Monday, March 31, 2008

Brian is diagnosed - the rest of the week, Miracle Monday

Today’s miracle Monday Post continues our story. If you would like to read from the beginning, simply click on the miracles label on the left-hand side and read in ascending order by post date.

Last week, we concluded with the morning after Brian was first admitted to the hospital. We have been at the hospital for about 12 hours at this point in time. Brian’s family has recently arrived, we have met with the neurologist and Brian’s every 45-minute mini-seizures are under control with an adequate amount of medication. We are awaiting the neurosurgeon.

Aunt JoAnn spots him as he enters the ward and introduces us. Dr. Martin reviews the CT performed the preceding night and convenes with us. His observations: The CT scan was performed in a hurry and without contrast therefore providing very inconclusive results. Yes, there is an abnormality, but until an MRI with and without contrast is administered, even an educated guess is nearly impossible. He asks if we have recently been to another country. Meats in countries without similar U.S standards sometimes cause infections that manifest in the brain. We relay that we have, in fact, been to Jamaica about 3-4 weeks ago. He asks all of Brian’s family including me, to leave the room so he can privately speak to Brian, to which I take offense. Outside his room, Brian’s family and I all begin to hold tight to the possibility of a brain infection. When readmitted to Brian’s room, we all agree the next logical step is an MRI that afternoon and Dr. Martin will be back that evening with results.

I sit on the bed with Brian, holding his hand and simply gazing at him. Brian tells me the questions were sexual history and sexual preference related. I believe AIDS/HIV can manifest in the brain as well. Brian and our families are now educated on what to expect with a brain MRI. Brian will lie on a small table that will enter the MRI machine headfirst. It will be very loud, he must lie very still and it will last about 45-60 minutes.

I call my work and relay the situation. My wonderful co-workers and current department tell me to take as much time as I need. They love me and do not worry about A SINGLE THING while I am away. Luckily, I was to change jobs within the week, so I had recently transitioned most of my duties to others. Brian’s Dad, who also works for Caterpillar, handles all the calls to Brian’s Denver group. They are beyond compassionate about the situation and immediately tell us to not even think about work until we tackle what is in front of us. Throughout the course of the day, Brian and I sleep intermittently since we have been awake for about 26 hours. Every time I leave the room to walk the hallway, I spy another family member of mine in the waiting room. Another aunt, my parents, cousins, uncles, etc. The support is overwhelming. My brother, Kevin, and his then due-any-day-wife Lisa, call and tell us they are getting induced on Tuesday, May 20, 1997 so they can come to St. Louis with the baby that weekend.

Brian goes to his first MRI. He is transported via wheelchair, which is protocol. He is taken into the radiology MRI room. They explain more of the procedure and allow me to witness until time for the actual testing. I wait in the radiology waiting room. An hour later, Brian is wheeled out, smiles, “Hey, babe,” at me and we go back to the neurological ward for results. The waiting room is even more filled with aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, and a growing number of our friends. We are all anxiously awaiting the results, hoping for an easily treatable infection.

Dr. Martin returns with a rather unexpressive look that evening. The room is full of family. Brian and I are sitting in his hospital bed. Dr. Martin looks tentatively around the room as asks if we want the results alone or like…this. This is fine, we reply. He states that the MRI shows a more organized mass in Brian brain, not resembling the characteristics of an infection, but more resembling a tumor. The location of the mass makes it inoperable without considerable risk to Brian’s functions – speech, right side mobility and sensations. It would be impossible to determine for sure exactly what the mass was or what grade or type, if it is a tumor, without a biopsy to determine next steps. We schedule for Thursday, May 22. Pathology will review the results and we will learn those on Friday, May 23. He asks if we have any questions. I don’t remember, but I am sure his parents ask questions. I just remember hating him. Hating him and everything he was telling me. My experiences with cancer to this point have been the premature loss of two aunts who were both survived by cousins my age. I hate this doctor for telling me my husband has just been issued a death sentence. I know no better. I sob. Loudly. Brian quietly weeps and holds me tight. I smother his face with kisses. The room empties. I can hear murmuring and sniffles from the hallway. I begin to wail, “no, no, no” over and over again. Brian’s mom, Jan, returns after a few minutes to my obnoxiously loud sobs, sits quietly beside the bed, holds her son’s hand, rubs my back and says softly, “We have to fight. You can do this, Brian.” I wail for a little longer, utter some obscenities about this doctor who I claim knows nothing, look at Jan whom I can see is deeply pained beyond words and see something behind her eyes that makes me stop crying – something that causes me to stand firm and hope. I realize at that moment my job is to make sure Brian feels the same. We lie in that bed holding each other, unshowered, uncertain, frightened and confused and say nothing for a long time.

The next few days are densely sprinkled with large visits from our family and friends. There is never an evening where a seat remains in the main waiting area of the neurological ward. I never leave Brian’s side. I have my family bring me my toiletries and clothes. I sit on Brian’s lap if a chair is unavailable while we visit with the ever-growing number of well-wishers and welcome distractions. We are often politely told if we can’t keep it down, we should go downstairs to the main lobby of the hospital. During these visits, several people bring us materials about recent brain tumor research, brain tumor treatments, brain tumor pathology types, homeopathic healing, etc. It makes my mind hurt to look at it all. Jan takes over, investigates, deciphers and analyzes. Brian and I are faced with many excruciating decisions. The first and most pressing is this: What do we do about our pending house purchase in Denver with our closing scheduled for next week? We realize we may be unable to close that day and decide that buying a house at this volatile time of our lives is probably ill advised. The next decision we must face is whether to continue with Brian’s job in Denver or try to find an alternate job in Peoria, IL, so we can be close to our families and support structure. While I have lived in Denver for two years and have many decently established friendships, Brian does not. We have no family within 800 miles. We decide not to act on this decision until we know more, but after hours of pain-staking deliberation, Brian and I decide I need to call the seller of our house and tell him to re-list the house due to our current situation. He is a friend and is much more concerned about Brian than the house (at least on the phone). When I hang the phone, a cloud of despair envelopes Brian and me, nothing feels more wrong and we cry together again. Brian apologizes to me for the ten thousandth time that week claming I don’t deserve this. I ask him which part of “in sickness and in health” he didn’t understand.

A close friend from Denver, Beverly, shares our saga with a close friend of hers. Beverly’s friend works with a man, Al, who has a young 20’s son with a brain tumor. Al is willing to talk to us remembering only too well the mass chaos and flood of information accompanying the initial diagnosis. We speak with Al and he gives us a plethora of local Denver doctor information, countrywide specialists and many other valuable resources. He proves to be one of the best contacts thus far giving immeasurable practical, usable knowledge.

Anyone who visits us this week in the hospital witnesses our every day deep anguish, pain, despair and confusion. A few of my relatives begin to minister to us, slowly. Brian and I are both Catholic at this time and searching desperately for deeper meaning into this ordeal. Where is our God? What does it mean when someone says they are going to pray for you? Somehow reciting a few Our Fathers doesn’t seem to be sufficient for us. The most instrumental to us during this time are cousin Rhonda and my ever-teaching Aunt Jane. Rhonda and Jane (separately) begin to share stories of their own internal healings, of their own peace finding, soul-searching, etc. They share of Jesus’ love for all aspects of our lives including our physical well-being. They bring me a Bible and some Bible promise books. Rhonda writes out some versus on index cards directly related to physical healing and encourages me, if I am comfortable, to read them quietly with Brian whenever. She shares with me, gradually, all week of how Jesus truly loves me and while this may all not make sense now, He has a plan and a purpose in our lives and it simply isn’t what we had thought. I am resistant to this pattern of illogic because how could what was starting to be our fairy-tale life not be part of His plan? Searching desperately for any answers, I take in, gradually, all information from Aunt Jane, cousin Rhonda and many other amazing family, friends, and friends of family and friends that week. I pray for Brian a bit differently, reciting these Bible versus and trying with all I have to believe them, too. Believing them proves to be much more daunting than reciting them. I am assured that is acceptable and expected at first. This is the first major step to my relationship with Christ today. I will share more and more with Brian over the next few weeks, but we both know his anger and shock at the current situation does not allow his heart to be open to this fully yet.

The day of the biopsy arrives. Brian will have another MRI so the surgeon can map exactly where his incision, drilling, and extraction will be. The surgeon will give Brian a local anesthesia in his head so he cannot feel it, but Brian will be awake. This is our first experience with realizing the actual brain has no sensory feeling. The surgeon will then drill a hole into Brian skull and extract different points in the suspected tumor. The samples will be sent to pathology and the results will be the next day. While sounding horrific, it is actually a relatively simple procedure, tolerated well and performed quickly. Brian is wheeled away again to get a literal “hole in his head.”

