Thursday, June 29, 2006

It's Official Now

This guy has been here amidst my girlie shrieks of "My baby is in that envelope, be careful with her." Ava of course obnoxiously followed with "Yeah, that's my sissy."

This was all slightly anti-climatic since my agency emailed us the photos and medicals the night before. But I just couldn't resist any opportunity to stalk and slightly harrass the hard working delivery man. Perhaps we came on a little strong but he tolerated us while giving us a few eye rolls and shifty eyed side glances. I know he was thinking weirdo suburbanites.

Here is the very first ever photographic representation of my girls together.

Aren't they lovely? Olivia is looking a little flat, I know. But it's a decent shot of Ava. Ah, I'm enjoying sisterly love before sibling rivalry sets in. Everyone deserves a honeymoon right?

It's all official now. I've joined the Yangxi yahoo group, read about applying for visas, shopped for the perfect little 6-9 month size sleepers and signed a small stack of paper saying, Yes Yes we love her and want to bring her home!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Introducing Miss Olivia Xi GeGe

Oh my, if ever a family of three could be so in love with our beloved 4th....

I am quite simply as in love with her from the minute I saw her as I was with my darling Ava Jing.

Olivia Xi GeGe

date of birth 11/12/2005

Yangxi County SWI, Guangdong Province PRC

at 5 months she weighed 13.8 lbs and was 24" tall

She sleeps deeply, thank GOD. She loves music and likes to be entertained! She will fit right in.

Current Crib

Here is a picture of Olivia Xi GeGe's current digs.

Current crib. Really, it is literally a current crib at Yangxi County SWI.

Want to see the wash room?

Can you tell that I am a little desperate for photos?

Now, bring on the real photo. Please.

The Day After

It sort of feels like "The Day After". What a wild ride yesterday. I was up, I was down, I was at the gynecologist office, I stayed up to 1am reading everything I possibly could about Yangxi County SWI in Guangdong Province. Then I obnoxiously emailed my travel group about every three minutes with new info and pictures of the SWI, the area, lovely babies living there now etc...

In the end though Muffin Man and I were together when the phone rang at home. On the second ring he shouted, "That's our call", as he watched the caller ID pop up. I leaped for the phone. It was nice to be in the privacy of our own home not at a Dr.'s office or with him on a plane to Texas. (He left at an ungodly 4am this morning so I will have to email him the picture on the road.) I was surprisingly stoic and "together" on the phone with our coordinator. When we received Ava's call I was shaking and crying. I don't think it hit me until I popped over to see Emma-Bug's adorable face. That is when I started to cry. Then I read about our travel group's babies...more crying.

My stomach is better this morning. After reading all night I'm feeling like I might not toss my cookies. Yangxi County seems like a good place, it's an institution but it looks very clean. The nannies have kind eyes. What more could you ask for in an orphanage in the Southern most part of China?

We are still waiting for Olivia Xi Ge Ge's picture and medical report. Hopefully it will be coming to an email address near me this afternoon, early afternoon. Yes, I will be certain to post as soon as the Muffin Man and little Ava Jing see her first.

Thank you to everyone who posted kind words yesterday. I plan to make sure Olivia gets a copy when she is old enough to understand the miracle of how she came to join our family.

Monday, June 26, 2006

And Then There Were Two

We are thrilled to announce the referral of our daughter Yang, Xi Ge Ge. She was born November 12, 2005. She is currently living at the Yangxi County Social Welfare Institute in Guangdong Province, PRC. Olivia Xi Ge Ge has a nice ring.

We will receive her picture and medical and development reports tomorrow afternoon.

We are grateful to the People of China for giving us this gift. We are grateful to her birth family and hope they rest easy tonight.

Peace my daughters.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Where were you when Kennedy was shot?

I realized today that I might have one of those "Do you remember where you were when Kennedy was shot?" moments when the Agency calls to tell me about our new baby. Except, I wasn't alive when Kennedy was shot, so for me it's Elvis. For posterity's sake I was helping my mother in the laundry room in the house on Lisa Court in Elkton, MD when we heard that Elvis died over the transistor radio she kept on the dryer. My mom dropped my dad's blue boxer shorts in the bleach in case you wanted to know. It was that tragic.

