Saturday, April 28, 2007

Looking For A Handout

Note: Updated below...if you can make it that far.

Three times this week, during the quiet hours of the evening, while I have been ensconced in what ever brilliant piece of literature I have been reading (read: Cheesy romance novel describing the penis as a throbbing steel rod of manhood and the vagina as the soft folds of a feminine flower...) the telephone has rang. While this in itself is not unusual, the callers have all been three different telemarketers haranguing me to buy their credit cards, their long distance plans or their vacuums.

Three different times this week, I have been forced to tear myself from said brilliant literature to politely decline their offers. Last week I was inundated twice for different charities. It seems every time the phone rings these days, someone is looking to take my husband's hard earned money off my hands.

Well, now it is my turn to flip the tables. I am sitting behind your computer screen with my hand held out, batting my eyelashes, trying to relieve you of some of your dough. Because after all, I know you are all hiding money trees out in your backyard and you just aren't sharing.

Today is the Global Make A Wish Day for the Make a Wish Foundation. For 27 years this foundation has been granting the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to make their dreams come true.

I have had several opportunities to meet children who have been granted their wishes. A couple little friends of mine wanted nothing more than to go to Disneyland, while another wished for a therapy pool to relax his muscles and relieve the pain in his back and legs. One very special little girl that I had the pleasure of meeting and befriending wanted nothing more than to ride in a fire truck and play firefighter in her home town, some three thousand miles away from where her family currently resided. She missed her old friends and family. Her wish was granted and three weeks later she passed away a happy little girl.

Most of us don't think about the children out in the world fighting their battles with disease, congenital deformities and onset of sudden illness. Occasionally, we are reminded by media, or when we see a child who is obviously ill or handicapped in the supermarket, that there are hundreds of children in our communities who fight a war they won't win, one we will never really understand.

We duly donate a dollar with a purchase at Walmart or McDonalds, drop our spare change in the box next to the register and sometimes we even make monthly donations on our credit cards if we are fortunate enough to have the cash to spare. But do you ever think about the child that would benefit from your generosity?

I never did. I just did it out of obligation, some small guilt that niggled at the back of my conscience, thankful that it wasn't one of my children that needed such services.

Until one day it was.

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Then it became a whole different ballgame. I was thrust into a world where there was so much need, and not enough money to fill those needs. Hell, if I had to donate to every charity for every diagnosis my darling son received, my husband and I wouldn't have been able to diaper the little dude.

But in the course of his life I met many children who had such health problems it staggered my soul.  Some children never leave the hospital in the course of their short lives, others like my Bug, could go home only to return days or weeks later. It is as though there is an invisible chain tethering them to the damn hospital.

As a parent it is easy enough to forget that your child is a child when you are struggling with their health. Worrying about whether they have the opportunity to play in the sand on a sunny day is not high on the priority list when you have medications, therapies and appointments just to keep that child alive, with you one more day. The stress of having a medically challenged child in a home takes it's toll on every one, not just child.

But a sick child is still a child, as my Bug's laughter would often remind me. And every child deserves a dream. Sadly, the severely ill child often does not have the simple benefit of health to be able to chase their dreams like most children. They simply lack the time.

Bug was granted a wish. I was honored and yet dismayed, for I realized that this meant he really was fragile. It was a harsh reminder of just how fleeting his life might be. But it was an amazing gift that would not only benefit my sick child, but my two small others, so often overlooked because of their baby brother.

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Boo and I decided to make the cliched trip to Disneyland. Shalebug was especially fascinated with people stuffed inside mascot costumes and he loved the thrill of the more gentle rides. We would take Fric and Frac and create the memories a child could dine on for an eternity. It would have benefited the whole family.


Sadly, Bug's time ran out, and his wish was not granted.


But I still sit here, smiling pretty, asking you to think of all the children out there who may never have an opportunity to embarrass themselves on national television to chase their dreams of stardom. I'm asking you to think of the kids who will never get to run the diamond of a baseball field, or sit in the bleachers next to their parents who are chugging back the beer.

I want to remind you there is so much out there most of us take for granted on a daily basis; normal everyday things like going on a class field-trip to the fire-hall to sit in the fire truck and then eat icecream with twenty other kids with sticky fingers and silly grins.


The people with the Make a Wish Foundation haven't forgotten.


Please consider supporting them. I'll even jump through hoops of fire, naked, if that's what it takes to make you donate.


Now I'm standing up and brushing the dirt off my knees. This begging stuff is hard on a girl's back.

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Update: The sands in the hour glass have slipped through the glass and it is no longer April 29. While I'm still sitting here with my palm out, looking to grab your cash, I understand a lot of people don't have the means to support a charity of any type while struggling to make the bills. I do ask, however, that you think of the kiddies out there who aren't as fortunate and as healthy as most of ours. Sometimes the simple kindness of a smiling stranger is all it takes to make their dream come true.

