to rejoin Weight Watchers. Yes, again.

July 5
My mom "celebrated" her 78th birthday in hospital. Also on this day, we paid a guy to come out to her house and fix her refrigerator freezer.

July 11
Doctors told us there was nothing more they could do for my mom, so they prematurely released her from hospital. She could not be left alone and so she came to stay at our house instead of her own.


July 12
Dehydrated and running a fever, my mom was again admitted to hospital (3rd time).

July 30
Battling stage 4 colon and lung cancer, my father-in-law suffered a seizure and a stroke while in hospital in upstate New York.

July 31
My daughter won the "Cavity Free" monthly draw at our dentist's office. No child has ever been more excited than this one to go on a $20 shopping spree at Toys 'R' Us with her well-deserved gift card.

August 1
Our day trip to the US Consulate in Calgary turned into the road trip from hell. First our 'check engine' light began flashing on our Highlander an hour into the trip. Then our family could have been killed during an asleep-at-the-wheel incident on the way back. And then we got a speeding ticket just outside of Ponoka. Things couldn't get any worse, could they?

August 4
My mom began having seizures while in hospital. No known cause.

August 5
My mom fell and hit her head. Two hours later, her behaviour completely changed to the point where she was no longer herself. She was hyper-paranoid and thought we were all trying to kill her. The psychiatrist thought it was dementia. The neurologist thought it was due to a series of mini strokes. Regular doctors thought it was due to the anti-seizure medication. We thought all of these doctors were just guessing at this point and really had no idea what they were doing.

August 6
We were told our Highlander needed $11,000 worth of repairs. Seriously.

August 7
We purchased a brand new Highlander. My daughter wasted no time in naming her Jasmine.

August 8
In an effort to actually do something just for me, I bit the bullet and signed up for a Running Room class again. (You know, to be done in all my spare time.) And, shortly thereafter, I received an email stating that the class had been cancelled and my money was being refunded. Doh. I can't win for trying.

August 12
My mom was released from hospital, essentially no better than when she went in. Her behaviour returned to normal by this point, but we still had more questions than answers. She was unable to care for herself, so Wyatt and I moved into her home to take care of her. My daughter was not pleased.

August 13
On the hottest day of the year so far, my mom's furnace had to be replaced because of the water damage from June. And they had to turn it on and let it run for a good 20 minutes to test it out. Today. On the hottest freakin' day of the year.

August 18
Fearing that my mom had become toxic again, she was rushed to hospital via ambulance. (Hospital stay #4.)

August 20
After having to cancel our chaperoning duties at my daughter's day care for her gymnastics field trip and her Kinsman spray park field trip, my husband and I (along with Wyatt) were actually able to volunteer on her trip to the Devonian Botanic Gardens. Day care field trips are the best.

August 23
Weighing just over 80 lbs., my mom was released from hospital and is now staying with us until her home is complete. And after a summer of torture and suffering, she's still no better than when she first fell ill in April. Plus, whether or not she can actually make it on her own again remains to be seen. A referral to a surgeon is still pending.

August 26
Our laptop broke down, possibly due to a virus. Geek Squad is still trying to fix it, but my fear is that all our family photos and videos from the last year will go down with the ship. I remain unimpressed by online lurkers who use their powers for evil instead of good.


So that's it so far. I'm trying to remain positive despite the stress and exhaustion I feel from having been through all these ups and downs the last few months. To say that I'm managing both my household and my mom's all right, all while acting as her sole caregiver, is being kind.

(I may or may not have fed my daughter ice cream for dinner at some point this summer. Ahem.)

I think it goes without saying that this is definitely NOT the way I had imagined my maternity leave to play out.

But, had I not had a baby in June, then I would have had to take an indefinite unpaid leave from work to deal with the gong show that is my personal life right now. And THAT would have been even more of a nightmare.

So at least I have that going for me.





Sunday, July 27, 2014

Isolation


 
 I walk by these people every morning on my way in to work.
 
These people, who are sick and hospitalized and step outside each morning to escape their rooms and get some fresh air.
 
These people, who have nothing listed on their daily agendas other than to get well and be released from the confines of the hospital.
 
These people.
 
I've been walking past them every weekday morning for nearly seven years, though I'd never given them a second thought until now.
 
Now I am among them, sitting on a bench next to my mom. This is her 3rd hospital stay in as many months, and she's grown to resent the social isolation brought on by her condition.
 
The hospital staff are encouraging her to move around more, although there's no way she has the strength to navigate the facility on her own. So here I am, wearing the required protective gown and gloves, wheeling her around the campus hospital and allowing her to briefly enjoy the heat of summer.

We sit here in silence, side-by-side, watching the chaos that is the university campus. There are people everywhere. Patients, family members, doctors, students, and staff. Cab drivers and bus drivers. Vehicles pulling up to the front of the hospital, while others are taking off.