Here is why my referral call might be an Elvis moment. My apologies ahead of time to the gentlemanly types who might read this. I have had an annual visit at the OB/GYN scheduled for several months. You know how it is ladies, you schedule that annual visit and come hell or high water you better be there or be prepared to wait another 5 months. They always want to give preference to the gals giving birth the old fashioned way and schedule the rest of us schleps in groups of 2 per month.

Back to the referral call. My "annual visit" is scheduled at 1pm on Monday June 26th, 2006. The DHL bag with my baby from the CCAA in Beijing is due at my agency before noon on Monday. I've heard that they will make phone calls to families revealing babies names, birth place, SWI, height and weight right away after translation. Then they will take the rest of the day to translate the entire contents of the paperwork and overnight the baby's photograph and history to us in an overnight bag to arrive the next morning. Ava and I plan to stalk Mr. Fed Ex for sure. (Muffin Man will be off selling tools, more on that later.)

Let's get one thing clear. I am taking any call from my agency at any time with regards to finding out anything about my baby! No stirrup, swab, Dr. or fat pregnant lady is getting in my way of taking that phone call. I don't care how many knocked up gals I have to trip over to fish my cell phone out of my purse. Sorry, no offense to the ladies out there able to procreate but does anyone else see how ridiculous this might really be? There I am...completely unable and nowadays unwilling to breed, getting a call at the OB's office telling me I've had a Chinese baby. I hope I never get too old or too lame to see the humor in this potential situation. I might actually have a baby at the OB/GYN! I ask you this, is this a Chinese adoption first?

I'm envisioning this conversation ten years down the road...

Lady at PTO meeting: "Oh dear, I just overheard some ladies speaking about their visits to the OB/GYN office. Dreadful. Ahh, I remember when my little Grayson was due and I was two weeks late. I went to the Dr. for my last visit. Then, out of nowhere some crazy tall lady lunged at me and knocked me over in the rudest display grabbing for her cell phone of all things. I fell to the floor causing me to go into labor right then and there on the new taupe berber carpet. It was all that nasty lady's fault...I didn't get an epidural or anything, she caused me to miss my window. Thank heavens precious Grayson is now a math-a-lete and the Dr. didn't charge me extra for having my baby on her floor.

Me: Wow, that was you sitting on my cell phone? Crazy times huh? Ahhh, no epidural and Grayson was 11 1/2 lbs.? Sad.

I know this is slightly twisted.

I am seriously hoping to get the call BEFORE arriving at OB/GYN's office. But I have no problem taking down a prego if necessary. Of course I also have no problem telling the Dr. to bill me for the "delivery" should I have my baby at her office. I challenge ANY insurance professional to find the ICD-9 for that one.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Water Baby

Here we have a very serious moment. Goggles in place, arms positioned on kick board, legs fluttering. The 2020 Olympics are only 14 years away you know.

Then after the aqua kick fest the goggles are carefully positioned on head and verbal acknowledgment of a job well done is expected. Requisite Mommy cheering commences. "Good job baby, I'm so proud of you. You are such a great swimmer, pumpkin." Then Mommy has to endure the sneers and rolling of eyes from other been there done than that Mommies. No Mommy spirit shall be dashed today. This Mommy is seeing her kid on the side of a Wheaties box.

Now it is time for the diving board. Goggles in place once again. That's a big step for a little kid. Little body, big determination.

Walking the plank. More goggle adjustment. (As a side note, I gave the skeptical Mommies even more to snicker at as I actaully started to cry. In my defense I am 12 1/2 months pregnant and slightly hormonal. Public crying has become a wee bit of a problem this week.)

And next...the action money shot. The grand leap!

Uh huh, here we have an example of why people with children might want to skip the digital camera with the dreaded digital lag time.

No worries, success. The lap of champions, the swim to the ladder with a little help of her swim instructor.

Look out Diana Nyad, Ava Jing might be signing up to swim the English Channel. But only if they let her wear pink goggles and bring a noodle.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

She's Spread Her Wings

She is flying right now. She left Beijing on 6/22/06 at 3:00pm Beijing time. She is apparently enjoying her time snuggling up in a stack of 11 other (that we know of) little friends, xiao peng hao as the might say in the orphanage playroom. All of them together weigh only 1lb. Twelve little pictures, twelve descriptive sheets, twelve sketchy medical reports. I, as her mother can only hope the darling dozen were lovingly placed in the envelope with a wish for a good life with families that would love them unconditionally forever.

