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Archive for June, 2014|Monthly archive page

My Big Fat Life – Throwback Thursday (365 days later)

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2014 at 5:23 pm

A year ago today I stood in the hallway at OHSU right outside the door of the ultrasound room, and cried as I listened to a cardiologist tell me that Gabriel needed to have life saving open heart surgery. These were the same halls I walked when I was visiting Gabriel in the NICU after his birth, and the same halls I walked when I was leaving the hospital with a little boy that I was told was in perfect health with a perfect heart. Even though I had my suspicions over the years that there was something going on with Gabe, nothing prepared me for that moment and those words.

Here we are 365 days later, and I never would have guessed that life would be so much different than where I thought it was that day that I made the drive to the hospital for routine tests for the boys. In some ways the changes are very disappointing and in other ways, life is much better.

I was going to write a list of the changes that transpired over the year, but recently my sweet friend Jessica posted something on Facebook that resonated with me so much, that I wanted to share the list of things she has learned this past year (with her permission):

1. People who actually care will make a way to be there for you when you need them.

2. People have different definitions of help.

3. People have different definitions of friendship. Just because you know what kind of friend you are to someone doesn’t necessarily mean they will be that kind of friend to you.

4. Ultimately, you don’t owe anyone any explanations for your living, romantic or self decisions (unless you are hurting someone).

5. My mother will always be there despite how she feels about whatever is going on… good or bad, or indifferent.

6. You know the answers in your spirit; we seek others for confirmation.

7. If when something goes on in your life and you pick up the phone to tell someone, the first person you think/want to tell is and should be your best friend or partner (if this isn’t the same person) . If you find yourself telling someone something and they aren’t the first person you thought to share your thoughts or happenings with, reconsider who you’re sharing with. Everyone isn’t meant to know everything.

8. If you are in a bind and you need help, the first person you know who will come through when you call is your family.

9. After all is said and done, whoever is left is your true friend. I fight very hard for my friendships/relationships. Fight for people who will actually fight for you and don’t be surprised when you find out people you thought were going to won’t. I’m learning who actually fits into that “friend” category. And although it sucks, it is definitely an eye opener.

10. MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OF ALL: You can’t expect anything from anyone. So… make your own life filled with happiness and joy the best way you can. You will meet amazing people along the way; know when to hold on and when to let go.

While I can’t really relate to #5 and I am not really into fighting to keep relationships intact this past year (I have had to keep my battles soft), this list really hit home with me. Especially #2 and #3. Besides these lessons, I have also learned that hope can be an enemy if not used with caution and that hugs (for someone who is not normally affectionate with strangers) are essential.

A year ago I never would have thought that some people who were in my life then, would not be a part of it now. Some of those relationships were redefined, and I am grateful for the preservation of those connections. I do miss friendships that fell by the wayside, but I am very thankful for the new friendships I made this year, with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I have met other heart parents along the way, and also Wendy who is a heart patient herself (she is a kindered spirit in the realm of parenting, and she makes me laugh on a consistent basis). These people have made me feel as though I can lose my shit in a place that is understood, even if our experiences are all different. I am especially grateful for a friendship that came from the most unexpected place with perfectly imperfect timing, how it’s evolved, and how now Omar has come to be amongst the most cherished people in my life.

Life hasn’t carried me where I thought it would. It certainly has changed in the last 365 days. In some ways the changes have been really disappointing, and in some ways life is so much better.  The best thing of all is that as I write this, Gabriel is playing a video game with his brother and I can hear the debate about the game take place. A year ago I was terrified that might not be the case.

Still not sure where the next year will lead us; I’m not even sure what tomorrow has in store (other than a soccer lesson). I do know that I am grateful for each and every one of you who have read my words, written me letters of encouragement, loved me despite my often bouts of frustration with this journey, and given me space when I needed it with the understanding that you would always be there when I was ready to talk. Your loving and patient friendship has meant a lot to me.

My wish for the next 365 days is for healing, love, and victories. I wish that for all of us.

 

(I snapped this photo of Gabriel on June 26th 2013, while he was being prepped to have the echo that would prove to be both life saving and life changing)

Gabriel June 26 2013_copy

 

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My Big Fat Life – Last Pill

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2014 at 1:07 pm

June 11th was supposed to be the last day of prednisone, but apparently I counted the days wrong, and it was this morning. This day has been a dreaded coming.

When I was putting his pills in his medication dispenser a few days a go, I started tearing up. The forced reality that this is it, really hit me. This is the last time the Doctors are putting Gabriel on prednisone as a treatment for his condition, and we are cautiously hoping the colchicine works.

Tomorrow marks the last day of school for him and his brothers, so I’m pushing the homework to get the boys finished. It’s been a really stressful week around here preparing for the end of school, and the end of Gabriel’s prednisone treatment. I am looking forward to school being over for a few months while we get Gabriel’s health sorted out. I was really hoping to do something fun for the kids after school released, but I have no clue what I can do that will keep us close to home just in case Gabriel gets sick again. I also need to start looking at the fact that I need to move. The boys and I have been cramped in this stupid apartment that the ex and I moved into as transitional housing until a home was purchased for us to live in, but we have outgrown it and honestly I would love to have a washer and dryer of my own, instead of using the laundry room. The money I am spending to live here and pay to do laundry, isn’t really putting my money to work to help a single parent who needs every penny possible, to feed 4 boys. If you are reading this and know of available housing, please feel free to email me. You can reach me at lesbian_spaghetti@yahoo.com.