Now I'm coming down from my soap box (albeit with absolutely no grace or dignity left intact) and I'll be back tomorrow with the funny. But I wanted to thank all of you who took the time to remember my Bug, and donated. It's not too late. I, er, they will take your money anytime!! Thank you so much for allowing me to hit you over the head with my personal two by four. Your generosity and support is amazing.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Lasting Darkness

When the power went out for two days last week, I was forced to not only live like a pioneer woman, bond with my children and eat nothing but dry cereal all day long (really, I am ASHAMED. The sugary goodness of the Fruit Loops call to me in times of crisis), but I was forced to reexamine my life and mull over the choices I have made. I had nothing better to do at the time, courtesy of the black out.

Since my son died 18 months ago, I have tried to fill my life up, tried to quiet the noise that rages inside my head during my waking hours. I knew I was doing this, but I seemed unable to stop. The pain was too great. The first four months after his passing, it simply hurt to breathe. I sat on the couch where him and I would snuggle and watch soap operas I mean, the birds outside our window and I would breathe him in, knowing how blessed my life was, how full. Suddenly, I was alone on this couch, and my life was obscenely hollow.

I knew that I was sinking deeper in my grief every day and I was harming my older children by just sitting there in my blanket of sadness. When a family friend tossed me a life line and offered to put me to work, I reluctantly grabbed it. I didn't want to work, I didn't want to see people and have to explain all over, everyday, and endure their looks of pity and sympathy. But I didn't want my kids to grow up and tell their spouses and children about how the death of their little brother wrecked their mother, their family.

So off to work I went. And it was bloody hard work too. Working at green house is physical. But I was surrounded by friends, and I found that it actually helped to tell people my story. It was cathartic, and I was healing. When that job ended, as all seasonal jobs must, I took in my nephew, The Worm. It was now summer break, and I was surrounded by my kids and a four month old Worm, and life was too busy to have time to break down.

Except that is what I did. I barely remember the summer, the heat, anything. I remember changing diapers and smelling the sweet spot on the side of The Worm's neck and wishing for the millionth time that it was Bug I was smelling. But the demands of an infant and two active children didn't allow for me to wallow in my misery for long. Soon autumn rolled around and when the kids went off to school I filled up my days with blogging and reading blogs, and the Worm.

Every day seemed a bit better, a bit brighter. I was starting to untangle my sadness. I was able to remember how to feel joy and not just pain, remember how to love, not just my children, but myself. I was able to forgive myself for the ultimate mommy failure: The death of her child.

Intellectually, I knew I was not responsible for the death of my kid. I did everything possible to prolong his life and make it the best little life possible. But while my heart was secure in the knowledge that I loved him enough, gave enough, sacrificed enough, my brain would not stop with the What If's.

Busying myself helped quell those nasty little What If's. I barely wrestle with them anymore. They have been mostly banished to the great outdoors, along with my fear of spiders and mice. I try not to worry about any of them anymore. But then suddenly, I lost the Worm, when my blog became public. Family politics prevailed and my sister and her child were caught in the middle. Now I was truly alone, since those first four months of Bug's passing.

I thought I was coping well; I was still being funny, I was still blogging. My kids were reasonably happy, my dog well fed. But I was still doing what I had been doing after the first four months. Busying myself to avoid my grief. I focused on my friends, my blog, the upcoming adoption. Anything but me. After-all, how many times can a person wonder if this pain will go away?

Turns out, a lot.

The power outage took away all my distractions. I had no computer, no telly, no music and no phone. I was stranded in my drive way, unable to leave or have anyone enter my snow covered home. While I sat there and tried to entertain my kids with endless rounds of Scrabble and Monopoly, I wondered what life would be like with Bug if he was still alive. Would he still walk? How tall would he have grown? Would he be able to sit on a chair with out me having to strap him in? Would I still want to adopt a new child? The questions raced through my mind, until I was desperate to drown out the noise.

Sitting there, with my kids, trying to make sure they didn't maim one another, I talked to them.  And listened.  I heard how much they missed their brother still, and I realized, it wasn't just me struggling with this heavy bundle of pain. They talked about how scared they were bringing in a new little kid, wondered if they would love it, worried that I would be so busy with the new child that I wouldn't have time for them. They remembered how much time I spent on Bug; they haven't forgotten all the things they missed out on because of their little brother.

They worried they wouldn't be a part of our new family. I listened, and I tried to reassure them, but when they lost interest in what ever game we were playing and wandered off to wrestle, I sat back and examined what they said. I worry too. I worry I won't be able to love a new child the same way I loved Bug, I worry I may resent the new child and the constraints he or she will place upon me with their needs. I worry I want to adopt to try and fill the vacant hole Bug's absence has created in my life.

Boo feels the same way. The closer the adoption creeps towards us, the colder our feet become. Is this normal? Are we just psyching ourselves out? I have voices screaming inside my head, all arguing over top of one another, clamoring to be heard. I don't know which voices to drown out and which to heed.

I fear ramming a child down my kid's throats and having them resent me forever more, repeating the cycle my own mother and I seem trapped in. I don't want to hurt my children by placing my own needs before them. Being a parent means sometimes letting go of your personal dreams and doing what is best for your children. Is this one of those times, one of those dreams?