It is daunting to think how that one 1lb. envelope will change so many lives so quickly. Couples who have longed for a child for years will suddenly be a family, single women and men will have wild dreams fulfilled, children will become brothers and sisters in for a lifelong journey, infertiles will become filled with abundance, some will see the a child through their child's eyes, grandparenthood. But most of all children who through no fault of their own experienced the greatest loss of all will now experience the gift of family.

We hope to hear more about what is in that 1lb. package on Monday or Tuesday. All twelve will be pulled out by capable hands. Words will be translated from their native tongue to English. Calls will be made to hysterically happy families.

This is the adoptive circle of life. We are grateful to be a part of it all again.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Take Me To The Pool

We are all about the pool. I know, I know I've been whining about the adoption and the baby for months on end now so you might think we are all about the adoption and that new baby.

But we are not. We are all about the pool. This is as of Memorial Day weekend, of course.

Ava wakes up and says take me to the pool please. Then she beats me to the car and straps herself in the driver's seat. They have laws about that here in this state, Missy, climb in back.

This morning she suggested I take the camera to catch the head dunking action.

Sure, just let me get my coffee.

This is what happened next. Nothing. Or no pictures to show for it at least. I can only focus on one thing at a time; coffee won and the camera was left on the kitchen table. Typical. There was lots of splashing, head dunking, goggle wearing, breast stroking, and dog paddling. I know it just isn't the same without pictoral representation.

Then we came home. It was suggested that I redeem myself. What good mother would not want to capture her 4 year old's after the swim lesson look? Here is the super poser.

Tomorrow morning I will try to get the camera and the kid and the coffee in the car all in one full swoop.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

And Now?

Travel approvals came in yesterday for the people who got referrals late in May. Typically the CCAA web site updates very soon after travel approvals are announced updating everyone on the next batch of referrals. where is my update telling me my baby is on the way?

No update. I thought I might see the update this morning after Ava's swim lessons (more on that later, the kid's a natural champ swimmer). Ahhh...I thought as I rushed home to read the CCAA web site. Now this whole shabang is going to get easier. I believed the rumor, hook line and sinker. This is the type of person I am. I usually believe people, which of course has led me to be emotionally burned a few times in this jolly process. I know better..I just can't seem to help myself.

I refuse to watch the stupid CCAA website. It sort of feels too much like my high school days watching the phone to see if cute boy next door would call. The phone never rings when you watch it, everyone knows that.

I'm going to do some breathing exercises walk several miles and then chase my daughter around the pool until it rains later today.

And while I'm gone, that web site better update. Watching the web site and phone doesn't work. Maybe threatening it will.

Friday, June 16, 2006

No animal harmed in quest for suburban bliss....

Do you remember this suburban dilemma? I lobbied hard for the little guy and surprisingly enough Muffin Man easily agreed to keep critter control at bay. (Of course, the $75 varmit catch and release fee helped in the decision.)

Yesterday was the day. Our contractor showed up right on time after I bugged him incessantly about showing up to DO SOMETHING FOR THE LOVE OF GOD to finish this little project. He built this.


The little guy was panicking all day. His house was after all experiencing something equivalent to the little pig who had his house blown down by the big bad wolf.

Later that evening, the Muffin Man and I were starting lovingly into each other's eyes silently asking each other where the heck 15 years have gone over Copper Ridge salmon, asparagus, and a decent bottle of chardonnay. Fifteen years ago yesterday I was quite the blushing June bride you see. Mostly we had a financial discussion about ditching his vehicle in favor of a company car. Now that's romance folks. Nothing says sweet nothings like the chatter of 92,000 miles and insurance updates. I am getting all hot and bothered just thinking about it.

Then I hear this...Scratch, scratch, scratch.

"Oh my gosh, its the raccoon", I say. There I was helping myself to another big helping of salmon sitting right on top of the little panicky guy on the deck.

Muffin man gets up from his seat just then and pronounces, "No, problem he will dig himself out through the azela bush tonight. Smell that salmon...he won't let any drippings go unattended to."

Sure enough. $75 well saved. No animal harmed.

Check out his brand new little door.

I'm running right back to Lowes to get him matching door handles.

