We were the closest family possible. Our world was turned upside down on 05/03/09 when my best friend, the person I love most next only to our children, my sister Trina was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. Her body gave out on her on 01/09/10 but she will ALWAYS be a part of our daily life and will continue to be in my posts. I started my blog to chronicle our daughter's international adoption from Guatemala and have continued to use it as a journal.

What you will find is my family trying to adapt to our new lives that were handed to us.



Friday, November 26, 2010

UN-Thanksgiving

I got wishes for a nice "Un-Thanksgiving" yesterday from Amanda and the sentiment was perfect.

As is usual for our Thanksgiving plans, everything seemed to fall apart. Wednesday night Papa said he wasn't going to go with Joshua, Valentina overheard me telling Grama that I was going to send her and Norm to her house and she cried and cried, she didn't want to go without me. Great. Mom's and my plans for a quiet, unconventional, R rated movie-thon were going down the tubes. I told mom that our plans should have been the back up plan because then it would have worked. In the end everything worked out, papa went with Josh and Asa and I bribed Valentina with pretty much everything under the sun to get her to go with Norm. I made pizza, mom and I vegged out and laughed at "The Hangover", "Bruno" and "Borat". We were alone and it was nice.

I did something stupid and dumb but very necessary.

I keep my photos online and have been trying to make an album of the photos I have of just sissy and me. I get about halfway done and then I just can't do any more. Well last night while drugged on Ambien I started working at it again. My photos start around 2005 and I got to about 2007. It got harder and harder because I knew that I only had to get to December 2009 and then that was it, the photos of sissy and me end. I've been trying to get this done for months and today I finally got it finished. I picked out all the photos and they are in a book. Now I need to figure out if I want to caption all of them before I order it. In a way I just want it done but I also know this is it, I won't have a do over and I want it done right. I hope to pass this book on to Valentina and Asa and I want them to know when these pictures were taken and what we were doing at the time so I guess I'm not done yet. Some of the pictures were funny and I was able to laugh and some of them made me quietly sob. It's just like all the memories I have, some are funny and some are horribly painful. Unless you've lived through this you can't possibly understand what it is like. Nobody can understand, nobody can "get it" and nobody anyone else says comes of any comfort except those who are going through it too.

This brings me to another point. I wrote a chapter in my book about this. People expect you to "get over this" or to "come out the other side". These statements are so false they make me want to scream. Losing sissy wasn't an event, it is something that has forever changed me and I will never be the same. Life will never go back to the way it was. I will never be that person again. Some people have said I seem like I'm doing good, that I seem to be pretty normal. There are times when I actually can carry on a conversation like before but the reality is, I'm far from normal. I can give the illusion of being okay but it's not true. I'll never be okay ever again. I can laugh and I can make jokes but inside I'm empty and there is never ONE SECOND that I'm not thinking how upside down I am. It's not that I'm trying to think of how my sister is dead, it's just something that is infused in my body. Like I said, unless you're living with this horrible reality you can't understand. I guess I'm just saying this in case someone thinks I go from one extreme (laughing and joking) to another (sobbing and sad) because the reality is that inside I'm always sobbing and sad, there are just times that I can act the role of someone who is normal.

So that was our un-holiday and I'm thankful that it's over.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Love You Mom

Mom,

I love you way too much than to wish you a happy birthday. I know it won't be happy. I know it will suck. But I'm so damn thankful to be spending it with you.

I love you.

I love the way you give me space when I cry.

I love the way you hold me when I cry.

I love the way you are so much more than a Beya to my children.

I love the way I can lean on you and no matter how heavy my heart, you still have the ability to support me.

I love the way you whipped up my couch cushions in about 32 seconds.

I love the way you make me feel needed as much as I need you.

I love the way we have our coffee together in the morning.

I love the way we can sit together and not talk and just be with our own thoughts, even though our thoughts are exactly the same.

I love the way I can tell you my most horrible thoughts and wishes and you don't make me feel bad for having them.

I love the way you've shown me how to be a mom.

I love that in this horrific nightmare of a life we have been handed, I have you.