I am listening to the quiet now. Trying to sort out the voices, the doubts, the fears. I am trying to face my grief once more, while marveling at the lasting power of this pain, this sadness. I wonder how long will it be before I can remember my child and all I gained and derived from him with out succumbing to the overwhelming sadness and hurt of his absence.

I am very aware I am standing at a crossroads, and the direction I take will not only impact my life and my husband's, but that of my children as well. I must not sacrifice my family as they are now in an attempt to recreate the family I had once. I must honor all of my children, not just the ones who passed.

So I must busy myself once again. But this time, instead of filling my hours trying to avoiding my feelings and fears, I'm going to try and embrace them. Maybe, finally, I will know what direction I am supposed to go.

Friday, April 06, 2007

A Basket full of MooseTurds

As a small child, I loved Easter. My family wasn't particularly religious so my only obligation for this holiday was to create an Easter basket pretty enough and big enough to house my chocolate bunny and assorted treats the bunny would leave behind. Usually socks and a set of jacks. Sprinkled liberally with those foil-wrapped chocolate eggs that now remind me of the moose shit I have to clean off my lawn every damn week in the summer.

Yummy. You haven't lived until you step into a pile of moose turds.

Things changed as I became an adult and a parent. Not only did the little foil-wrapped chocolates lose their appeal, but suddenly I was responsible for filling the Easter baskets, not just gnawing on the chocolate bunny. There was also the matter of me becoming a Christian and suddenly this holiday actually has a meaning beyond a little rabbit shitting out chocolate eggs for kids to eat.

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Now Easter means dipping hardboiled eggs into the vinegary dye, after an Easter egg search and basket hunt where Boo and I try desperately to outwit our cunning little children, all while thanking our Lord and feeling guilty for not attending the local church service in favour of sleeping late and um, fornicating like rabbits.

Since my Shalebug died, all holidays have lost a little of their holiday sheen. Now as the kids hunt for their colourful eggs and gnaw on their chocolate bunnies, I am bogged down with sadness and mired in memories from the past, unable to truly enjoy the moment.

It seems as though my Bug hopped off with my holiday heart and left behind little moose turds in it's wake. Bugger. It is hard to truly enjoy the moment when I worry constantly that he will forget me, or resent me, or worse yet, that it's truly over, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and I will never have another moment to tell him how much I loved his stinky, drooling, hair-touching ways.

It sucks the holiday joy right out of a mom. It's right about this moment that my faith steps in and kicks into auto-drive. That and my anti-depressants. Together, they work like magic and prevent that blanket of grief from smothering the joy right out of me.

I wish I could say I was finding it easier as the grains of time slipped through my hourglass. This is the second Easter I will face without having a 30 pound sack of drooling child attached to my hip. The second Easter where I won't have to find non-edible treats to put into a basket for a child who can't eat. The second Easter where my son and daughter will dye their eggs and reminisce about their brother, and then break down with a sadness that I can never completely hug away.

Sometimes it really sucks being the mommy.

This year though, things have shifted a half degree. The binds of grief have loosened a fraction around our hearts, allowing us to breathe just a tad easier. Memories of the Bug aren't as painful, even if they are just as vivid. The longing for him is worse, but our tears have dried some. I anticipate a good-sized chocolate bunny and a well-filled basket will help smooth some of the bumps an Easter with one less will bring.

After all, we are bruised but not broken. And the Easter bunny hops on for everyone. Even the grief stricken. And this year, the Easter bunny hopped a little earlier for Boo and I.

Yesterday, we received a phone call from our adoption case worker Easter bunny to inform us that she will be by on Tuesday to finish the paperwork for our adoption. Which means, by the end of this month we will be approved (finally) and free to start shopping for a child child matching.

I may get my kid before the end of the school year yet. How's that for a well filled Easter basket?

As I phoned my darling Boo to tell him the good news and have him yank me down from the stratosphere of happiness, I noticed he was remaining a little quiet while I gushed on about great timing, kids names and my love of all government employees in general.

"What's the matter Boo? Have you changed your mind? Do you still want to adopt?" I tell you dear internet, my heart froze with fear at this possibility.

"Not that at all. I'm really excited. I am just a little worried."

"Worried? About what? The home assessment is a formality. You and I both know they will try to toss as many handicapped kids at us as humanely possible, just to get them out of the system. We are a gold mine to these people. What's to worry about?"

Now, I'm concerned. I'm running through all the various scenarios that we could face and I still can't see why we wouldn't be approved to adopt a munchkin. I'll keep my nipple rings covered and my tattoo hidden. Surely they will overlook a little silver hoop in the nose.

My house will be cleaned, the kids at school (thank God, so they won't tell the lady I make them drink out of the toilet bowl when they are thirsty) and I will refrain from cussing like the redneck I am. What could go wrong, I think.

"I'm just a little concerned she may find your blog. And then, you know. Read it."


I'm fucking doomed. I may have to settle for foil wrapped moose turds after all.