Oh, one more thing. Today our paperwork has officially been sitting at the Beijing CCAA office for ONE WHOLE YEAR. We have the dubious distinctive honor of being able to say we are one of the first folks to hit the 1 year mark with no referral in quite some time. Someone should be dusting it off very soon.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Waiting Causes Twitchyness

It is a fact. Waiting for your baby when you have no idea when the little mite might pop out or be sent in an envelope from your favorite communist country can be hazardous to your health.

Take for instance the Muffin Man. He has a serious case of the yuckies in his chest and stomach caused by some disgusting virus he picked up from feeling all twitchy from the adoption wait. He says it's from sitting next to some sick person on that last plane ride he took from Kansas City but I honestly do believe it is waiting induced labor. Why do I think this? The man has eaten nothing in the last 48 hours and is complaining of a swollen and achy belly. Poor guy, he's just overdue, virus or not. I tried to tell him it might be Braxton Hicks and he looked at my like I was the wicked witch from the east. Only did he soften when I clearly explained where the Dayquil and Gas X were located in the medicine closet.

It can also make one pretty darn twitchy when your closest adoption ally, the coordinator at the agency homestead is promising absolutely nothing, nada, zilch. Bu yao, for those of you into Mandarin. Even when your magical processing date is a whole 24 hours after the little number listed here. "To help pass the time you could always run down to the local bank withdraw and extra $140 to send to the federal government to perform the exact same service they performed for you 13 months ago." Coordinator suggests with a :) at the end of the email. Forgive me but sending MORE money to my federal government to process the same fingerprint as a year ago, minus the new little scar caused by an onion slicing incident, is simply not a :) worthy event in my life right now.

Perhaps having children, waiting for children, adopting children, dealing with the United States Federal Government, and adoption agency coordinators causes one to lose their sense of humor. Yes, you get all twitchy and then that sense of humor gets sent away in the same envelope as the $140 for re-fingerprinting.

Here is what I want to know. Why then are federal government employees not finding that sense of humor when they open these letters on a daily basis? Are they not really opening the envelopes with cashiers checks enclosed? Are they doing some little satanic dance around a fire and tossing envelopes in as food for the gods?

Life's mysteries confuse me. Now I am going to go eat a bag of potato chips while I wait for my referral that may or may not be in some envelope coming from China in the next week or two.

Potato chips replenish the sense of humor. They make your ass fat but they have 25% of the daily recommended sense of humor dosage. It's a fact. Google it.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Addition Edition

The walls are now a warm shade of Malted- courtesy of my friends Mr. Sherwin and Mr. Williams. The trim work and window seat are a slick shade of nurse white. So slick in fact I am afraid a few brain cells may have been sacrificed in the making. Certainly Phil the painter felt the lacquer burn since he decided not to wear the Star Wars respirator while spreading the white shine. Tsk Tsk. This was confirmed when he told Muffin Man that he's fine, he's been painting like this since the 1960's. (Phil cannot be any older than 40.) You do the math.

The odiferousness was indeed a little overbearing this week. Since I am paranoid about smells like that causing stars to fall out of the sky on my head while simultaneously causing my dog's toe nails to curl, I decided to open all windows and make us scarce.

I picked Ava up and we decided to check out what was happening in town. Amazingly, I watched Elaine reincarnate herself in my four year old at a free music concert. My high as a kite, huffing pooch trolled the room over and over in perfect concentric circles. Since she was enjoying her buzz so much we left her behind.

There she is my very own little fly girl, Seinfeld style.

Oh, I almost forgot the most important part. The hand rubbed venetian bronze door handles. Ok, so hand rubbed and venetian might be a little bit of an exaggeration but they are bronze(ish). And I do love them so.

Here is Vanna showing them off. We will have to keep ourselves busy admiring them for a few more days since the flooring is on back order. Apparently all of the 3/8" maple flooring with a cinnamon stain is on backorder, countrywide! Muffin man was a little skeptical when he heard that from our contractor. So if you are in the contiguous United States and getting maple flooring with a cinnamon stain Muffin Man wants to hear from you.

And for anyone worried about the pooch, don't. She's 14 and was somewhat mentally incapacitated even before the huffing incident earlier this week. She's fine, still walking circles but fine.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Tag Time

Mrs. Figby asked me to play along. I'm honored, but not promising anything earth shatteringly interesting.