The recovery is simple and uneventful. Brian is in good spirits and animated as he tells us how surreal it was to hear a drill entering his head, but feeling none of it. Everyone that continues to visit us this night is amazed at our “strength,” our love and our attitude. I can’t explain where it was coming from. I didn’t understand it. There is an overwhelming amount of peace surrounding us. One cousin told me as she came to visit, she was shaking nervous as she ascended in the elevator, not knowing what to say or expect. As the elevator doors opened, she said it was as if Jesus himself greeted her. She wasn’t really a strong Christian at this point in her life, but she said she knew the Holy Spirit was in that area of the hospital. She said there was such peace she just knew no matter what the outcome of this biopsy was, Brian was truly in God’s hands. I take comfort in this.

The next day the surgeon returns with the results of the biopsy. Once again the room is full of visitors. Due to the awkward bearing of the bad news earlier in the week with the entire family present, Brian and I choose to have the results given to us alone and the surgeon repeat the news to everyone else in the waiting area. The result of the 3 samples taken and analyzed are an Anaplastic Astrocytoma showing Grade III characteristics on a scale of I-IV, with IV being the worst. Dr. Martin encourages a second surgeon opinion to determine operability options, as he is unwilling to operate as previously discussed. He suggests immediately speaking to oncologists and radiation oncologists to discuss radiation and chemotherapy. He explains that while anything was possible, someone with a grade III Anaplastic Astrocytoma typically lives 3-5 years. We have been married a month and Brian is 24 years old.

We are discharged; despondent and devastated. However, upon our departure from the hospital, I feel an indescribable peace and an illogical amount of comfort. I don’t understand it again.

So, what miracles? What good comes from this? I find myself asking this lots, even more so today with Brian’s recurrence last year. However, the way in which God starts to shape our lives is amazing. As I stated last week, humbled to our knees desperately searching for answers and feeling so vulnerable, I opened my heart to God in a new way. I prayed differently. Brian began to do so as well. There were many other grace notes this week. For example, the mere fact that this tumor was revealed to us at this time is truly miraculous. Mere days before, my sister was graduating from college and only one month prior was our wedding. This could have overshadowed either of those events. Even more, this could have surfaced weeks before we were married and I don’t know how our lives would have progressed from there. In God’s timing, we were married and I had all the rights to be by Brian’s side helping him through this as his number one companion. I would not have wanted it any other way. Also, if this had surfaced 10 hours later, Brian would have been on a plane to Montana on a business trip alone. As it occurred, we were in St. Louis – a major metropolis. We had countless friends and family nearby. Brian’s family was only a few hours away and was able to be present for the entire ordeal. The timing was truly miraculous. Another miracle is that God has blessed my mom, Karen, with the amazing gift of hospitality. She opened her home to Brian’s family, feeding whoever would stop by. It occupied her and made everyone feel comfortable and unimposing. Another grace note was Brian and I were both recently transitioning job responsibilities and were not leaving our organizations with large voids during our sudden absence. A final miracle was the birth of Alexis Nicole, our little (now nearly 11-year-old) Lexie. This beautiful perfect creation of God reminding us He does not make mistakes. Kevin, and his then-wife Lisa asked Brian and I to be Lexie’s godparents to always have a wonderful event to remember during this very trying time. We felt so honored and blessed.

Next: Becoming established

To read more miracle monday posts, visit Beth at a Mom's Life.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

The evolution of romance in my marriage

I received a comment from Christina on Monday’s post about the night Brian was diagnosed. I was amused by her comment because while moved by the whole story, she highlighted the sentence about our shower together and ended the comment with, Ahhhh, Newlyweds. I contemplated omitting that part of the story, but it was such a part of who we were then. We even received a gift basket from a friend of Brian’s parents that summer with all kinds of lotions and soaps because, “we heard how much you like to share the shower.” We used to shower together all the time. We washed each other’s backs and made sure the other still had a spray of hot water even when we were rinsing our own hair.

Today. NO STINKING WAY. Get out of my spray zone you hot water hog. It’s my turn to rinse. I have soap in my eyes. Your pits still smell, wash them again. YOU get out and dry with YOUR towel first, I will stay in the stall and dry off.

Sort of lost it’s romantic luster somewhere.

How many other romantic and simple gestures have we lost in the hullabaloo of life and marriage? ThirteenLots.

  1. Then: Long conversations that lasted well into the sleeping hours of the night. Now: Brian says my superpower is the ability to fall asleep within minutes of my head touching the pillow. I’m gifted.

  2. Then: Flowers and jewelry as a gesture of love. Now: Ummmm. Hon? The budget… We need to save towards a new washer and dryer to replace these that probably have about 3 years’ useful life remaining.

  3. Then: Staying in bed late into the day while sleeping in, reading, and fooling around intermittently. Now: Reality = children.

  4. Then: Sexy = lights dim, soft music, me in a skimpy negligee. Now: Sexy = Lights bright, loud vacuum cleaner pushed by him in an apron.

  5. Then: Weekend getaways to the mountains. Now: Weekend home repair projects that ACTUALLY get finished.

  6. Then: Sharing a twin bed while spooning. Now: Considering a king size bed lest I actually feel human flesh next to me during my precious sleep.

  7. Then: Shopping together, browsing through aisles, glancing at the window displays, taking our time. Now: Shop separately for the things each knows best. No. Matter. What.

  8. Then: Ideal night out = nice restaurant, taking 2 hours to eat, bottle of wine, a show or live music somewhere afterwards. Now: Ideal night out = any night away from the kids with free babysitting so we don’t have to watch each tick of the clock add up to $$$.

  9. Then: Taking care of our bodies, doing our best to stay looking buff and trim. Now: Sucking in our guts when walking past the mirror and boasting that we still got it, careful to avoid the wrong angle lest we be humbled by love handles.

  10. Then: Staying up together watching the late show or late movie. Now: Watching the DVR’d late show or movie at 8:45 as soon as the kids are in bed so we can get to bed earlier.

  11. Then: Sharing an entrée (whatever he wanted) at a restaurant while I nibbled on my appetizer. Now: HA! I’m not sharing my meal and I am NOT compromising on what I am ordering. This is MY NIGHT OUT FROM COOKING, DAMNIT!

  12. Then: 3 of the best words = I love you. Now: 3 of the best words = You were right.

  13. Then: Mortified or at least slightly modest about any bodily functions the other might witness. Now: Finishing our sentences mid-burp while, sadly, the other understands the sentence.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spring Break

Tomorrow my precious family of 4 will be going on the second leg of our small Spring Break mini-getaways. Since Southeast Missouri didn't quite bring the excitement that last year's Disney Spring Break trip did, we decided to go all out and spend the next few nights in Iowa and Nebraska. Oh Yeah! Nothing screams Spring Break like cornfields and... well... cornfields. While the kids have a few days off, we are going to see Brian's little brother, Michael and wife, Jen in Omaha since they are usually the ones who have to do the traveling. We are stopping in Williamsburg, Iowa for an 18 hour stay at a Holidome Waterpark. The weather is supposed to be in the mid 40's. Yup, Spring in the Mid-west!


Won't be blogging much after tomorrow for a few days and won't be checking blogs. Don't even know if I will have time to get my Monday Miracle created. I hope so, but it will likely only happen if I can work on it during the drive time. I get wicked car sick, so I am cautiously optimistic about it. When we adopted our second son, during the 72 hours between his birth and the time his birth mother could legally sign the papers, I remember telling someone that cautiously optimistic TOTALLY SUCKS. Lately, I feel like that is the description best fitting my entire life. I digress.