The exhaust from these vessels only adds to the mugginess of summer, and the smell in the air takes me back to a happier place: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

 
 
I realize we've done this before, half a dozen times, in Florida. For a brief moment I'm overwhelmed with a feeling of nostalgia and deja vu, as if my mom and I have just landed in Florida. We're sweaty, sticky, and exhausted, sitting here curbside with our luggage, waiting for our ride to the cruise ship port.
 
 


Only this time we have no luggage, we're not in Florida, and there are no cruise ships waiting for us. None of these vehicles are picking us up. There is no where else we have to be today. Or tomorrow.

All we have is the isolation of the hospital.

So here we are, sitting among these people, idly staring out at the passersby, secretly envious of their health and their freedom from this place.






 
 
 


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Baby Story 2.0

"One and done."
- Leah Remini, when asked if she'll ever have any more kids
 
  

For a long, long time, my husband and I subscribed to Leah Remini's way of thinking, but then we started to feel sorry for our daughter. It was clear she needed an ally.

So on June 1, 2014, we welcomed our beautiful boy, Wyatt Carter Emmett, to the family, thus evening up the parent : child ratio in our home.



His birth was supposed to be easy for me. I was to go in on June 5th for a scheduled C-section but, like everything else I've tried coordinating lately, nothing went according to plan.

I've been battling a bad cough for the last month, which sends excruciating stabs of pain throughout my mid-section and back. My non-pregnant self would have been hopped up on cough syrup at the first tickling of my throat, but that wasn't an option in my case. So I just suffered through the pain instead.

At approximately 1am on Sunday, June 1st, I was still laying awake in bed, trying my best to find a comfortable position. And then a coughing spell hit me again, complete with an audible cracking sound coming from my back. I was in excruciating pain and couldn't move.

My husband, the voice of reason in this case, insisted on taking me to the ER with the hope that doctors could relieve some of my pain from having thrown out my back.

At least that's what I thought had happened anyway.

Upon my arrival, hospital staff wheeled me up to labour and delivery. Unable to safely x-ray me, multiple doctors were instead brought in to speculate on what had happened.

First they thought I injured my back. Then they thought I cracked a rib. And then they concluded that I tore a muscle near my rib cage, which could take up to six weeks to heal. Whatever the source of my pain, all they could do was hook me up with some morphine.

Half delirious, I kept asking about when I could go home, but it just wasn't meant to be. In addition to the morphine, I was also hooked up to a fetal monitor, and it turns out my little guy's vitals had dropped and he wasn't recovering, even though the morphine was wearing off.

Because of this, the doctors didn't feel comfortable sending us home, and they instead advised that it'd be best to perform an emergency C-section that day, four days early.

And so there you have it. Nearly 14 hours after having entered the hospital for back pain, I became a new mom of two. My poor little guy had to immediately be hooked up with some Narcan to help him recover from the drugs I received, but otherwise he did just fine.



I, on the other hand, was completely unprepared. Didn't he know that I had a hair appointment booked for later that week? And a million other things to do before then? So much for all my meticulous planning.

And, just to follow up from one of my previous posts, yes, Wyatt is short. But he's also just perfect for our little family.



Monday, May 12, 2014

Kindness

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I've learned in the last few weeks that a village is also needed to help care for the elderly.

As mentioned in a previous post, I had to rush my mom to the hospital early one morning -- where she still remains -- and have also had to deal with my own medical (pregnancy) issues since then.

What I failed to mention was that my husband was out of town when all of this first unfolded, so I was completely on my own and unsure of how to juggle home, work, the hospital, child care, and my own sanity.

At the time, it was all very surreal, and I felt completely overwhelmed with helplessness. I think I was experiencing a mild bit of shock and was just doing what was necessary to make it through the day.

With my mind racing, I texted my sister the first day and had her leave work early so that she could sit with my mom in the closet-sized room of the ER, where they waited for her procedure. This allowed me to attend my prenatal appointment, pick up my daughter from day care, take her through a drive-thru, and drop her off at home where my brother-in-law waited to look after her.

That was Day One. Since then, there's been no shortage of kindness shown to us by family, friends, and even strangers.


Since I've been spending each day at the hospital, I've had to take an early leave away from work. And even though I left them in a pinch, many of my coworkers have offered to help me out at home, as have my family and friends.  From multiple offers to babysit my daughter to offers to do our grocery shopping for us, we've been extremely blessed.

Some family members stopped by one night with a tray of homemade lasagna and multiple containers of homemade soup, plus several jars of homemade tomato sauce, so that we'd have some ready-to-eat meals in our fridge.

(Did I mention all of this stuff was homemade??)

