Friday, August 7, 2015

Spoke Too Soon...

There's a reason some words are never spoken. Once you put something into the universe it can feel like you've ruined a good thing. And that's what happened after last week's post about how great Stella is doing. She went from a clean bill of health to 3 nights in the hospital due to her immunity disorder. She had stopped eating and taking medicine due to ulcers covering her mouth and parts of her body.

Thankfully, the team at The Life Centre were able to get her on the right path and we brought her home Wednesday night with a 2 page discharge letter covering 13 medicinal steps. Different meds have to be taken at different times of the day including some liquid and rinses involving wiping her gums with tea.  Even Desitin to apply to some of her sores.  Yep, good training for baby to come as we are sleep deprived, worried and frustrated fighting to get her to take her medicine. Oh, and she is on a bland human food diet so I spent yesterday morning cooking for her.

But we do it because she is worth it. And she is definitely perkier since she came home. Now if she would just stop fighting me today about her medicine she would get even better. Stella is in charge and we are simply her servants!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Boston, Baby!

I love Boston. It was a great city to go to college in but an even better city to spend my 20's. I was able to walk to work and, living in the North End, walk to the best Italian eating around. (Not to mention great places for cocktails and wine). My friends were close by so we could get together for evenings in cooking and watching NBC Thursday (I'm dating myself now). And I swear I don't remember the weather ever being as harsh as the current winters are.

I miss it - the town and my friends. And wouldn't you know this year, right after the baby is due, our big Annual Meeting will be held there?  But I will be nestled in my house with Baby and Pups (and hopefully T depending on his work schedule!) So this past weekend was my last trip to Boston for a while... and it was all about Baby and me!

My fabulous friends and extended family threw me a baby shower. Even while opening gifts and eating yummy food I still couldn't believe it was for me. I've attended all my friends showers and am used to them opening the gifts but this was just overwhelming. Not only am I totally grateful for these longstanding friendships but also for the occasion which brought us together. Baby, T and I are blessed!

So this post is simply a thank you to my Boston Beauties and families. You are such a gift in my life and I love you all. I can't wait until we are together again!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Survivor Stella - 1 Year Later

Cancer sucks. We all know it. We watch loved ones fight for their lives and are amazed by their strength. We hope. We pray. We bargain. And sometimes we have a happy ending.

In May of 2014, Stella was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She has a glioma in a spot that can't be removed. The oncologist and neurologist advised radiation with no guarantee. "We can possibly buy her a year of quality life."

First instinct - do it.  Of course. We would do anything for our pups. Then we discussed whether or not this was right for Stella. Luckily, radiation is not invasive and does not hurt. However it did mean putting her under for 17 rounds over 3 weeks. So from June to July last summer, Stella, Sophie and I packed up each day and headed out on the 45 minute drive to Stella's treatment.

While there, I would try and work while Sophie tried to intimidate every other dog in the waiting room. Even a cat once. At the beginning, they didn't think the radiation was working. Stella hadn't had any more seizures (we discovered she was sick when she had 6 in 72 hours) but she just wasn't doing well. She was incontinent. She wandered. She was confused and weak. She couldn't go on walks because she couldn't pick up her paws and the drugs made her so unsteady. She was on 15 pills a day. As bad as all that sounds, I still think it was harder on us than her. Or maybe that is just how I rationalized continuing on the path.

And then one day she turned the corner. She began to show signs of bouncing back and we started to get hopeful. On July 14, 2014, Stella graduated from radiation.  The doc said he had never seen a dog so sick recover so much and still believed we bought her a year.

At her oncology check-up yesterday we confirmed it's been a year and 2 weeks.  She has stepped down many meds and she plays like a puppy again. She is stubborn and mischievous and sometimes confused but hey, she does have brain cancer. But she is here and she is happy.

So we stop watching the calendar because anything over a year is a gift for all of us. No matter how frustrated she makes us (did I mention she was stubborn?), she is still here. We get to cuddle with her, hear her snore, watch her play and feel her stare whenever we eat. We are the lucky ones.

So today I would just like to say thank you. To Stella for fighting. To T for believing we could get through this. To Sophie for making us laugh. And to God for blessing us with 54 more weeks of Stella. We may not know how many we have left but what we have is priceless.

And to those of you who have a loved one struggling with illness, you are in our prayers.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Tribute to an Amazing Woman and Teacher

Tribute to Madolyn Johns given at July 18, 2015 Memorial Service
Mt. Calvary Catholic Church

First, thank you to Marco Clark and Melissa Antonio Huar for making today's memorial possible. It is my privilege to be standing before you to honor a woman who touched each of our lives so deeply.

When we heard of Mrs. Johns' passing, I know everyone here felt it intensely - as if no time had passed since we last saw her, heard her voice, learned from her. All of the Facebook comments referenced Mrs. Johns as an inspiration, an incredible teacher, a friend. And we all know why. Because Mrs. Johns helped shape the women we have become.

How do you engage high school girls in subject matter that can sometimes be dense or overwhelming? Just ask Mrs. Johns because she knew exactly how to do it. 

Let's start with the obvious. She was young and beautiful. Stylish and a little mysterious. She seemed, to us, like someone who had seen the world and could give us a glimpse of it. How many of you bought a cartouche, scarab bracelet or two different colored pearl earrings (my choice) because Mrs. Johns made them cool?

But the real magic was in her approach to teaching.  She made the humanities and art history come alive for all of her students.  She told us stories, over and over again, until we were filled with as much passion for the subject matter as she was... well, almost. 

I think part of the passion we felt as students was in pleasing Mrs. Johns.  We wanted to do well for her... we wanted to make her proud. So when she asked us to go to the National Gallery on our own, we went. And when she asked us to write about the art and artists we saw there not only did we write but we sought to learn as much as we could about them so she would understand how much we cared about the subject matter.