I would like to respectfully request that my fellow bloggers take this time as a hiatus from blogging as well in consideration of my google reader. Thank you.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

36 Random things about Angie - my belated birthday post

36 Random facts about Angie

  1. I was born on March 23, 1972 in Texas
  2. We moved when I was an infant to Indiana.
  3. We moved again when I was 2 to Muscatine, Iowa
  4. I remember seeing Superman at the Drive-In in Muscatine.
  5. I remember my brother, Kevin, who is 3 years older than me, was a die-hard KISS and Minnesota Vikings fan when we lived in Iowa and once when visiting my Uncle Rick in Chicago, he told Kevin that he would get beheaded for wearing a Vikings hat in Chicago. It made me cry even though Kevin was mean to me. Kevin and I fought non-stop until he left for college. Then we got along fine.
  6. I also have a sister, Mindi. She is 3 years younger and she is my very best girlfriend in the whole wide world.
  7. We moved to St. Louis when I was 7-1/2 and I lived here until I graduated college except for my on-campus college life.
  8. The first time I flew on an airplane, I was 10 – traveling back to Texas for a visit to the beach.
  9. The next time I flew on an airplane, I was 15 – traveling back to Texas for another visit to the beach.
  10. The next time I flew to Texas I was 25 for a visit to MD Anderson Cancer Center for my 24 year old husband. (I flew lots in between my age 15 trip and this trip)
  11. I have spent the night in the following states and countries:
    New York
    St. Thomas USVI
    Alberta, Canada
    B.C., Canada
  12. I went to a Catholic school from 1st through 12th grade.
  13. I am short – always have been one of, if not, THE shortest one in my class. I topped off just shy of 5’2.”
  14. That made it very hard for boys to take me seriously when I was an early teenager; therefore middle school was hell.
  15. I was top of my class of 17 kids in 8th grade.
  16. In high school, I was a cheerleader. I was captain for my sophomore and Senior Year. We were terrible, but we had fun, much like the boys’ teams for which we cheered.
  17. In high school, I graduated 15th in my class of 115. I was capable of being in the top 5-10, but I was too busy trying to be cool. Apparently, my then definition of cool meant you didn't study as much to get good grades. Whatever.
  18. My first semester of college, my GPA was a 1.870. I went a little wild. Plus I suddenly wasn't one of the smartest. Seems that most people who decide to go to an engineering school were smart in high school.
  19. My third semester of college, my GPA was a 3.750. I got back on track. (the rest of my semesters were in between – some closer to my first semester and some closer to my third semester)
  20. My first kiss (a peck on the cheek) was when I was 10 years old under the Brookdale subdivision sign off Schulte Road in St. Louis. I hope my kids are older than that.
  21. His name was Brian. In fact, I have dated 3 Brians in my life. Two were even Brian Edward …. I married the last one.
  22. I have small feet. I wear a size 5, but my feet are wide with high arches. They are shaped much like the boxes that package shoes. This makes sexy shoes a pipedream.
  23. I am one of 22 first cousins on my mom’s side. I am one of 16 first cousins on my dad’s side.
  24. One of my first cousins died 4 years ago very unexpectedly. His name was Randy. He was my oldest first cousin on my mom’s side.
  25. All of my grandparents have died. Only one lived to see 80. She is the only great-grandparent my boys ever met. I SOOOO wish my dad’s mom could have met the boys. It makes me tear up to think about it because she would have JUST loved their adoption stories.
  26. I have 2 boys – both adopted.
  27. I am a Christian.
  28. I have terrible penmanship and NO artistic ability or patience for it.
  29. I love working with numbers. Since I am not working outside the home, I currently love balancing our checkbook, creating our household budget and looking at our reports in Quicken to track our expenditures against the budget. I love finding great deals with coupons, sales, and store promotions for the best possible way to be frugal with our funds. It is a hobby.
  30. I am a conservative Republican in my political views, mostly because of economic (tax) reasons, defense reasons (I used to work in the defense industry), and my faith-based issues. I make no apologies for it because I believe you have to take a stand in life to be taken seriously. Much of my family share the same political views, but most of my friends tend to be rather liberal. They think I am as crazy as I think they are. We agree to disagree. Listen to each other and move on.
  31. I know how to snow ski, but not snowboard. I know how to water-ski on one ski, but not two, and I cannot figure out that darn wakeboard.
  32. I gained a freshman 15 (or 20) in college. I lost it all my sophomore year just from not drinking and partying. In 2006, I lost over 20 pounds and was within 2 pounds of “MY” ideal weight. In 2007, I gained back about 11 pounds of it. I have lost about 3 of those, but I CONSTANTLY struggle with my weight. I have to always watch what I eat and my activity/exercise level to stay on top of it.
  33. I sang a few solos in grade school plays and choir. I have sung in a couple weddings – college friends, yet I don’t think I am very good when I hear my own voice.
  34. I have always been terrible at team sports because I am not competitive. I hate for anyone to lose. I like individual activities like running, weight-lifting, golf (though I don't know how to play), etc.
  35. I am terrible about calling people back on the phone and staying in touch with my long-distance friends. I don’t know why and I need to get better at this.
  36. I am smarter than a 5th grader because I realize that just because my birthday was on Easter Sunday, it will not be on a Sunday every year, UNLIKE the contestant AND 5th grader who got it wrong two weeks ago. (Not that I watch the show, HONESTLY, but my 14 year old niece, Lauren, informed me of this question this past Easter weekend as we were discussing the fact that my birthday actually falls on Easter, for the only time in my lifetime. Not again until 2160.)


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Brian is diagnosed - the first night. Miracle Monday

Continuing from this, this and this – brings us to just after our wedding day. I decided to break this first week of Brian’s diagnosis into two parts since there was just so much emotion associated with the first day.

After a week in tropical paradise enjoying our first trip as newlyweds, Brian and I returned to St. Louis to start our life together. I flew back to Denver the next day. Brian wrapped up some things in Peoria, packed a couple weeks worth of clothes and drove to Denver that weekend to live in my apartment for the next two weeks until our wedding gifts and Brian’s furniture arrived and we closed on our house at the end of May.

Brian arrived that weekend. The first and second week, he spent a couple days traveling – a mere glimpse into what this Denver field assignment should entail. On May 16, a Friday, Brian and I flew back to St. Louis to attend my baby sister’s college graduation in Cape Girardeau the next day. My sister graduated on Saturday, May 17, from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau – about 2 hours south of St. Louis. My parents had 25 acres and an old farm house a few miles north of there. That is where Mindi’s graduation party was on Sunday, May 19, 1997. We spent a wonderful weekend enjoying our family, browsing through our wedding proofs, riding 4 wheelers and visiting in the hot May sun. Sunday night, Brian and I rode back to St. Louis with my Aunt Deb and Uncle Paul. We stayed at my parents’ St. Louis house even though they would not return until the next day. We had an early flight back to Denver. I was starting a new position at Lockheed Martin that week in a leadership development program and Brian was to leave from the Denver airport immediately on another trip.

Mindi and I at her graduationBrian mere hours before our first hospital encounter.

Brian and I needed to get to bed early for our early flight and in the interest of time, or to make time interesting, as Brian says, we showered together. Out of nowhere, Brian says, “Woah, what is that?”
Me “What is what?”
B: “My hand feels totally weird. It is tingling, like it is falling asleep, now it is up my arm. Woah, my foot. My tonnn….. Maaa…. Tuuuu….… Gaaa……... Ou……” He gets out of the shower. He grabs a towel. He sits on the toilet.

I get out of the shower. I grab a towel and ask, “Are you alright?” He shakes his head no. “What’s the matter?” I ask.

He shrugs his shoulders and tries to talk more… “Caaaa…. ya…. geee gaaaass?” He makes a gesture as though he is putting on his glasses.

Me: “You want me to get your glasses?”

He nods yes.

Me: “Brian, what is going on? Are you okay? Do you need to go to the hospital?”

He tries to speak again: “Yaaaaa,” he nods. “I…caa….taaa…..”

We don’t have a car. My parents are not home. I grab the phone and call my aunt Deb and Uncle Paul. They live a few blocks away. Paul was going to take us to the airport the next day on his way to work. I explain what I can of the situation and ask for a ride to the hospital. Paul says he is on his way. He is at the house in minutes.

In the meantime, Brian’s episode subsides. He is now completely fine as though nothing happened. He can talk. His hand feels fine. His body feels normal. He considers what just happened. He had experienced a series of strange sensations all on the right side of his body. He lost his ability to speak for a few minutes. Then he was fine. I am trembling. Paul comes in the house. I am still half-way wrapped in a towel. Brian explains to Paul what just happened and we try to decide if we actually need to go to the hospital since Brian is currently fine. Paul tells me before he can talk about it I have got to put some clothes on. We laugh. I put some clothes on and we head to the hospital just to be safe.

Since everything seems to be fine, Paul drops us off at the ER and we decide we will call him when we are finished. Who knows how long this may take? We have never had a fast ER experience. While I am filling out admission papers, the triage team decides to put Brian on an EEG machine since all his symptoms were right side specific. I don’t know any of this information on these forms. We have been married for 4 weeks. I take the clipboards back and find my man laying on a gurney hooked up to EEG smiling lovingly at me. We laugh about how we will get mere minutes of sleep before we have to catch our flight. We speak to the extremely young ER doctor resident. We joke with him. He asks what our activities were that day – a few beers, riding 4 wheelers, hanging in the hot sun. He leaves. My Aunt JoAnn – an O.R. surgical tech – arrives. I think nothing of it except how nice it was for her to come so late. It is around 10:00 by now. I tell her we will just call her when we are done. She says she will just stick around. To this day, I have never asked her why she came to the hospital that night. I am sure when Aunt Deb called her to tell her what was going on, she must have known it could be something VERY serious. Is that what happened, Aunt JoAnn? The ER doctor comes back in and says they are going to do a CT scan, JUST IN CASE to rule out everything. Okay. I watch my husband get wheeled away on a gurney for the first of what will soon be countless times.