So here we are, and here we go…

#FeelsLikeAWeekOfMonday

(Gabriel on the morning of surgery 8/8/2013 and 5/2014. Less than a year difference and you can see how prednisone and this illness has taken it’s toll)

Image

 

My Big Fat Life – What Are You Staring At?

In Uncategorized on June 2, 2014 at 8:20 pm

I used to get really offended when kids would stare at Gabriel when we are out in public. You see, because of the prednisone doses, Gabriel has been dealing with a suppressed immune system. Because of this, when we go out I make him wear medical masks to reduce his chances of walking into a cloud of droplets when kids (or adults) cough and sneeze, and fail to cover it up. This isn’t a hard concept to learn, yet I see people fail to do this all of the time.

Lately I have come to the conclusion that kids are just going to gawk at my child no matter what, and it’s not a reflection of crappy parenting, kids are just naturally curious and lack the politically correct barriers we enforce on everyone else around us. What I haven’t come to accept yet, are the adults that not only gawk, but I have seen whisper and then giggle while looking at my son. This isn’t even a politically incorrect response, it’s just a social douche move. I can handle the kids gawking, but the adults who lack any social grace just annoy the heck out of me. I’ve started just looking right at them, and informing them that my son isn’t contagious, I am protecting him from people. Yes, maybe a snarky response, since I am also giving them the “people like you” look when I say it, but really.. what the heck?

As if my son doesn’t already feel weird about the weight gain from the prednisone, he now has to deal with wearing a mask which further singles him out, just so he can have some sense of normalcy in his life, by getting to go out and do things. Add the fact that kids and adults (who should know better) stare, and it’s not exactly the most amazing experience to go out in public anymore.

I thought I would share a thought that may help with the social experience if you ever find yourself in the space that you are staring in curiosity, that would not only remove any idea that you may be one of those people who lack any social swag, but would also make the person on the receiving end of your stare, maybe a bit more happy. It’s really easy.

Smile.

Yes, just smile. No, not one of those douche snark ew-what’s-wrong-with-you smiles, but just a nice kind smile. If you find yourself staring at the guy in the wheelchair, or he kid with a medical mask on, and they see you.. smile. Make it look like a moment you are offering a moment human connection, and just smile. I would much rather you smile at my child than give him on of those expressionless stares, and whispering giggles. Okay, so you are probably stating and wondering what is going on, or maybe you are thinking to yourself some expression of sadness for whatever it is that ails a person to be in that position to begin with. Whatever it is that is going through your mind, just please find a way to offer up a genuine and kind smile. A kind, generous and often welcome response to whatever it is you are thinking can make all the difference to the person of your curiosity.

As for your children, it’s okay. Maybe not to other moms, I can’t speak for them, but I can speak for myself. Just perhaps if you notice your child staring, use that moment to teach your child to smile in response to making eye contact with other people. When you get to your car, share with them that sometimes people look different and that is okay, and a smile is an appropriate and polite way to quietly greet others. Can you imagine the way we could change the way we interact with others by simply teaching our children, and ourselves, to smile at other people?

That would be a wonderful thing.

Last night Gabriel had some pain, and it bothered him up most of the night. It was in his shoulder, which is one of the symptoms that we typically deal with when fluid starts to build up around his heart. Thankfully it is now 8 in the evening and it never progressed, so I am relax a bit with the hopes it was just a random ache or pain.

Since today is Monday, that means another taper of the prednisone and it being the 2nd of the month, it means this is the start of his very last taper. I always find myself riding the wave of anxiety when the time draws closer for him to go off of the security of the prednisone, but this time we have that little purple pill on board (colchicine), and so I am trying to let the cautious hope ease the crop in that wave, just a bit. I’m not really doing such a great job of it, but after months of having been in this place before, I am learning some coping skills. One is that I am shutting down emotionally from those around me, but I am not shutting people out. In the past, I just went into emotional survival mode and shut everyone out, with all of my energy focused on trying to ride the wave without falling off and belly flopping into my metaphoric ocean of anxiety. Now, I am still in that place, but I am learning to ask for a hand from those I trust will help catch me. I’m still not 100% with this skill, but I am getting better.

I still don’t have a lot to give out to those around me during this stage of the process, and I am learning to be okay with that. I used to put a lot of expectation on myself to meet the expectations of those around me, even in my stress, but that would just weigh even heavier on me, and honestly I can’t do it. I am learning to identify the difference of the expectations of others put on me, those I put on myself, and the reality of what I should take on at any given moment. That might sound like a big lesson, but really I am just living it one moment at a time.

Now if we could just live human connection, one smile at a time…….

(Gabriel at the grocery store. As my daughter, Sarah, recently acknowledged on a recent shopping trip.. no, I don’t mess around with the cereal)

Gabriel Shopping