Her task was not easy.  We were distracted with relationships, sports, family, future plans, the dynamics of navigating a world as a teenage girl. But for those hours we were in her classroom, all of that disappeared and we were able to focus on Mrs. Johns and the stories she told.  We were transported to Ancient Egypt and Rome, Florence, Paris, Tahiti...

Mrs. Johns had a knack for telling a love story. And let's face it, at 15, 16 and 17 some of us (maybe most of us) were a little interested in love.  Picasso, Rembrandt, Titian, Modigliani and their many muses.  Whose muse would we be? Who would write us a poem or paint us a portrait? Yep, she made it romantic.

She treated each of us as individual young women with great potential.  She spent time with us one on one as a mentor understanding what was going on in our lives and helping us to see that our future was bright. And so we learned. And we were inspired. Some of us became teachers. Some of us studied art history. Some of us became passionate in sports, other subjects, doing good work because Mrs. Johns showed us how passion could pay off.

But I can't talk about Mrs. Johns without also talking about her courage. We all know it takes bravery to escort a busload of teenage girls to New York City year after year!  For many of us, those trips sparked the love affairs we have had with New York City to this day.

A few months ago I was going through a cedar chest my mom gave me and came across my art history and New York City journals.  It was fascinating to see the art I loved then and how it compares with the art my adult self loves. Also to hear my 16 year old selfs impression of those historic museums and artworks, the streets of Manhattan, my roommates shenanigans.

As a student of leadership now, I realize that Mrs. Johns was teaching us about more than just taking notes and observing life around us. She was teaching us the art of reflection which is so important in the practice of leadership. She was teaching us that taking Sabbath by being quiet and just losing yourself in an artwork is imperative to a well-balanced life. Almost 25 years later, I am still feeling her influence.

Of the 2 New York City trips I went on, I have 2 distinct memories.  The first was in the Cloisters. A group of us came across a tapestry we had studied in class and freaked. We couldn't believe we were seeing it in person! We were so excited, pointing out elements we had learned about, when we accidentally got too close and set off the alarm.  No damage was done but I now wonder how much that moment made Mrs. Johns smile. To see your students get so excited about a tapestry you had literally made come alive for them.

The other moment was getting dolled up to go see The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Under a cloud of hair spray we took our seats. The music of that love story takes me back to high school every time I hear it. But the words of one song stand out as we say goodbye and give tribute to this amazing teacher and woman who influenced each and every person who crossed her path:

Think of me.
Think of me fondly.
When we've said goodbye.
Remember me.
Once in a while.
Please promise me you'll try.


We will think of you, Mrs. Johns. And we will remember you more than fondly. Thank you for all you were to each of us and for all you helped us to be.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

I Wonder...

Will we have a boy or a girl?
Will Baby be happy?
Will Baby sleep though the night?
Will Baby be athletic like T?
Will Baby love to read like me?
What will be our favorite book, toy, stuffed animal, etc.?
Will we fall deeper in love once our heart opens to give more love to this new person?
Will we agree on approaches?
Will I feel the same about work/career?
Will we be good parents together?
Will Stella and Sophie adjust easily?
Will we be ready?

I wonder...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Absence Makes the Heart...

T and I both travel for work, so most weeks we are away from each other for 2-4 nights at a time. Sometimes we get a gift and have to be at the same event so we travel together. That part rocks.

The biggest gift of all has been the last 3 and a 1/2 weeks. It's the longest stretch we've ever known of sleeping in the same place at the same time.  Being together every single day.  So this morning, as we said goodbye I got weepy.  We get so used to the routine of being apart that it is just second nature. But after spending all this time together, it became more evident than ever... I miss him when we are in two different places!

But, as he says, we have to work. So he drives 3 hours to his destination and I head to the airport. Or vice versa. Or one of us stays behind. What is most important, however, is that we always come home as quickly as we can.

So I guess the old adage is true - absence does make the heart grow fonder. But being together a lot does the same thing for me!

Monday, July 13, 2015

It's About the Journey, Not the Destination

How many times in your life have you heard this quote? "Life is about the journey, not the destination." I think it is meant to make us feel better about the ups and downs we go through. The experience will make us stronger. We aren't given more than we can handle. Etc.

When you are on the motherhood journey, I have to be honest, most of the above sounds like blah blah blah. It is most certainly about the destination - to be a mother. And the journey, if you are one of us for whom it doesn't come easy, sucks. Yep, it sucks. Yearning to be a mom and having obstacles thrown in your way is not pleasant.  Has it made me stronger?  Only time will tell.

But going through the shattered hopes and dreams, the devastation of loss, the injections and hormones, the importance of numbers, the waiting, the phone calls... all to culminate with a big fat negative so you can start over again? Nothing about that journey makes sense. You question everything about who you are and who you are meant to be. You watch people around you getting pregnant (naturally) and you want to scream and hide from the world.

But you keep going. Because it is about the destination. You say, "let's do one more round." And this time you try acupuncture, limit core work outs, only eat warm food, wear socks to bed - anything you've heard could make a difference. You try not to obsess or become a crazy person but it inevitably happens.

However, you do give thanks to be going through this with your rock, your partner who never judges, who loves you no matter how down or crazy you get. Because the only part of the journey that really matters is that it brings you closer.

As I watch the days on the calendar go by, it amazes me that we are 12 weeks from that most elusive destination. That the journey, however horrible it was, has indeed paid off. We are going to have a baby and have made it to this point stronger together.

So for all who struggle with getting to a major destination, I offer no platitudes. All I can say is hang in there. And I wish for you someone who can carry the load with you.

Just another reason I thank God for my husband each and everyday.