When Brian is wheeled back, it is getting quite late by now. We laugh that we probably should just stay up because it will be harder to wake for our flight if we sleep now. It is approaching midnight, I think. The ER doctor returns. Here is what I remember from there: “I don’t really know how to tell you this. What you probably experienced today……. seizure……… Your CT scan was abnormal……… lesion………….left side of your brain…..I’m very sorry.” This meant almost nothing to me. Lesion? What the heck is a lesion? What does this mean???? Aunt JoAnn starts to cry and says, “Darnit. I was hoping this wasn’t the case. I was afraid of this.” She rubs my back. I stare blankly at the ER doctor, then at Brian who looked as lost and confused as I was. Brian said, “What does that mean?”

Too-young-to-bear-bad-news-to-someone-his-own-age ER doctor replies, “We are not really sure… to specialist….. any number of things….more tests….admit you right away….neurological ward…..I’m very sorry.”

So there it was - the elephant in the room we didn’t even know we were ignoring for the last two hours.

Brian looks at me and I at him. JoAnn leaves us alone for a minute. Brian says I need to call his parents and have them come to St. Louis. They live in Peoria – about a 3 hour drive from St. Louis with Brian’s youngest brother, Michael, who is 16 at the time. As he is telling me this, he has another episode. It scares us and I notify the staff. We don’t understand these episodes yet – the tingling sensations, the sudden inability to speak, the randomness, the sudden onset. (We would learn throughout the course of that night he was having focal sensory seizures. They were triggered from the abnormality in the scan – on the left side of his brain – controlling the right side of his body.) I am crying, shaking, trembling from my quivering lip to my icy cold sandaled toes. Not understanding the seizures yet and what they mean, Brian tells me to make sure his family knows he loves them – his parents, his brothers and Brennen, his nephew, too. When the episode is over, he tells me to “make sure you live your life – move on – be strong. You are beautiful and you need to know I expect you to marry again and I love you all the same. It is okay.” I kiss him. I lay on the bed with him for a minute and he tells me I have to go call his parents.

I leave the room. I still don’t understand what this means. Lesion? More tests? I have to ask JoAnn. I have to find JoAnn. She is in the lobby with more of my aunts now. Aunt Vicki, Aunt JoAnn, Aunt Deb. I think anyway. I don’t remember. I just know that it must be even more serious than I understand at this point in time. JoAnn helps me find a nurse to use their phone to call long distance. This was 1997 before everyone carried a cell phone and when pay phones were plentiful. I don’t remember what I said to Jan and Ed, Brian’s parents. I know I am trembling. I know I am nervous and I know I call them around 1:00 in the morning to tell them to come to St. Louis right now because Brian was having all kinds of problems on the right side of his body and they were admitting him to the neurological ward right away. I hand the phone to either the nurse or Aunt JoAnn and they tell her more and give her directions. As a mother today, I can’t imagine what she went through. I can’t imagine what happened next at their house. I have never talked to her about it. I know that less than 6 hours later (3 hour drive), Ed, Jan, Michael, Sean and Cheryl (Brian’s older brother and wife) showed up in the neurological unit in Brian’s room.

After the phone call, on the way back to Brian’s room, I can’t breathe or think. I must have heard the word cancer somewhere in the last hour because I am now consumed with thoughts of Brian’s death. I am consumed with fear, uncertainty, sorrow and fatigue. I collapse in the hall to my knees – and not metaphorically. I should take it as a chance to pray to my God humbled on my knees, but I don’t. I pick myself back up, brush away my tears, and walk into Brian’s holding room. We hold each other in that little single hospital bed, kiss and cry ourselves back to reality.

Brian’s family arrives at the neurologist unit in Brian’s room by early morning – around 6:30 am. Brian is still having episodes every 45 minutes or less. Each one more frightening to us than the last…what do these mean? Will he lose consciousness with the next? He asks me to leave the room and has words expressing his love to each of them privately.

By mid morning, after meeting with the neurologist, we understand Brian’s episodes better and she easily controls them with the correct medication. Brian needs a large first dose to get therapeutic levels in his blood. Once that happens, he doesn’t have another episode for weeks. At this point time, though, we have to determine exactly what the abnormal spot on the CT scan is. We have only been at the hospital for around 12 hours at this time.

This was one of the worst evenings/nights of my life. This was also the beginning of a new journey for Brian and me. This was the first day we were struck down to the point of such despair and confusion that we found ourselves desperately searching for logic, hope, reason, ANYTHING. This was the first day Brian and I would begin our journey to the relationship we have with Christ today. That is the biggest miracle of all that particular night. Another miracle was this: my Aunt JoAnn was nudged by God to be at that hospital with us that night. Aunt JoAnn stayed with us all that first night. Aunt Vicki, Aunt Deb and Aunt Jane – were you there all night? I just don’t remember. The only phone call I had to make was to Brian’s mom. The remainder of our very large families were notified all thanks to JoAnn’s first phone call. I didn’t even have to call my mom, who at the time, did not handle news like that with as much grace as she does today. We would have been a mess together. Also, JoAnn, having some surgical connections, immediately asked if we wanted the name of some neuro-surgeons as that was the recommended next specialist. Where would we have begun with this if not for her? She called a neuro-surgeon for us and he was coming to meet us in the morning. Aunt JoAnn was the person we needed at that exact moment in time. She listened to and obeyed God’s promptings for her to be there. We are so thankful she did.

Next week… The rest of diagnosis week: Discovering many more truths.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

My Many Musical Moods

I was listening to this amazing little girl, Gabi Wilson, sing the other day and walked away from the computer not realizing that related clips would follow. I heard some R&B dance ditty and was jumping around like Josie Grosie in Never Been Kissed. (I don’t know what is more embarrassing – that I dance like Josie Grosie or that I admit I have seen Never Been Kissed.) Then, I was in the kitchen when I heard Electric Slide. I couldn’t help myself. I “Electric Slide-d” through the entire house at 4 in the afternoon to the song in its entirety. I think the Holy Spirit Himself overtook me and had me exert what energy I had remaining. I HAVE to Electric Slide if I hear it. My ridiculous spectacle of myself made me realize that I respond differently to different types of music.

1) Christian Rock – This is what I listen to about 75% of the time at this stage of my life. Sometimes I sing along. Usually I am just zoning out in the car, but I like to think my subconscious self is praising even when I’m not making a concerted effort to do so.

2) 80’s Dance songs – Make me want to, well… dance. I can do the Molly-Ringwald-Breakfast-Club pony and the Electric Slide like no other. I want to don my Units belt, leggings, oversized-shoulder-padded-Boy-George jacket and legwarmers and frolic about like Marine Jahan did to “Maniac” in Flashdance (not Jennifer Beals who actually played Alex, but didn’t dance). I can’t control myself.

3) 80’s Alternative/Punk – Depeche Mode, Violent Femmes, the Cure – I want to hide in the back room of some black-light illuminated multi-room nightclub, smoke Marlboro Lights and flirt incessantly with purple-spike-haired, black-leather wearing guy. Just kidding. I want to go look through high school yearbooks and get out my cassettes – only we don’t have a cassette player anymore…

4) 90’s Grunge – Nirvana, Pearl Jam. Brian thanks them for bringing some integrity back to music to get us out of 80’s Pop. I BLAME them for it, bu-uut I also like them. When I hear them, I want to jump in a mosh pit for about 5 minutes, then immediately take a shower.(I’m a mid 30’s mom, for crying out loud)

5) Rap - Turn the dial. I have no tolerance or appreciation. (unless it’s DJ Jazzy Jeff or Ton Loc)

6) Blues/Crooners – The blues and any sort of Norah Jones-ish, lounge-y singing puts me…well… “in the sexy mood.” Can’t explain it. I sing along to Frank and the Rat Pack, though.

7) Heavy Metal – Barring Big Hair Band Monster Ballads, I mute or fast forward. I can’t resist the ballads, though. What mid to late 30-something didn’t have a monster ballad as “their song” with a high school sweetie?

8) Club/Dance mix/Hip Hop – I primarily workout to this, all those annoying songs you hear between plays at a football or basketball game give me a boost on the treadmill. (“Who let the Dogs Out” is one of my favorite tunes for running, Stop laughing.)

9) Big Band/Swing - This music makes me want to try to swing dance, but I never learned, so I just wave my pointer finger and Charleston.

10) Country- I am impartial. Don’t love it. Don’t hate it. But it doesn’t MOVE me any direction. I do like bluegrass, though.

11) Broadway Show Tunes - I sing at the top of my lungs. Come on, who hasn’t tried to belt out their best Mary Magdalene “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from JC Superstar?