I love that I have someone who is grieving in pretty much exactly the same way that I am.


Yes, I realize now that almost every single thing I listed is how you support ME but I can honestly say that right now without you, there would be no me.


Most of all mom, I love you, just the way you are.

I love you.

Unconventional Holiday

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It also happens to be mom's birthday. Mom was born on her parents wedding anniversary and when we came home from Guatemala with Valentina on November 25, 2007 it was just another way of keeping this date "in the family" so to speak. This date has had meaning in our family for the past 85-90 years, I'm not sure the year my grandparents got married.

November 25, 2010 is a date unlike any other.

We've been struggling to find something to do for Thanksgiving this year. Do we go out? Do we go to a family members? Do we stay home and cook? That last question was answered in about 3 seconds since mom and I both felt like vomiting every time we thought of cooking a Thanksgiving meal.

So what to do, what to do, what to do. We finally came to a decision today.

Joshua, Asa and papa are going to Josh's side of the family.

Norm and Valentina are going to his mom's side of the family.

The birthday girl and I are hibernating at my house. I'm making pizza. We've rented "The Hangover", "Borat" and "Bruno".

An unconventional "holiday" indeed.

Mom and I are grieving in such a similar way that we find such comfort with each other. When one of us breaks down the other knows not only why but what triggered the breakdown whether it was a commercial, a phrase, a memory, a song or even nothing at all.

So that is what I will be doing tomorrow and I am so very thankful for my mom.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Title

I can't think of a title for today so fuck it.

Thanksgiving is in two days. I have no idea what we'll be doing. No. Clue. At this point I'm thinking the turkey dinner from Shari's would be fine, which is pretty bad, although it would also be very fitting since sissy hated Shari's. Both Josh's family and Norm's family is having dinners but I just don't know that I could bring myself to do either. I was talking to our next door neighbor Kathy who lost her brother to cancer a couple of years ago and she said that first Thanksgiving was horrible. She and her family were with friends and family and she wanted to just yell at them "why are you so happy? My brother is dead and you're just laughing like nothing happened! I'm not thankful for anything!" That kind of fits me to a T.

The thing is, once Thanksgiving is over with, we have December 16th coming up.

December 16th.

This is what I refer to as the beginning of the end.

It's mom and papa's wedding anniversary so basically their anniversary is ruined forever. Sissy had an oncology appointment and she was so scared. She was going to get her tumor marker numbers. I remember sitting at the table with her and mom and sissy was crying. Mom asked her what she was afraid of and sissy said she was not prepared to have her numbers go up. She was scared they wouldn't be down. Trina could tell by how she was feeling that she was very scared that the numbers hadn't gone down. It turned out her tumor marker numbers had doubled.

It was a horrible day.

Then comes Christmas.

Then comes New Years Eve, her last day of chemo. It was also the last time she was at my house.

New Years Day was the last time I really talked to her.

January 2nd is when she went to the hospital.

January 9th is when she died.

January 14 is Valentina's birthday and also the day of the viewing.

January 15 was her funeral.

January 19 is Papa's birthday.

We have a long, shitty 7-8 weeks ahead of us. And the thing is, I told mom that I think it might be worse after that because things will still suck and still hurt and we'll be thinking "I thought this was supposed to be better than the first year" but it won't be.

BUT! I have put up my Christmas shit, or the little that I am doing. Last week I was feeling so overwhelmed and sad so out of the blue I pulled out my fireplace mantle decorations along with the stockings and the kids and I put them up. I tried to make it as fun as possible and I do think they had a nice time which is all that matters. At the end of the day Thanksgiving is going to suck so all we can do is try to make it fun for the kids. I also have the advent calendar of my dreams that mom gave me for my birthday last year. It's a wooden house with a drawer for each day. Sometimes I would put candy in it, sometimes it would be a scavenger hunt for the kids to find their prize of the day. I can't believe it but I am looking forward to trying to make it even better than last year.

AND! Norm is back to work. He has worked a total of 3 of the past 12 months. He's back to work and has literally a 5 minute commute. He's never had less than a 30 minute commute, sometimes 90, so that is great.