One body part you'd like to change: I'd like to be able to tell you that I am so comfortable in this skin and just love cellulite because it makes me a real woman and and who wants to be a Barbiefied cartoon of her skinny ass self anyway? But that would be a lie. I care. Not obsessively like in my younger days but I care. I think I'd make my hips and butt just a wee bit smaller (as in 2 pant sizes smaller). Now that's original right?

Describe your ideal Saturday: Sleep late, really late. Muffin Man brings me coffee in bed and then I open the other eye and he is dressed and has Ava dressed. Then he says, " Honey, you deserve a break so Ava and I will see you later tonight we are going on a daddy daughter date all day and you are NOT invited." Then they quickly exit stage left and I am left all by myself. For too many hours to count. I hope he reads this, who am I kidding?

What have you got leftover in your fridge: Lots of stuff I just spent a record $236.00 this week at Meijer. How can one little family of 3 need $236.00 worth of food? It's obscene. In my defense I bought a lot of meat.

You get to travel back in time for one day: I'd sit down with Gandhi and we'd talk. Actually, he should probably do the talking and I should shut up and listen.

If you had one hour with the President, what would you say to him: It's ok to say you are wrong sometimes. I'd also tell him it is ok to let a few people go, even if they have been loyal to you. Loyalty isn't everything. Being right and being the biggest and baddest and pushiest also isn't always the best. People don't inherently respect you when you are pushing them around. And then I'd tell him his mom seems like a nice lady, I dig the pearls.

One body part you'd never change: I have nice hands, long fingers. They look like worker bee hands. I also like my reconstructed chest. But not because of the reason you might think. For me reconstruction represents my power to heal. It is a small symbol of being strong. I don't bring this up to unseemly boob chat or anything. I like women to know there are choices after cancer survivorship and women don't have to live disfigured (physically or emotionally).

Your most favorite thing about motherhood: Seeing a kid who is truly happy with herself. She sometimes sings and dances and doesn't care who watches or what they think. Those are the times when I think I'm doing ok.

Ultra-violet rays or tan-in-a-bottle: Can't someone invent ultraviolet rays that aren't horrible for you? I am a 70's child who worshipped the sun goddess. I look better brown.

You have an unlimited expense account. What three things do you purchase first:
1. Lots of plane tickets to travel to exotic places.
2. A little house on the east coast NC Shore. Nothing fancy, just a pink house on the water. Me and my girls would bask in the revelry that is the shore. Muffin Man could grill us hamburgers until his heart was content. It would be nice and quiet. Then we'd use those plane tickets to go to New York when it got too quiet.
3. A huge gift card to so I can buy any book I want at any time.

Your least favorite thing about motherhood: Being ON all the time. It can be exhausting.
It's 10:00 pm, do you know where your children are? You bet your biffy I do. She's in bed. She might still be protesting but she is in her bed.

And there we have it, some little bitty pieces of me. Rally kids, play along.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

She has 4 stomachs

Breaking news from the land of nod:

I got a call from the Agency. Good news Perrin, we have a baby for you! You have been matched! I am of course overcome with joy and immediately the 1 1/2 years of waiting for this little bundle of joy simply disintegrates and floats off happily in the air leaving only what looks like little bits of pretty silver sparkly dust that land gently on my kitchen floor.

Agency girl goes on to tell me that she is a wee bit older than we requested. I tell her that is fine because my daughter is 4 1/2 now and less space between the girls will be fine. She tells me that the baby is 21 months old. Ok fine I continue, just tell me how to update my homestudy so I can bring the 21 month old wonder child home.

But then Agency girl, not to be confused with Wonder Woman, says that really she needs to speak with me in person. So would it be too much trouble to drive 3 hours right now and meet with her in her office? Ugh, I guess not. Gas is only $3.00 a gallon right?

I hop in the car alone. (This part confuses me since I rarely go anywhere without my little Ava appendage.) I drive up to the agency and Agency girl is waiting for me at her desk. I say, "Show me those cute little cheeks." She stalls and says that she must tell me that although they are sure this will not ever be a problem they do need to tell me that the baby has 4 stomachs.


I explain that I am no medical professional but that sounds serious. Agency girl says I am welcome to shop the medical condition around town but really I should not turn down a referral just because the baby has 4 stomachs. Really, what's the big deal is their attitude? She will always have room for jello.