12) Jazz – For some inexplicable reason, it makes me want to clean and decorate my house. Something about a nice soft sax and clarinet makes me think of a super modern, high-tech stereo system in a tidy, irrationally organized room meant for entertaining, sharing a bottle of red and relaxing.

13) Classic Rock – I have urges to drink beer and play some cards with friends and family. Also makes me think of my hubby, Brian, who has every album Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead have ever recorded or had boot-legged comprising about 50 gig of his 200 gig music collection.

(I know I am cheating by adding two more, but I am also going to take a 3 day break from blogging for Easter, so cut me some slack.)

13a) Reggae – I want to have a margarita and sit outside basking in the warmth of the sun – beach, pool, lake, backyard, whatever. For this reason, I reserve reggae for warm conditions, lest I get depressed thinking of the inconsistent March and April mid-west weather..

13b) Classical – Sit down in my big comfy chair in my extremely tidy room the Jazz music helped me create and enjoy a glass of wine, a fire and a book or crossword/Sudoku puzzle.

What many moods of music do you display?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Grant's favorite birthday present, this is. (Wordless Wednesday)

Dressing the part

A padawan no longer. A jedi, you have become.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Update on Brian - March 17, 2008

Some news on Brian....

Today, the clinical trial physican's assistant from Stanford called Brian regarding his last MRI and MRSI. They concur with the Peoria team's assessment that there is an area of increased enhancement - a small growth. It is not an alarming growth, but given the aggressive nature of the pathology (Grade IV glioblastoma, makes me cringe to write that still), it warrants further assessment and possibly a change in Brian's course of treatment.

They are sending their findings directly to the Peoria team (well, his oncologist anyway since don't really HAVE a team here). She is talking with the neuro-oncologist at Stanford for us to seek his opinion as well.

Brian is scheduled for another MRI in two weeks on March 31, 2008. The appointment for receiving the results is on April 9, 2008. If this MRI shows further progression, a change in Brian's treatment plan (a new chemo) will definitely be recommended.

This is difficult, to say the least. We are in good spirits because the change was minimal. Any change with this diagnosis scares us, though. Brian is feeling pretty good. He is having some issues with a sinus-type headache above his eyes, around his nose and over his ears. His left ear is in more discomfort, which naturally has me worried. In July 2006, he experienced lots of these sinus headaches and discomfort over his ear. Looking back, that was probably the beginning of the recurrence. Naturally, these sinus headaches are a concern to us as a potential sign of something more significant. Overall, though, he is feeling relatively strong and I would say his speech is improving.

Pray for Brian - his healing, his peace of mind, his healing, his headaches, his healing

Pray for me - I am a mess trying not to look like one. I am very talented at this.

Pray for my boys - my biggest fear is that they will not have a daddy to raise them. Please pray that my biggest fear is just that - a silly fear.

If you don't pray just read these words and you have prayed anyway...

Lord, we lift up Brian to You for Your promise of healing. We know You are a God of miracles and we are claiming that miraculous healing for Brian right now. You can restore him to the perfect health You desire for him. We are agreeing with You right now for the spirit of truth and understanding You have given to Angie, not a spirit of fear. Fear has no power over You. None. We are praying that Gavin and Grant will have their daddy present in their lives for many years to develop them, suppport them and encourage them. Your desire is for the family to be a unit that models Your love. We pray that for the O'Neills. In your name. Amen


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Proposals and Weddings - Miracle Monday

This week, I continue the stories of the miracles in the lives of Brian and Angie. Two weeks ago, I spoke of how we would first meet. Last week, I outlined how our relationship developed. This week, I will detail Brian’s proposal and our wedding.

We left off with me in Denver, working for Lockheed Martin and Brian in Chicago working for Caterpillar. My time in Denver was crucial for my growth, my confidence and my soul-searching. It was here that I truly realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Brian in a healthy way, not the co-dependant-save-me-from-this-town way, rather the I-am-better-because-of-you way. I didn’t care where his job would take him. I wanted to be with him, have a family with him and grow old with him. We continued our long distance relationship for almost a year. Well, 8-1/2 months actually, but I don’t keep track of unimportant details like that. There were many occasions in which I thought a proposal was appropriate, but every time we would have our monthly rendezvous, I would do the walk of shame into the office that Monday with MANY inquisitive glances at my left hand. I wanted to be with Brian, but quite frankly, this non-committal weekend jet-setting was getting old….and ….expensive. Brian still does not understand this concept – I want to be with you for the rest of my life, but I am not willing to wait around much longer. He is SO MALE!

July 4, 1996, Brian and I went to a concert at Red Rocks amphitheatre –one of the best outdoor venues in the country. It was Blues Traveler and it was awesome. We sat up high enough to see the fireworks in the distance over the geologically natural rock stage as the band kept the tempo lively American and John Popper jammed on his harmonica. Brian’s plan was to propose to me that night – under the stars, watching live music (one of our favorite pastimes) with fireworks in the distance. One big problem – I had WAAAAYYYY too much to drink. Not my finest hour. He kept the ring in his pocket all night; paranoid of being pick pocketed by the concert crowd and watched his intended fiancée foil his plans. He had the discernment to wait. The next day, we donned our roller blades and journeyed down the Platte River trail to the Cherry Creek trail for a full day outing. The weather was amazing – hot crisp July sun, joggers, walkers, bikers and roller-bladers sharing the trail smiling knowingly at each other delighting in the splendor of the day. Then in rolled the afternoon thunderstorms. We sought shelter under a local Chevy’s outdoor veranda for a margarita and some chips and salsa enjoying the electric display dancing across the sky. Eventually, we made our way back to my apartment. I was busily doing laundry and prepping my apartment for my parents’ visit the next day. Brian was on the 3X6 concrete balcony veranda asking me to join him watch the sunset. “Just a sec,” I brushed off his request. “Hey, bring your wine, too,” he told me. Finally, I stopped cleaning up, grabbed my champagne glass (full of uber-sweet Asti Spumante – we were 24 year old beer drinkers normally, so nothing but the finest for us), and walked straight into the closed screen door spilling half my beverage down my shirt. Holding back his laughter, Brian asked me to marry him at my apartment on July 5, 1996 at 8:30 pm. I said yes at 8:30:07pm.

the only picture I have from the day we were engaged - my lily white Irish fiancee-to-be who was probaby a shade of crimson by the end of the day in that mile high sun

I joke that while in Denver I became completely irresistible so Brian proposed with a huge rock to snatch me up before anyone else could. But that sounds so caddy and inappropriate, so I won’t say that here. In reality, Brian had ensured he paid the ring in full before proposing.

After informing our families and deciding on a St. Louis location, we set a date for April 19, 1997. There were so many blessings associated with our wedding. I am fortunate enough to have amazing parents who paid for nearly the entire wedding. Brian and I were both Catholic with very large families and we had a HUGE wedding. We had 5 bridesmaids and groomsmen, 2 candle-lighters, 1 jr. bridesmaid and jr. groomsman, 1 flower girl and ring bearer, and 3 ushers, making it just short of ridiculous. Since it was MY wedding, it was not ridiculous. During our engagement, Brian was transferred back to Peoria for a 6-month assignment before his first field assignment. This was a Godsend because he was able to live with his parents for a few months, saving enough money to pay cash for our honeymoon and for a sizable down payment for a house – wherever that may be.

Five months prior to our wedding day, Brian’s dad, Ed, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. He had surgery followed by a series of interferon treatments. The interferon made Ed very ill and fatigued. He was able to take a small break from treatments during our wedding time and had plenty of energy and Ed-good-cheer for the event. A week before our wedding, Brian’s mom, Jan, suffered from a spider bite causing a strange rash and swelling infecting half her face. She had to sleep upright up for the infection to work its way out of her bloodstream. It was gone by the wedding day. 10 days before our April wedding, there was an unusual cold spell in the Midwest dumping over a foot of snow in Illinois and Missouri. The night of our rehearsal dinner (the best ever at Mike Shannon’s across from Busch Stadium – Go Cards!) there was a major thunderstorm dumping hail and inches of rain on the city. The day of our wedding, the air was crisp with all the signs of Spring – tulips, green grass, abundant sunshine, and a fantastic 70 degrees. It was a day kissed by angels. Here are some pictures. Notice my enormous veil & puffy-sleeved princess-dress that I loved, still love and would pick out again today (maybe)

our quaint little wedding party

All during our engagement while Brian was in Peoria, IL and I in Denver, we knew Brian would be transferred to his first field assignment shortly after our wedding. We did not know where this would be. There were MANY options all over the country. Brian, naturally, lobbied for any Denver location, but there could be no guarantees – it would be dependant on availability and Brian’s skill set compatibility. Once again, God shined upon us providing an opportunity in Denver opening in May 1997. In early March, Brian was told he was assigned to the location. It was such a blessing. He traveled to Denver on company-paid trips for house-hunting and training. I could keep my well-paid job at the company I loved doing what I enjoyed for the time being – 3 years or so was our guess. 3 years seemed like a nice time to stay career-oriented until we started a family. Brian would move into my apartment the week after our honeymoon and we would close on our house the end of May. It was the perfect beginning to our fairy tale.