And the same brother-in-law who looked after my daughter when I was alone at the hospital that first night also spent the entire following week scrubbing and disinfecting my mom's house from top to bottom.

(I'm tempted to ask him to come and clean our house next but, you know, that would probably be asking for a bit much. Ahem.)

I've even gotten lucky when it comes to paying for parking at the hospital. The other day, while I circled the parking lot for 45 minutes waiting for someone to leave, I hit the jackpot. A random guy in a truck pulled up next to me and offered his week-long parking pass for free, since he didn't need it anymore. Suh-weet.

And then today, while at a different hospital having my 5th ultrasound* done, another random couple just gave me their day-long parking pass so that I could park there for free as well.

(*As an aside..... ultrasound # 6 is booked for 3 weeks from today, mere days before my scheduled C-section is supposed to occur. The fun never ends.)

We've been very lucky and very blessed throughout this entire ordeal, and the only thing I can think of that would make it all the more bearable is to have free Wi-Fi available at the hospital.

Seriously, I've spent so much time responding to work emails and messages about my mom in the last three weeks that I'm a little afraid to see my upcoming cellphone bill. Here's hoping that I can at least break even in terms of what I've saved in parking fees, thanks to some very kind strangers.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Challenges

So, yeah, when it rains, it really does seem to pour.

I normally try to stay away from using too many clich├ęs, but this one is fitting for the month I've had.

On the day that I first brought my mom to the hospital, I also had an important pre-natal appointment to attend for myself. In that visit, I found out that my baby's measurements are slightly off, and it appears that his femurs are too short.

Schwaa?

I'm told that this apparently could mean one of a few things:

1. He has a bone disease.
2. He has Down's Syndrome.
3. He's going to be short.

Frankly, all of the above will present their own challenges in life, but obviously I have my fingers crossed for option #3.

I had a total of just one ultrasound when I was pregnant with my daughter, but now I'm scheduled for ultrasound # 5 with this little guy next week.

Each time my doctor sends me for more tests, her exact words are always, "It's probably nothing, but we should check this out anyway." And each time we come away with something else new and bizarre to stress over.

We're now running out of time with all these tests, given that my little man is going to make his appearance in 4 weeks, whether we have answers beforehand or not.

From my point of view, I don't really see the necessity of having this fifth ultrasound, because whatever's going to happen will happen regardless. But I suppose that, from a medical standpoint, my doctor needs to be prepared.

All I can do at this point is try to keep things in perspective. I know of more people who have had problems with their pregnancies than those who have gone completely smoothly. (Frankly, I've always thought it a miracle that more things don't ordinarily go wrong, given how much potential there is for this to occur.)

One of my coworkers had to have an ultrasound done every two weeks when she was pregnant with her first daughter, because they discovered a tumour in utero. Once the baby was finally born, she immediately underwent surgery to remove the tumour and, luckily, has lead a relatively healthy life since then.

But I can't begin to comprehend the unimaginable stress and fear felt by her mother in those months leading up to the birth.

I know of so many other stories just like this one, and so I'm doing my best to relax and just appreciate the fact that things could always be worse. Someone out there will always have it worse than me.

And I also have to trust that things will be okay regardless of what these ultrasounds reveal.

What other choice do we have? In four weeks we will have a new little blessing among us who will be loved to the moon and back, even if he grows up too short to ever play on any NBA teams.

Again, there are far worse things in life.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Dignity

I remember thinking, back when I was pregnant with my first child, that there was absolutely no dignity in pregnancy and childbirth.

Virtually from the moment you conceive until after you've given birth, you're poked and prodded, having to endure painful exams..... leading up to the ultimate in physically-painful experiences: labour and delivery. By that point you've really been exposed -- in front of God and everyone -- while at your most vulnerable.

It's a miracle that I eventually gave in and decided to have a second child after all.

Up until now, I had figured that childbirth was the most humbling of medical experiences anyone could go through. But I now know that I was wrong.

There is even less dignity in aging.

Chef Paula Deen once proclaimed in a TV interview that, "None of us are getting out of here alive, y'all," and we, of course, know this to be true. Death is inevitable.

I've heard many people debate on what's worse: being taken very suddenly without any warning, or having to suffer through a long, drawn out illness before eventually succumbing to the inevitable.

I'm not yet sure which of the above I would "prefer", so to speak, but I do know that having to watch a loved one suffer can be as equally excruciating as going through it yourself.

I brought my mom into the ER over a week ago, where she underwent an emergency procedure and was then placed in "isolation" for the next 4 days. That label has now been lifted, which basically just means we no longer have to gown up when entering her room, but still she remains in hospital.

The entire experience has been horrifying for her, and she's asked that no visitors be allowed to come in. Not because she doesn't appreciate everyone's concern, but because she feels she's been completely stripped of her dignity.