Like mom so perfectly says "I am grateful for what I have but mourn what I do not." And then there's always Rose to fall back on, "I will not be licked by tragedy as life is a challenge and we must to continue to work for the living as well as mourn for the dead." Right now life IS a challenge. I've been crying multiple times a day and feel so overwhelmed and sad. Everything is a struggle. I miss my sister so damn much. I feel so empty without her. On the Today show this morning they were talking to a mom who had her 4 year daughter diagnosed with a very rare, very deadly brain cancer and she said (I'm paraphrasing) "the pain is so immense that you almost don't feel it. It's numbing and you can't believe it." I cried and cried when I heard her say that because that is how I feel. Her daughter is now cancer free, thanks to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. There's a 20% chance that it could come back but she's fine right now. I'm so glad October is over because it seemed like every 5 seconds there was someone on tv saying how they were a breast cancer survivor and blah blah blah. It angered me so much that sissy wasn't, even though she HAD been. But the second time she died. She's gone. There is no hope for her. She won't ever get better. There is no prayer for a miracle for her anymore.

For that I am not thankful.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tell Me Again About The Night I Was Born

One of the first books I bought while assembling our dossier was "Tell Me Again About The Night I Was Born" by Jamie Lee Curtis. I read it to Asa while waiting for Valentina to come home. I've read it a few times to both of them at the same time, however, both Asa and Valentina much prefer to hear the actual stories of their births. I'm writing them down here so I can always have them on "paper" and I'm doing this more for them than for anyone else so feel free to skip this. Otherwise grab a cup of coffee and settle in for two very different stories. Keep in mind that this is me talking to the kids.



ASA

For some reason mum and I thought you were going to be born early. Her due date was September 25th but we expected you any time after her birthday. I think that was just because we couldn't wait to see you and hold you! Saturday morning around 9 am your mom called me to say she was in labor and had been having contractions, which is kind of like stomach pains to let you know the baby is going to be born soon, for the past hour. And guess what day it was, September 25th! Only 2% of babies are born on their due dates! So your mom was really calm and said she was going to wait a while until she went to the hospital. I was so excited I called Grama and told her to tell everyone. I tried to stay busy and Beya came over to my apartment, this was before we had our house, to wait. We were both so excited! Around 11 am mum mum called me and said her and daddy were going to go to the hospital. I said I would meet her there but she said no, she wanted to wait until she knew for sure that this was it and that she would call me when it was ok to come. Beya and I waited and waited. More than an hour went by and we didn't get a call. We were getting angry and upset thinking that you were being born and we weren't there for it! It was about 12:30 pm and I was so upset when the front door opened and it was your mom! And she was still pregnant! And she wanted a sandwich! Beya and I were so surprised to see her. I made her a cheese sandwich right away and she got on the treadmill to walk, like the doctor told her to. They said she was in labor but not that you weren't ready to come out yet. Every once in a while mum would get a contraction and she would stop eating and bend over and then it would pass and she would eat again and start walking again. Finally she said her and daddy were going to go home and wait. Your mom and dad were in the middle of moving too! They were living in a beautiful THREE STORY townhouse by the river and were moving into a condo right next to my work, which was when I still worked. I waited all day long and talked to your mom a few times and finally around 9 pm she called me to tell me that she was going to the hospital again, that she couldn't wait anymore. I waited until she was all set up in her room and went to see her. It was about 10:30 at night. Once Beya and I got there your dad went home to pack up some more stuff. We waited and waited. Around 1:30 in the morning, Sunday morning, which was really the middle of the night, your dad came back to the hospital and mum mum told me to go home and get some rest, that she would need me more once you were finally born. So I went home and went to bed. And laid in bed. With my eyes open. I couldn't get to sleep I was still too excited. So after a little bit I got back up and called your dad and told him I was coming back to the hospital. He was hungry and told me to bring him a sandwich so I did. I got back to the hospital around 3 am, right after your mom got the epidural, which is a shot they give you in your back so that you don't hurt when the contractions come. I felt much better being with your mom and Beya was already there. I guess I fell asleep because the next thing I knew it was about 7 am and everyone was laughing at me. I had been snoring really loudly! You still weren't coming so the doctor gave your mom something to MAKE you come out! You were just all cozy and warm inside mum mum's tummy! Finally you were ready to come out and at 8:58 am on Sunday, September 26th, you were born! You were 18 3/4 inches long and 6 pounds 10 ounces. I cried and cried when you were born! I felt instant love for you and just love you so much that I knew right that minute that I would do ANYTHING for you!!! I thought you were the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, even though looking back you were kind of funny looking! My heart felt like it was going to explode because I loved you so much, and still do! You were just absolutely perfect! The next day I was supposed to work but I took the day off and sat in the hospital next to your mom the whole day, holding you while your mom slept. Dad and Beya were trying to get everything moved! I just held you and cried sometimes because I loved you so much. I watched you sleep and thought each little move you made was so cute and just amazing! And you would yawn and it was so cute. I sat there the whole day, just holding you. And then when you went home the next day, or the next, I can't remember, you didn't have any clothes! There were boxes and drawers and closets of clothes for you... but nothing fit because you were so tiny! So I had to run out and buy preemie clothes for you, everything else was too big on you! And that, my dear Asa boy, is the story of how you were born.