So we thought.

Next week:
Brian is diagnosed


If you want to read other miracles this Monday, visit Beth at A Mom's Life.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Our microwave is busted. It is under warranty and they are coming back to fix it on Monday, however, it has been out of commission since last Saturday. It would only stand to reason, then, that this would be the week I would make meals producing record-breaking amounts of left-overs. Apparently, the microwave is suffering from a bad magnetron. I’m an engineer by degree. I should have known magnetron wasn’t an invented word, but I just couldn’t help myself when I told the repairman they didn’t have to order the part because the boys had some transformers in the basement. He didn’t think I was very funny, either.

In order to redeem myself from my cheesy humor and ensure I demonstrate to you that I possess the mental capacity ensuring I obtained my coveted engineering degree, I thought I would reduce our week without a microwave to some simple equations.

Leftovers + microwave = lunch options for mommy
Leftovers + microwave = dinner options for daddy and mommy
Leftovers + microwave = nights off dishes and cooking
Leftovers + microwave = spoiled Americans convenience

Leftovers – microwave = pain in the arse
Leftovers – microwave = No logical computable answer
Leftovers – microwave = May as well make another meal with the amount of time and dishes required to reheat leftovers
Leftovers – microwave = Many uneaten leftovers

No microwave = no popcorn
No microwave = not enough hours in day
No microwave = no cheese dip
No microwave = newfound appreciation for my mother raising us prior to 1983.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Five Years with Grant, March 14, 2008

My Dearest Grant,

Five years and 3 months ago, your daddy and I found out the in-vitro attempt failed again and we weren’t pregnant. Five years and 2 months ago, we decided to try adopting again. Five years and 1 month ago, Valentine’s Day, we were told we were chosen by your wonderful birth mommy to be your adoptive parents. Five years and 3 weeks ago, your Daddy had his hip replaced. Five years and 2 weeks ago, we were told you were probably a girl. We named you Chloe, but had a backup name of Grant just in case 'probably' was 'maybe.' Five years ago today, when we awoke, your daddy and I got the news that your birth-mommy was in labor, one day early, pack our bags and be ready to go to Springfield that day. Five years ago, March 14, 2003, at 1:30 pm we got a phone call that the baby was born and IT’S A BOY! Turns out 'probably' WAS 'maybe.' 'Maybe' turns out to be a blessing. I can’t imagine not having YOU – GRANT – MY LITTLE BABY BOY!

Five years ago today, your daddy (on crutches) and I left the house at 2:00 and met you around 3:30pm. Our beautiful 8 pound 20 inch baby boy. You were in the NICU at the hospital because your birth-mommy didn’t want to have you in the birthing ward so we could spend as much time with you as possible. You were a giant in that unit of the hospital with all those tiny 3 pound babies. Your birth-mommy was so generous to let us have so much time with you. Your amazing, giving, beautiful, selfless birth-mommy. She was very young and her parents were too old to give you a good life. They all loved you. We met your birth-mommy, your birth aunt and uncle and your birth grandparents the next day, just before we took you home. They loved you and if circumstances would have been slightly different, they would have parented you instead. The circumstances were the way God chose them to be so we could add you to our family and they could make the most difficult, yet the most bighearted decision of their lives.

Grant, you are a blessing to our family. You are a challenge and a joy. You are strong and you are sweet. You are stubborn and you are giving. You are smart and you are supportive. You are good at everything you attempt. You have given us so many wonderful memories over the last 5 years. You cried so much the first 3 months. You didn’t smile much your first 6 months. You were so serious. You are still so serious, but to those that know you, you are so silly, too. You have sucked your thumb since you were 5 weeks old. You have been into everything mischievous since you were crawling. You have emptied the ashes from the fireplace onto our family room carpet. You have written on walls. You have dumped garbage cans full of shredded paper into the sump pump. You have dumped a bottle of Eucerin onto my bedroom carpet. You still spill something just about weekly. You were pedaling at 14 months. You were riding a two-wheeled scooter at 2 years. You were riding a 2-wheeled bike at 3 years and one month. You have been successfully tackling monkey bars since you were 3. You have always had an amazing ability to crash into a dead sleep in the oddest of places at the strangest of hours. You are your brother’s best friend and his biggest competition.

Your infancy is a blur to me, I hate to say. I had a 17 month old, a newborn baby, and a cat who decided he was too good for his litter box. When I reminisce about it and peruse through photos, the beautiful time it was is relived in my head again and again. Grant, my dear sweet baby boy, I know I tell you to stop growing up and you tell me Jesus won’t let you, but I don’t really want you to stop growing up. I couldn’t be prouder of whom you are becoming and I love being part of it.

I love you, but Jesus loves you even more,

Thirteen Daily Phrases

Today's rendition of Thursday Thirteen is a compilation of 13 phrases I know I say daily.

  1. Gavin, EAT!

  2. Grant, do you smell that? *sniff sniff* That is your stinky attitude.

  3. Daddy’s HOME!

  4. I. Do. Not. Care. Who. Started. It. STOP FIGHTING and tell him you are sorry.

  5. No, Grant, you CANNOT have a snack right now. If you even ASK me for a snack again, you are going to be in trouble.

  6. Gavin, are your pants wet or dry? (yeah folks, he’s 6-1/2, talk about potty training never ending hell!)

  7. Hey, watch your mouth! No bathroom words!


  9. What are the rules?

  10. Can you NOT see that I am on the phone?

  11. Oh, what I think you meant to say was, ‘thanks for dinner, mommy. I know you worked hard on it and I didn’t mean to say all those nasty things about something you worked on’

  12. Did you hear me? I said I will NOT REPEAT MYSELF AGAIN. (ridiculous, I know)

  13. Good night. Mommy loves you, but Jesus loves you more.

Makes me realize I need to add a few more positive phrases to my daily regimen. Ouch.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Overheard in the bathroom

Actual words I have overheard in the bathroom when my boys were present, all with less than desirable outcomes:

1) Wanna swordfight with our pee?

2) Gavin: "MOM! Grant is peeing inthe toilet the same time I am trying to poop!" Grant: "But I had to go so bad."

3) tee hee, giggle giggle, tee hee

4) Look what I can do.

5) AAAHHHH! me:"what's wrong?" I accidentally peed in my mouth.

6) Gavin is often constipated and feels the need to explain his poop's consistency. Here are some of his descriptions:

  • slippery poop

  • won't come out poop

  • regular squishy poop

  • chocolate syrup poop

7) You shouldn't have given me all that fruit!


Monday, March 10, 2008

Long Distance Relationships, Miracle Monday March 10, 2008

Warning: This is a ridiculously uber-long, half a novel of a post, which is now even longer because I had to tell you how long it was. I will probably not post for two days so you have a chance to come back and read if you wish.

Today, I am continuing the story of Brian and me and all the miracles that have surrounded us from meeting and marrying to his diagnosis and God’s provision in our lives through our good and bad times. I wouldn’t call this week’s post a miracle, rather our relationship story. All relationships are a bit of a miracle. The obvious miracles in our lives started occurring after Brian and I were married. This week is a necessary filler to get us to that point. Last week, I summarized how life’s circumstances brought Brian and me to the same small university in the middle of Missouri. That is where our paths would first cross.

I don’t remember the first time I met Brian. I met him my freshman year sometime, but didn’t take much note. He didn’t either. We didn’t have very many common friends at the time. He tells me he saw me in the cafeteria at our dorm. He and his buddies had a nickname for me that I will not repeat here, but it had something to do with my overall short height, yet ample bosom. Brian and I wouldn’t hook up until our junior year. We both dated others and partied with different people until then. University of Missouri at Rolla, being in such a small town in the middle of nowhere, is neither known for its campus events, nor its nightlife. There isn’t much for going on dates, etc. The dating scheme at UMR falls more like this: You meet at a party somewhere, you hang out more and more at the same parties, you “hook up.” Very romantic, eh? That is what we did. We eyed each other our junior year as we started to have more and more mutual friends, hung out at more of the same places, until eventually, Brian declared his undying love for me. HA!!! HA!!! HA!!! Anyone who knows the Brian and Angie of college know this couldn’t be farther from the truth. We just ended up together after a while. Then together more. Then more, until it was pretty obvious we were a couple.