As a bonus they tell me she is from Chongqing and traveling there will be nice in August. I get all wrapped up and tell her I knew the baby was from Chongqing. I knew it.

Then Agency girl hesitates to show me her picture because she wants me to make a decision to adopt her even though she has 4 stomachs. I sternly tell her to flip the page and show me her little face. She is of course most adorable even with 4 stomachs.

Then it's over. I woke up.

Want to hear something else unrelated but sort of funny?

My neighbor, who is 7 months pregnant was over chatting it up yesterday. She's due Aug 6th. She mentioned that she is very tired of this pregnancy. I can certainly see why, she looks to have gained all of about 6 pounds, works in a nice air conditioned office and has an adorable little hubby who looks lovingly at her cute belly while taking yard work orders. She then says that she can't wait to actually have the baby because she is truly looking forward to some more "me" time again. Did I mention that this is her first child?

Come on you can laugh a little bit. Its ok.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I talked, I cried

Friday morning, the day of my symposium speech it was 6:30 am and I was wide awake. I was panicked that I would over sleep, miss the gig and be knocked down to the "D" list with the Wellness Community gang. I suppose I could have given myself an extra hour of sleep by simply setting the alarm clock. It has been over 3 years since I used that thing and I thought it might confuse me. Sort of like how the VCR confused me for 15 years and then I lucked out, beat the system and was the first gal on the block to buy a DVD player.

So I decide to shower. While in the shower I start to think that birkenstocks and old cutoff shorts with my favorite Eddie Bauer tank top might not be appropriate for speaking in front of an audience. Even though my tank top looks nice due to the fact that I have been ummm....reconstructed which does follow the theme of the day...cancer and all. I start to panic as I realize I blogged about the speech outline and then never even re-read my train of thought. In the old days I used to memorize and formally prepare for these types of things. I used to be the type of gal that would justify a shopping trip for a new outfit before speaking infront of people. Oh, for God's sake I am now at a new low...stay at home mom who only owns birkenstocks and crocs and forgets about speech planning and fashion togetherness.

I get out of the shower and hope that cleanliness will count for something. I dig in the back of the closet and find an old pair of black dress pants. A special thanks to my winter of assly discontent sitting in front of the computer and eating mounds of comfort food proves in good form as I struggle to zip them up. Must lose 5 lbs. before China. Then I find an old shirt and dust it off. I am not exaggerating it had dust on it. But I am not discouraged (except for the 5 lbs. part) because I did just overpay to have my hair highlighted and I don't have time to have a meltdown over dusty blouses.

I drive up to the conference center and the parking lot is full. Hmmm full, there must be a big corporate event here too. My experience is that The Wellness Community usually draws a somewhat intimate to spread out if you wish. I park quickly, re-read my outline notes and enter the building. I tell the volunteer at the door my name. She whisks me ahead of the long line and presents me to the executive director. I give a worried smile and feel my eyes widen. There must be over 200 people here, I laugh. He grins and explains that this is a whole day event and this is the largest turnout ever. My palms start to sweat. I talk myself into calm...what would Buddha say about getting all twitchy and nervous now? I beg for a Zen moment in my head.

As it happens, I was part of a panel of 3 speakers. We are all survivors. Each one of us tells a different story but in the end it is all about the same after cancer, our survivorship. I chose to speak about my quest for my grandmother's wisdom and how cancer was it's catalyst. Jim spoke about being a young survivor twice beating bladder cancer and how he battled and is beating depression. Becky talked about only having a "little bit of cancer" but it affected her in huge ways many months and years after remission. She belly dances now...with reckless abandonment hoping other cancer survivors will do the same. Dance and live.

I was unprepared for how emotional such an experience can be. I was in awe of the other two panelists. So wise, so beautiful in their honesty. And so I cried. I cried on stage after my talk was done and was sitting watching them speak. I cried even harder when I realized there was a professional photographer who's lens seemed fixated on my running mascara. I told myself to pull it together, you are still on the damn stage this will be distracting for the other panelists! I couldn't pull it together so I stopped trying. I breathed in huge gulps of air and remembered what it is like to be at that raw point where life meets death. Life gives the opportunity to say thank you for each and every last rising and falling of the lungs. It is that simple and it is that complicated. And apparently, it can make a grown woman cry.