VALENTINA

Once upon a time there was a woman who had a baby in her tummy. The baby that was born was Princess Valentina. Afterwards Princess Valentina lived in the orphanage where all the other babies waited for their families to come and get them. Oh how I couldn't wait to bring you home! Finally one day we got a call saying "it's time to come and get your baby girl! All the paperwork is done!" so Beya and I got on a plane and flew to Guatemala City! We were so excited to finally get our baby girl! We got there late Thursday night and the next day was Friday. We got ready and were all dressed and waiting for you. We talked to TT on the computer and we waited and waited. I was so nervous and excited, I was FINALLY going to have my girl!! A nice man went to the orphanage to get you and bring you to the hotel. Pretty soon the hotel called our room and said "there's a man here to see you!" Beya and I ran to the elevator and went down the elevator. The doors opened and there was Pedro, holding you! I grabbed you and was so happy to finally have you! I held you the whole time going back up to our room and I was looking at you, so happy to have you. We got back to the room and Pedro and I went over your paperwork while Beya made you a bottle because you were hungry. Pedro left and I sat down and held you and gave you your bottle. You were so hungry! I was so glad to be holding you. And then we got on the computer and TT, Papa, Grama and Asa watched you. I had brought so many toys for you and guess what you loved to play with, a comb and a piece of paper!!! After a couple of days daddy came. The next day we all went to the American Embassy in Guatemala City. The man looked at our paper and asked us "do you promise to take good care of Princess Valentina?" Oh we told him yes, we will take VERY good care of Princess Valentina! We couldn't wait to bring you home. The man said "I can tell you love Princess Valentina and you can take her home and take very good care of her and love her." We had to wait a few days for your Visa and the very next day was Thanksgiving. We went to another hotel for dinner and you slept almost the whole time! The next day Pedro came and brought us the last of the paperwork and we packed up to go home! The next day we got on a plane to come home! We got off the plane in the airport and TT called me on my phone. We had to walk a long ways through the airport and TT told me to tell her when we came to a corner. I told her we were coming up to the corner and when we went around there was TT, Papa, Grama and Asa! They were holding a big banner that said "Welcome Home Valentina!" Everyone cried and was so happy to have you home! TT drove us home and you cried in the car seat. You weren't used to being in a car seat. We got home and Amanda came over with pizza! It was Beya's birthday and we were all so happy to be home. Auntie Lori and Great Grama came over. Asa kept kissing your feet and saying "I'm so glad you're home Vawentina! I love you Vawentina!" TT held you and kissed you and carried you. Then you went to sleep in your crib in your beautiful new room. TT and Asa spent the night and that is the story of when Princess Valentina came home.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Mission UNaccomplished

Asa has a fear of being left behind, forgotten, lost, etc.... This started shortly after sissy died and although understandable, it is pretty severe. I've done my best to reassure him that nobody will forget him, that someone will ALWAYS be there to pick him up from school and the like.