Brian and Angie Hermann, MO winery 1995

Brian always had great summer internship jobs related to his field of study. He was great at interviewing. He has always had amazing confidence, communication skills and people skills. Brian and I spent our summers and our Christmas breaks apart with quick visits occasionally. I was in St. Louis doing crap manual labor work to eek out a measly $6/hour on my feet all day (my justification for higher education, yet not meant to offend anyone who chooses this as their profession). Summers were hard, but when we would spend a weekend or two together, he was so confident, so funny, so sexy, so responsible, so fun, so charming, so witty, and so into me. It was those summers that made me realize this man could be in my life seriously. Then the school year would roll around again. Did I mention we went to an engineering school? I think I did last week. Well, schools specializing in engineering are usually associated with male-dominated campuses. Our small campus in the middle of Missouri in a town with not much to offer and a campus that was 70% male, left the young college men to creatively fend for themselves. Brian and his friends were very into being GUYS, hanging out with each other, drinking, and partying without obligation, care or attention to the female influences in their lives if it existed (well Thursday night through Sunday morning anyway, the rest of the week, he was a sweetheart again) I was jealous, probably jealous more of his friends than girls, but jealous of anyone. (Pretty crazy given the 70% male to female ratio.) Brian and I broke up and made up lots of times over the 3 years until he graduated in 1995. Nevertheless, for the greater part, I liked myself with Brian. I liked how he gave me confidence, believed in me and loved me, yet was a good friend to his buddies.
Brian and some buddies in college at his frat house bar

I graduated in 1994 and got a job in Paducah, KY for Lockheed Martin in project management. I liked my job. I hated the town. (I don’t hate it now, btw) Small town life was not a suitable match for this St. Louis girl. The only thing I liked about being single and in my early 20’s in Paducah, KY was a couple of good friends I made (but sadly don’t talk to anymore) and my brother and his family in the same town. Brian had another year of college. We drove to see each other about once a month. He was so busy that 5th year of college because he had a heavy course load to meet the requirements for his May graduation. He was also all over the country on interviews. We had so many deep discussions about where his first job would locate him and what this meant to our future. I truly thought once he graduated he would ask me to marry him, rescue me from Kentucky and move me wherever he was. He started talking about taking some job at Caterpillar in Illinois in a division that would move him every 1-3 years for a while and possibly transfer him to another country some day. WHAT?!?! How was this fair to me?! What about my education and my career?!? The fact that Brian was considering this job made me feel as though he didn’t value me or my education and opportunities. He took the job despite my protest and hesitation. I remember meeting some of his new co-workers one evening and talking to one guy’s fiancée.

Me: What are you going to do about your job when you get married and move?
Her: Quit.
Me: That’s not fair.
Her: Yeah, but with this job, that’s the way it is.
Me: Well, it shouldn’t be.
Her: Maybe, but when I said, yes, I knew this was going to be our life.
Me: You sound like Brian. It’s still not fair.
Her: Doesn’t matter to me. You should probably think hard about how much it matters to you.

I didn’t know the answer. I didn’t know how much it mattered to me. What I did know is Brian wasn’t proposing and I wasn’t loving Kentucky. I had met a co-worker that started training me in some new things at Lockheed during this time - one of the few co-workers at that facility that was not FROM Paducah and had actually transferred from a different part of the company. God put him in my path. He introduced me to the intra-company job listings and helped me with my interview skills. He actually wanted to see me succeed and he believed in me, which was not something I felt from my boss. He helped me get an interview at the Lockheed Martin facility in Denver. I rocked the interview, fell head-over-heels in love with Denver and got the job. I told Brian.

“I got the job in Denver.”
“Good for you. You’ve got MAD skills, Babe. I knew you could do it.”
“They want me to start in a month or so.”
“You’re taking the job?”
“I think so.”
“I didn’t think you would really move.”
“Why else would I go for the interview? Do you not want me to take the job?”
"I think you should go. I think it will be great for you.”
WRONG FREAKING ANSWER, BUB! YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO SAY, ‘DON’T LEAVE. MARRY ME. I LOVE YOU.’ “Oh. Well, I will probably move in November. I don’t really know what this means for us.”
“We will figure it out.”

Brian was living in Chicago at the time. I was about to move to Denver. I knew no one. I had never lived away from my family (except for the 1-1/2 hour trek between home and college). It was 14 hours away from them. It was 17 hours away from the man I loved, but it was THE MOST EXCITING TIME OF MY LIFE SO FAR!

Denver was good to me. I met great people. I loved the lifestyle. I loved how outdoor-oriented and healthy it was. I loved roller-blading 10 miles a day from the parking lot of my complex along the Platte River and back. I loved waking in the morning, looking out my apartment window and seeing MOUNTAINS. I had only seen mountains ONCE a year before when Brian and I took a ski trip to Utah. I LOVED DENVER!! I loved my job. I started doing accounting and finance work. I was good at it. I enjoyed it. I worked hard and long hours at it, but I didn’t care because I LOVED IT! I was really happy, Happy with myself, with my job, with my confidence and my abilities for the first time in my life. I felt like everything that was going well for me in Denver was because of ME for a change. Turns out there were discount airlines flying between Denver and Chicago knocking down all airfare between the two cities. We saw each other about once a month - Friday night to Sunday afternoon. Those were the best Fridays and the WORST Sundays of the month. We had a blast. We skied, hiked, roller-bladed, and went to concerts and ballgames when Brian came to Denver. We went to clubs, restaurants, hockey games and downtown when I went to Chicago. But where was this going? How long do we keep doing this - spending a couple hundred bucks on parking, entertainment and airfare to see someone once a month? I started approaching the question with Brian. A little at first, then A LOT! The discussions didn’t get very far.

It all makes sense now: the immaturity of our relationship in college, the jealousy I needed to outgrow (and could only be tolerated by someone as laid back and confident as Brian), the reprioritization Brian did of his own life his 5th year of college, the 1-1/2 years in Kentucky so Brian and I could continue to see each other and develop our relationship and our long-distance skills (we were good at it), the job at Caterpillar which would eventually be one of the biggest blessings in our lives, the transfer to Denver – for my own growth and development and the implications it would soon have on Brian’s health. It was all working according to God’s purpose. We had no idea. We didn’t give Him the glory or the credit, and at the time, we really didn’t seek His guidance for these huge decisions in front of us. He loved us anyway, and worked all things together for His purpose in our lives.

Next week:
Proposals and weddings


Sunday, March 9, 2008

My first meme.

Tootsie Farklepants tagged me with my first meme. Go check out her blog if and when you get a chance because with a name like SmuckersTootsie Farklepants, it has to be good.

Rules: Go back through your archives and post the links to your five favorite blog posts that you’ve written.

Link one must be about family
Link two must be about friends
Link three must be about yourself
Link four must be about something you love
Link five can be about anything you choose

Post your five links and then tag five other people. At least two of the people you tag must be newer acquaintances so that you get to know each other better.

I have not been blogging all that long. Well, I have, but prior to November, my blogs were updates on our hospital stay at Stanford last Spring and were functional, meant to inform our family and friends of Brian's constantly changing condition during the most trying time of our lives so far. Believe me, trying times are becoming our native tongue.

So, here goes, but you probably have seen these:

1) family:This is where my boys show their amazing musical gifts.

2) friends. I realized that I don't blog about my friends much, so I will soon being doing so. In the meantime, this is a post by Heather at 3 boys and me who blogged about our new year's this past year IN REAL LIFE.

3) myself: This is where I find myself taking care of a few things around the house I never used to touch.

4) something I love: This will make you think my husband is a saint. This will remind you he is not.

5) anything I want: This and this describe more of what every day life is like for us living doctor appointment to doctor appointment.

(If you read nothing else, read the last link since it is the most insightful.)

Since I linked 237 times, my linker thinker is tired and I'm not tagging anyone. It was fun to read some of my "older" stuff and try to find something I thought may amuse or give insight. Please do this if you wish and let me know so I can read yours.


Friday, March 7, 2008

How old are you anyway?

Something strange has started to happen in our lives. We have entered into a dimension that is uncharted for us, a zone for which we were not prepared, and a phase we are reluctant to accept. Sometime recently, Brian and I have become - ONE OF THE OLDEST MEMBERS OF THE GROUP! doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo (twilight zone if you didn’t get it. sorry) In the past year, I have noticed that when I sign up for organizations including mothers of young children, or I put the boys in an activity, I am one of the older moms attending. It seems like overnight I went from young, hip, rookie mom to older, wise, mentor mother. What happened and WHEN?

A few months ago, Brian and I went out for a night on the town while my mom (older, wiser, mentor mother) offered so graciously to keep the boys. We decided to go to an upscale bar/grill with good food and live music. This is not a downtown, barely 20’s, meat-market, college, dance hall-type establishment. It’s a nice place. I looked around and noticed that the majority demographic was that of one less advanced in years than we. I pointed this out to Brian who promptly told me to speak for myself. (He is 8 months younger than me and LOVES IT.)