A month or so ago she was strong and was shovelling her own snow. But today she's unable to walk (or do other, more personal, things) unassisted. And, due to the severe emotional stress of being in hospital and facing her own mortality, she's now developed tremors whereby she has difficulty with speech and in feeding herself.

Naturally, this only adds to her anxiety. It's a vicious cycle.

My daughter has come to visit her in hospital a few times now, which makes for an interesting contrast. Was my mom ever that youthful, energetic, and full of life? And will my bright-eyed daughter one day have her beautiful spirit taken away from her, too, by a debilitating illness? It's painful to think that this is how we'll all eventually end up.

While none of us know if she'll fully recover from this illness, it is somewhat reassuring to know that there are a few nurses here who are caring for my mom as if she's their own mother, too.

(I'm not going to lie, though -- there are also a couple of cold, uncaring nurses here as well. And that makes me homicidal.)

At this point, all we want again is to have some normalcy and for things to go back to the way they were before. I just hope it's not too late for that miracle to occur.

Life is beautiful, but the end of life is not always so.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

9 o'clock on a Saturday.....

I find that watching You Tube videos when I'm on the treadmill at work has helped the time go by more quickly, and it's also reacquainted me with one of my favourite performers of all time: Garth Brooks.

In an effort to distract myself from my aching back, I stumbled upon this appearance of his on The Ellen DeGeneres Show from late last year. Say what you will about Garth Brooks, but there's no denying that he's a true entertainer with a terrific voice.

 
 
How cool is that acoustic cover of Billy Joel's Piano Man?? I think it's imperative that my husband learn to play this song and then lead our daughter in a nightly sing-a-long so that she, too, can have this sort of appreciation for the greats.
 
(Stevie, are you reading this? I need you to get on this. Stat.)
 
(No pressure.)
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Confident and crafty

I remember seeing photos of one of my little cousins (who is now in her early-20s) attending a workshop at Home Depot when she was just a kid. In the photos, she was smiling proudly with a hammer in her tiny hands, posing over a partially-constructed bird house.
 
At the time I thought it was so terrific that her mom encouraged this sort of activity and made an effort to attend these workshops with her. I mean, what a confidence-builder for a tiny person to get to experience an event such as that!
 
 
I noticed online the other day that our local Home Depot is offering a free Build a Birdbath workshop next weekend, so of course my inclination was to immediately sign up for it. Just a couple of problems, though:
 
1. It's being offered at the same time as my daughter's music class.
 
2. The minimum age to attend is four..... and my daughter's still a few months away from that milestone.
 
Doh.
 
But apparently these workshops are offered about once a month, so hopefully another suitable one will come up soon during a time when we're actually able to attend.
 
And here's hoping my daughter is just as excited about it as I am!
 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dreaming of Sunshine

Late last night I received a confirmation email from Carnival Cruise Lines, which included some important information regarding my sailing for today aboard the Carnival Sunshine ship, leaving out of New Orleans.

Except, you know, I'm not really booked to depart on any cruise ship vacations today (or any time in the near future, for that matter.) Doh.

Shortly after receiving this initial email, Carnival sent along a retraction message, stating that I had received the message in error and that I'm not, in fact, scheduled to depart today. Damn it!!

Intrigued, I decided to check out the itinerary for today's sailing:

Feb 23 - New Orleans
Feb 26 - Jamaica
Feb 27 - Cayman Islands
Feb 28 - Mexico
Mar 2 - New Orleans

For the low, low price of $399, I could be relaxing in an Interior state room aboard this luxury ship for an entire week.

Sigh. I've already visited all the above locales before, but there's always more to see...... and for $399?? Yes, please, I will happily vacate this frozen tundra for a warmer clime.

It's interesting, the Sunshine was actually the first Carnival ship I ever sailed on -- although back then it was known as the Destiny, and it's main port was in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

It's recently received an extended makeover and has been renamed the Sunshine, sailing primarily out of New Orleans and Port Canaveral (Orlando).

And, judging by some of CCL's photos, it's makeover was a huge success.


 
The Seaside Theatre, best for viewing late at night under the stars.
 
 
The Twister slide.
 
 
The adults-only area, Serenity.
 
 
The outdoor sports complex.
 
 
The colourful indoor Atrium.
 
 
In case you're wondering, no, I'm not on Carnival's PR payroll.... but, frankly, I probably should be, as I would gladly take their money.
 
But the reality is simply that I just wish I could be on vacation somewhere warm right now. The Christmas season is long over, and the Sochi Winter Olympics have just aired their Closing Ceremonies, so I officially have no more use for winter.
 
But given that I'm too pregnant to board any ships these days, I'm going to have to live vicariously through whoever that initial email was intended.
 
Lucky buggers.