Today we were all hanging out, trying to come up with fun things to do as Asa had video games taken away (he only gets to play on the weekends, 20 minutes at a time, three times a day) AND TV.... which means TV was taken away from all of us. Anyway, the kids and I were still in our PJ's, mom had showered but still in sweats and it was 11:40 am. Suddenly something triggered my memory that one of Asa's friends was having a birthday party. Today. At 12:45. And it was across town, about 25 minutes away. HOLY SHIT!!! I'm very proud to say that I got myself and both kids ready and the four of us (Beya too) were on the road at 12:25.

The party was at one of those kids fun zone type places. Asa was very apprehensive about it as he didn't know what to expect. He asked me to go with him and I assured him that I would be with him and he didn't have to go anywhere he didn't want to. So we get there and enter the Jungle area. It was like a McDonalds playland on steroids. There were about four levels of bridges, slides, ball cannons and all the other fun stuff. After going down a small slide a few times the kids loosened up and we moved on the cannon shooting. Asa and Valentina were full on having a great time and running all around so fast that I couldn't keep up with them or keep track as they were going in two different directions. I saw Asa running around having fun and Valentina wanted to hang out on the bottom level. After a while mom came into the jungle area as she hadn't seen Asa for a bit. We both started looking around and then spotted him on about the third level, crying. I left Valentina with Beya and ran as fast I could, crouching through the toddler height maze of winding stairs, through the crawling tubes, yelling at Asa the whole time that I was on my way. I had a hard time finding the right route to get to where he was. I finally reached my boy and he cried, telling me he was scared, that he couldn't find me, that he had gotten lost and didn't know what to do. I apologized profusely and felt like shit. Here I had PROMISED him that I would take care of him and I failed. I had let him down in the one area that he feared the most. He followed me out of the labyrinth and we made our way to the entrance. It was soon time for pizza, cake and ice cream and then we left. I told Asa how sorry I was that I wasn't there for him. He told me that he didn't ever want to go back there and I assured him that he wouldn't have to.

I'm such a shitty mom.

I told Josh about the incident tonight when he called to check on Asa. He was very understanding and told me that Asa needs to toughen up and get some street smarts, that he is very sheltered. Deep down I know this but I also know that he's had to go through more than any adult should have to go through much less a six year child. Actually he was only four when cancer came into his life. It is good for Asa to have his dad to teach him about the normal hard knocks of life and what he needs to learn in that situation but as his mother figure I just want to protect him forever. I know that in the long run that is not in Asa's best interest which is why he needs both Joshua and me.

I still feel like shit.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Check It Out

Nikki, who does all of my blog designs, is an amazing person. She is young but changing the world all on her own. Each month she picks a charity to help out and this month it is Mayan Families. So please check out her blog and donate if you could.

Thank you.

One Tiny Starfish

Monday, November 01, 2010

October's Over

October was a rough month. They all are, in all honesty, but I think they are getting worse. It started with July and then August was harder as it was sissy's birthday month. Then September came and school started plus Asa's birthday. October brought its own landmines, Halloween and my birthday. I really didn't want to do anything for my birthday, I just wanted to forget it. Actually I did keep forgetting my birthday. Whenever I had to show my ID (for meds and writing checks, not drinking, haha) people would say "oh, you have a birthday coming up!" and I had no idea what they were talking about. Mom argued with about doing something for it because she said the kids would have fun. I said I didn't care, it was my birthday and I wanted to bypass it. Well, guess who won, yes, Beya. We just ordered pizza and the kids made me a cake, as evidenced below:



If you look closely you can see Beya drew a line down the middle of the cake so Asa and Valentina could each decorate half the cake. Check out Mr. Lotsa Sprinkles side! No joke, there was an inch of sprinkles on there. The shirt Valentina is wearing was one of the last presents her TT gave her.