Me: Seriously. Don't you notice this more and more often?
Brian: No, I don't.
Me: Brian, don't you remember when you used to say when referring to a co-worker or colleague, 'He’s older than us, he is in his late 30's or so?' We are quickly approaching that. (1/2 empty)
Brian: Yeah, but we're not there yet. (1/2 full)
Me: Regardless, it is not a qualified statement to say ‘someone in their late 30s or early 40s is quite a bit older than us’ anymore.
Brian (looking around): We are not some of the oldest people in here. You are just saying that because earlier there were high school homecoming kids here.
Me: No, they are dancing in the gym now. They have been replaced by mid-to-late-20 and early-30-year-olds. Look around.
Brian (looking around a bit more desperately): We are younger than a few tables in here. Look at them.
Me (looking at the silver-haired group down the way): Yup, we are younger than them.
Brian: And them.
Me (Looking at a table of 4 that I have been watching for a while): That is because that is a mom and dad taking their daughter and boyfriend out to dinner.
Brian: Well we are younger than half of them.
Me: Whatever. You are reaching. We are getting older and you have to deal with it.

I must interject here that Brian literally doesn't remember how old he is. A few days before his 33rd birthday, I started commenting about approaching his mid 30s.

Brian: I'm not approaching mid-30s.
Me: Well, not exactly, but 33 is getting there (1/2 empty)
Brian: It would be if I was going to be 33, but I'm not.
Me (thinking he was kidding): You're not?
Brian: No
Me: Oh yeah, how old are you going to be, 29 again?
Brian: No, 31
Me: (realizing he means this) No you're not. This is the year you turn 33.
Brian: Are you sure about that?
Me: Positive.
Brian: Huh. I have been telling people at work all week that I am going to be 31
Me: Well, you lied.
Brian: Oops.

I have a great group of girlfriends from church. We do a lot of girls’ nights outs and try to get together a few times a month. I had suspected that I was one of the older ones, but didn’t know to what degree. Eventually, I found out I am the oldest. Three are above 30 and the other four are still below. The funny part about this group is that I have established myself, unintentionally, as intelligent and wise. They are bright, beautiful, educated insightful women that I adore, so this should be an honor. I told Brian that I thought I was possibly the oldest in this group, so when I learned this truth, I told him when I arrived home that night.

Brian: Yup, you are getting old.
Me: The funny part is that they think I am smart, too.
Brian: You are smart.
Me: Well, I don’t like to come across as too smart to people I don’t know well yet so they won’t be intimidated by my superior intelligence.
Brian: (ignores me)
Me: Seriously, though. I was actually told tonight that I know a lot about stuff.
Brian: (giggles. Not a smirk or sigh, but an AUDIBLE giggle.)
Brian: Sorry. Really?

When I told him the comment arose after I defined the difference between a taquito and a flauta, he laughed out loud.


IT'S A ??????????

Sugar and spice and everything nice. Oh, hi. Sorry I was side-tracked for a second.

My sister, Mindi and her husband, Matt, had their ultrasound today to find out the gender of their baby. NOW, I'M NOT SAYING WHAT THEY'RE HAVING. No,that is THEIR JOB!

I sure hope S/he prefers princesses to power rangers.
I sure hope S/he prefers dolls to dinosaurs.

I have two kids, but NOT ONE OF THESE. Brother Kevin has 3 kids, 2 of which are these. Mindi doesn't have one of these. Brother-in-law Sean and Sister-in-law Cheryl have 3, but NOT ONE OF THESE! Murph and Jen will probably have FOUR of these when their time comes. There have been 6 kids born in the past ELEVEN years on both sides of Brian's and my families, but NOT ONE OF THESE! We don't even remember what to DO with one of these. What will we do with all THOSE BABY CLOTHES NOW?


Thursday, March 6, 2008

While you were supposed to be sleeping

My entire family seems to be back from the land of the intensely ill and into the land of the living, responsible, contributing human beings again. Besides zapping our energy, our desires and ability to think or do anything productive, our aspiration for practicing good hygiene, thus our dignity, our illness also left us sleep deprived. This is not all that unusual, as I do not remember the last night I went to bed and woke up the next morning when my alarm sounded. My sleep is constantly interrupted.

Thirteen things that keep me awake on any given night:
1) Bathroom breaks – especially if I indulged in a pint or two or a glass of two of wine. Honestly, the bathroom breaks at night sometimes keep me from having one.
2) Thoughts of going back to work in a year and a half when Grant is in first grade. What will I do next? How has the industry/workforce changed in the last 3 years since I left? Etc.
3) Ideas for this blog pop into my head and I formulate them into entries as I watch the LED minutes tick away.
4) Often, I go to sleep with a load of laundry in the dryer. We do not have a volume or an on/off switch for the buzzer/signal. I HATE THAT SOUND no matter where I am in the house, but when I am sleeping, I consider taking an axe to the thing.
5) 4 and 6 year old boys that just CAN’T fall back asleep unless I go lay with them or, at the very least, tuck them back in bed– almost nightly
6) Things to add to my to-do and grocery lists.
7) Thinking back on the day – did I treat my kids well? Did I get anything done?
8) What are we going to have for dinner tomorrow night?
9) Gripping fear of losing my husband to his cancer – truly it paralyzes me – often.
10) That same husband’s snoring.
11) That same husband's or my own suggestive advances
12) Sudden urges/desires to pray for someone.
13) Strange noises, especially if Brian is away.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dear Mr. Comcast

On , Feb 21, I wrote this post about our cable company merge with Comcast, which is supposed to be 'Comcastic' for us. Well, apparently when you vent about Comcast and other service giants on your blog, you sometimes get comments from the actual corporation like the one I got that day from Comcastcares. Thanks for you kind words, Mr. Comcastcares. Your response to my blog when I am not actually trying to reach your company is impressive. Maybe you could trickle down your human resource clout to the people who answer your phones.

When we signed up with Insight in July, I bundled our new package to include phone, Internet and HD TV with DVR service. I got an introductory rate for a year and was told after the year, each service would increase by $5 ot $15/month. I figured by the time the year rolled around, it would be more like $6-7 with the rate at which service providers increase their rates for a total increase of more like $18-20/month.

We got our first bill from Comcast the other day that was surprisingly $10 lower than our regular Insight monthly bill, but had some alarming adjustments on it. Numbers like this: (28.75) for cable service (4.95) for Internet and (10.00) for unlimited long distance and (10.00) for phone service. I didn't think anything of it. Well, I did, but thought not to worry, they are just trying to make it look like they adjust prices for bundles that make it worth your while. Then I got a notice in the mail today stating that in order to give us the incredible service only Comcast can give, they have to raise rates. The numbers on the paper coincide with the adjustments on our last bill. I am under a contract agreement until June, so I should not be affected by this rate hike effective in April, but I wanted to understand what this may mean to us after our contract. Do we get a discount for our bundled services? When will this rate hike affect us exactly? Are we going to get like 500 new channels and some shares of stock to make this rate hike worth our while? etc?

After 30 minutes and 18 seconds of being on hold and never actually talking to a live person, which is an eternity when you are feeling like dung and want to be curled up in bed but can't because you are responsible for two other human being who can't pour their own milk without spilling, I hung up the phone and now I have some advice for Mr. Comcastcares.

  • On days when you send out a notice about rate hikes taking effect in 4 weeks, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH COMMON SENSE TO STAFF YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVES TO COVER THE LARGE INFLUX OF CALLS YOU WILL UNDOUBTEDLY RECEIVE ON SUCH A DAY!!! Freaking technology geniuses that you are!

  • Secondly, since you specialize in the phone, TV and Internet industries, do you think it possible someone in your brain tank of human resources could figure out a way to convert old email addresses with a different ending than comcast dot com so the little people of the world (like me) don't have to change our email addresses? FREAKING TECHNOLOGY GENIUSES THAT YOU ARE!

  • If you are going to attempt to make my half hour of phone wait time tolerable by playing smooth jazz and new age zen music, please not not interrupt it EVERY 27.8 seconds to REMIND ME THAT ALL OF YOUR AGENTS ARE STILL BUSY WITH OTHER CUSTOMERS BUT MY PHONE CALL IS IMPORTANT TO YOU AND WILL BE ANSWERED IN THE ORDER IT WAS RECEIVED!!!!!!!!!!

  • Please tell me that I am unjustified in this worry and trouble and that my bill is NOT going to increase by $53.70 up to nearly $200/month for Internet, phone, and cable service with no premium channels and only 10 HD channels, and I will write a full retraction. Pretty Please. I don't want to switch to satellite, but I will.

  • Lastly, at the very least, please answer your PHONES.

To the person behind me in the cue. You're welcome.