I sniffled my way off the stage. Embarassed. We were met by a slew of audience members thanking us for our words. One lady told me her mom has been living with breast cancer for 5 years now and she too wanted to gain her wisdom though her caregiver experience. She hugged me, a complete stranger and without a second thought she opened her arms and hugged me. I am humbled.

I met a delightful lady who is adopting from China. She is a health care professional. It seems I can't go anywhere without being reminded of the true gifts adoption can bring, not even a cancer symposium. She hopes to travel early this fall to meet her daughter, I cried again.

I walked away shattered and renewed. I walked away with my coffee mug thank you gift.
I had a cup of coffee in my new mug this morning while laughing quietly. A coffee mug thank you gift. Isn't it me who should be thanking them?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Being a Survivor

Every now and then my favorite cancer support network, The Wellness Community calls and asks if I will speak on their behalf to a symposium group or a board of directors dinner. I simply cannot say no. They were wonderful to me when I was sick, and I will never forget it. They gave me group support and a safe haven when I needed it most. It was the one place I could walk into and everyone there knew exactly what it felt like to be faced with life altering change. Often when people are diagnosed with cancer they can feel immediately isolated even among their family members and best friends, because no one knows exactly what is needed or how it feels unless you've been there yourself.

The Wellness Community called a few weeks ago and asked me to speak on the topic of my "survivorship" choice at a local symposium. It is tomorrow. I have procrastinated with my 6 minutes of soap box time and now I need to show up at 9am with cue cards in hand. It's almost show time and I have some convoluted ideas swirling but nothing ready for a platform.

I tried writing some notes on post-it notes but they seem too lengthly and sticky. I will try my outline here. If it works out to anything of substance I could always print the blog page. Is this how the presidential speech writer's work? My guess would be no.

Wellness Community Symposium
6/2/2006 - Survivor Story 6 minutes
How to end up with your grandmother's grace and wisdom; while still living in your 36 year old body. It's a push in the right direction when you've been diagnosed with cancer.

I. Intro
Diagnosis at age 31 with Stage II invasive ductal carcinoma
Breast saving lumpectomy surgery, 4 rounds of Adriamycin/Taxotere chemotherapy, and
35 radiation treatments, followup reconstructive surgery 2 1/2 years into remission

II. Changes
All this change in one gal's life causes upheaval. Physical changes are obvious.
Sick for 6 months, hair loss, weight loss, port-a cathater management, GI troubles, hormonal
imbalances caused by chemo, dehydration management, large lesions in mouth etc....

Physical changes for me were mostly temporary and merely a catalyst for real change.

The important changes were in my head first in my soul forever after. This is what I want
my 6 minutes to be all about.

III. The physical changes in my experience brought me to question my life's existence, my

IIIa. Why would I be given such a great and important hurdle? What was the meaning?
Sensed from beginning that it wasn't time to die, it was time to live.
But what did that mean, aside from showing up on chemo days at the clinic.

IV. Choosing how to live.
Conscious choice to slow down, although I was helped with that one feeling crummy.
Appreciate breath.
Look at the sky each day and say thank you for one more day. It became that simple.
And, not at all hokey or cliched when dealing with life altering change.
Then, say thank you for lots of small things, the ability to walk 1/2 length of the local mall
at Christmas time to see the decorations. A good wig. Walk to see the trees not to burn
calories. A day without nausea. A kiss from the dog. A kiss from husband. The promise to
walk a different path to build a family once in remission.

V. This is how I found meaning in my gift of cancer. Gaining old lady wisdom.
Saying thank you to the universe gave me perspective.
Several months into the experience I found myself less concerned with what others thought
of me. I was merely concerned with my behaviour, doing my best was ok.
I became less angry when little things did not go my way. Life's little problems
became unimportant in relation to my overall experience.

VI. It is now 5 years later. Sometimes I forget to say thank you for all that I am blessed with.
But more often I remember, this is what makes me think I am a little closer to having old
lady wisdom in a 36 year old body.

I'm a little more clear completing that outline exercize however cryptic and unreadable it might be for anyone else. We'll see how it goes tomorrow morning. I think I get a free bagel and coffee for my efforts. For that and a lot more in my life I say thank you.