I hated my birthday. I hated not having my sissy with me. I hated not talking to her. I hated the fact that my morning birthday call from her telling me "happy birthday sissy roo!" never came. I hate the fact that my Converse shoes that I always wear were my last birthday present from her. I hate that cancer took her from me. I hate not having a sister. Period.


Next up is Josh's birthday then we have Thanksgiving which coincidentally falls on Beya's birthday this year. That will be a double whammy as it reminds me of Thanksgiving 2007 when we were in Guatemala and our family was split in half, literally. But we also came home with Valentina on November 25, Beya's birthday, so I guess it's really a trifecta. 1-Thanksgiving, 2-mom's birthday, 3-Valentina's homecoming date, all rolled into one day. Thanksgiving 2008 was perfection, it was everything I had ever wanted. There was a fire roaring, we were all together and the kids were running through the house. Up until that Thanksgiving I had always hated the holiday and that dated back to my childhood. Thanksgiving 2008 marked the year that it surpassed Christmas as my favorite holiday.

I hate Thanksgiving again.


I KNOW I have much to be thankful for. I AM thankful for the insane amount of good things that surround me. Mom always used to end her blog posts with "Life Is Good". She now has a saying that fits me too, "I am grateful for the things I have but mourn the one thing that I don't". It's still shockingly unbelievable. I will always have had a sister but I will never HAVE my sister.



Valentina had a costume party at her preschool on Friday. She went as Tiana from "Princess and the Frog." I made her "crown" that morning out of a piece of foam and then painted it with rubber cement and glittered the hell out of it. After Valentina was ready she was admiring herself in her bathroom while I got dressed in my bedroom. Mom came into my room laughing, telling me that Valentina was banging on her crown, watching the glitter fall off and gasping at what a beautiful sight it was. I grabbed my camera to get it on video but for some reason Valentina changed her story:

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing

Asa has had his clone trooper costume for over a month, Josh bought it when we went to get all the stuff for his birthday party. For the past couple of weeks Asa has been saying that he wanted to be a policeman for Halloween. I kept telling him no, he had his costume. I am more strict than Trina was, she could never tell Asa no. I have to pick my battles with Valentina so once I say no I know that I have to stick with that answer whereas Asa could get almost anything (within reason) from his mum mum. Asa would ask sissy for something, sissy would say no and then five seconds later she would change her mind and say yes. I gave sissy a hard time and told her that Asa didn't have to ask her twice for something because she would tell him yes before he had time to ask again. So I told Asa he was stuck with his storm trooper costume. We had to go to Target Saturday to get birthday presents for a couple of parties we have coming up. While we were there I found a policeman costume. It was $12. It was above Asa's line of sight. Asa didn't see it, we were ready to walk right past it.
Yes, I caved only Asa didn't even have to ask me for it, I showed it to him and it was his. Asa was so happy with it. I told him in the middle of the store why he was getting it, because it was something mum mum would have done for him. Later that day while Asa was running around the house dressed as the city's finest I asked him why he got the costume. He gave me the biggest smile and said "because mum would have gotten it for me."



This was taken last night, Asa ended up wearing the clone trooper costume! Oh well, the bottom line is I did something Trina would done and not what I would have done. I asked Asa on the way home from Target what he remembered about his mom. He answered "doing the dishes and making me macaroni and cheese". The said thing is he doesn't remember her before cancer, all he can recall is chemotherapy and her being sick. I feel horrible because I've never known a mom more full of life and happiness. I also believe that in time he will forget her altogether and will just have the stories we tell him about her. One thing I'm eternally grateful for is that she kept a blog. I had it printed into a book and he loves it. He has to have it read to him every night before he goes to sleep and he laughs and looks at the pictures. That was the true Trina, that was his mum, that was her, Josh and Asa's life as a family and he'll always have that in book form even though the reality of it is gone forever. I've cried sometimes reading it to him because Trina wrote a lot about her and me and the simple things we had done together that day. There was rarely a day that went by that we didn't see each other and NEVER a day that we didn't talk on the phone at least five times.



So one more month is over but we still have a lifetime of months to get through without Trina. It's daunting which is why I keep taking it one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time. But we're still here.