Beaker, Barris & bonkers.

I think I must have slipped down a rabbit hole.

Swear it was just the start of November… now it is nearly the end!

Wish I knew where it all went, but the upside is at least we made it this far.

Traveled to my Dad’s place today after watching the Panther’s defeat the Dolphins (GO PANTHERS!).  Soon after I got here and got the crew settled in, yes the pug & all the parrots, Dad was snoozing away in his recliner.

Has been a tough one.  Driving in I thought I was really going to lose it.  All week I have been dreading being here.

 The holidays last year were so different and started Mom’s decline.  Keep remembering how it all was.  How frail she looked as she waited up to see my reaction at my sister’s news that she was pregnant when I arrived here for Thanksgiving last year.  Remember laying in bed beside her watching cheesy holiday movies.  How she used to always spend this week stressing over what to buy when & which fridge to store this or that, planning out what would cook in her oven & what would cook across the street.  So much I want to talk to her about.  Get her opinion on or just to hear her be excited about ideas.  Plotting out who would buy what for who was always our thing.  We were a great team brainstorming, getting & hiding, then wrapping and popping it under the tree.

Honestly I feel a little like I am going through the motions this year.  Just trying to stay in the game but knowing I don’t have a chance.  Still hard to grasp in moments like these that she is just gone.  A friend, who also lost his mom to cancer several years ago tried to make me feel better by saying how “they are always with us in the traditions”, but I just feel the empty spaces of where she used to be.  In time they will fill with new memories and family will grow, but tonight in this cold dark house, I just want to imagine that she is still just in the other room napping before I go and wake her to make sure she gets the next dose of whatever is needed.  Almost can still hear her oxygen machine.  It almost feels like she is here, but just out of sight no matter how hard I look one step ahead.  I just can’t connect with her.  Breaks my heart.

I have no idea how Dad is able to sleep here.

BUT… I am trying very hard to focus on the upside of things.  Like that he is still living, and living here.  He got so excited about us all being together again that he spent most of last week setting half the front lawn ablaze in colorful lights you can see half way down the street.  So at least that tradition is still in tact.


I am very thankful I have memories to remember and that my sister and I know the recipes and have done them for years.  We may not be able to run back and check on how to do something, but we were able to learn.  Unbelievably thankful that we still will need the same number of chairs at the table.  We just have to replace her big one for my nephew’s high chair…. which he is starting to use a little!


Also thankful for family, friends and activities to keep me living.  Keep me from going completely psychotic from all the thoughts in my head and all the time to think them.  Grateful for the phone calls, even the late night midbreak down panic ones, the texts that always end up actually making me lol.  The walks and talks – be they beach or by the lake.  I should have worn the good shoes & this blister is brutal.  Hoping it doesn’t keep me from doing ok in the 5k Saturday.  If so thankfully I will have my Dad there to take care of me & help me not be alone in my walk of defeat. (Which will not happen. I am finishing… even if I bleed in my new socks!)  I’m even thankful for the friend who is dealing with so much stress and bad news in his life that he has blown me off a couple of times and just been too busy to make time to get together.  I know he needs to be with someone and talk, because I have been there, but guys do their own ways.  Hate he is dealing with it all, but upside… I see how far I have come in coping.  It shows me that reaching out, tough as it is, is so beneficial and by being the one who is trying to be there for him…. I can appreciate how tough it can be when you are unsure of what to say or topics to avoid.  Hoping he finds his own way to deal.  Not much can be done.  He knows I am here if he needs someone.  We all have our ways of dealing.  I certainly know the push everyone away method well.  Hard to come back from.

But there is hope.  There are friends all around & family… & tomorrow I get to snuggle the nephew and see what new talents he has developed.  Perhaps I will see a replay of his opinion on carrots.  Eat a bit then save the spoonfuls til you have enough to spray them all over your mom’s face, glasses, work scrubs….  sounded hilarious!  Even got a big wad on her cheek.  Talents!  He will make me smile.  He will be the light in this dark time.  For him I will be happy.  He deserves to know happy holidays.

Also I have news on adding a little one to my family.


Somehow I didn’t get the same reaction as my sister did, but then again it isn’t the same.  Feathered babies just don’t count with her.  Mom would have been excited & would have been checking it out before I could get the cage through the door!  Grandbirds made her happy, as do the grand dogs.

The rescue group that I work with got a dream to come true & it is WONDERFUL!  We are now an actual non-profit 501c3 filed with the state & we can take donations that let people get tax credit for making them.  Huge step.  Now we can better get in money that we can feel good about knowing they can get something too.

Best news & the one I squealed in getting to visit is the aviary is set up! The first one anyway!  For Budgies who need a home for whatever the reason.  No bird left behind.


The first residents seems to be in heaven when I visited.  They have a box to sleep in, but they don’t, plenty of perches, heated room and another more open screened area to enjoy the day’s weather and the flow of the breezes.  Plants are being planned to provide more tasty treats, fun to sit around on and a bit of variety.  These birds just moved into the Magic Kingdom for birds!

To get to the box there are a couple of rules for safety.  On being you must be able to fly this high in order to play in the box.  Flash back to when you were too short to ride the coasters.  Thankfully the ones who aren’t ready don’t know what they are missing & seem to be having fun in a big indoor cage together.  Most are there due to wings being clipped to the point where they can’t fly & wouldn’t be able to get to the water dish & food.  So they wait.  Wings grow back & soon they will soar with the others.

Except maybe this one.  The birds come from all places – owners who just don’t know what they were doing and their kid no longer cares, too many babies to keep after their two laid eggs and they were fun watching the babies but don’t want a house full.  Sometimes it is a petstore that knows a bird will not sell.  Enter my playdoh heart.

Perfect? Is any human perfect? no why should the birds be. So when I saw the infant with the displaced wing,  my heart just dripped.  I certainly can relate to having a visible body part that isn’t quite right & doesn’t work the way it was supposed to.  Still it was headed to paradise, I didn’t want to stop that.  When concern came up about if they others would pick on it or if it would ever be able to get food with all the others around….. then it was decided.  IF anything like that happened, I would be called to take it in happily.  Couple hours later I left with the new baby budgie.  Just felt right.  It seemed a very curious lil one coming to check me out at the cage when others backed up.  It deserved a shot at a home life.  All else fails I can get it flying as much as it can to see if it can be in the box later.


So… I got Barris a buddie.  So far he is estatic!  Still the strangest bird I have ever been around in keeping to him self & quiet but he has taken this one under his wing & already they are inseparable!

Since the new baby is so young, we won’t be able to confirm the gender for a few more months. Has to go through the first molt and the cere will change.  Then we know he or she.


For now…. Beaker.  Not sure why that name seemed to fit.  I had a name picked when I planned on getting my parrotlet & could have use that one, but it didn’t seem the same.

Beaker is one of my favorite muppets & lovable as can be, there is something a lil off.  Seemed to fit.  Beaker it is.  A bit different but totally loyal and lovable.

A bit different.  Totally loyal.  and lovable.  – Things I forget I am sometimes, but grateful for family & friends who remind me when I do.


Hope Courage Resilence – Race for the Cure 5k

Today I certainly stepped out of my comfort zone & did something that at one point in my life, I never would have thought I could. I walked a 5k – WITH 24,000 other people!

IMG_20131005_075151 (1)

May not sound that exciting, but to someone that deals with anxiety & fights daily against agoraphobia…. this is a HUGE win for me. It wasn’t overnight, but I have been conditioning myself to be in larger groups for some time. My last event was a night 5k with around 20,000 people & I came extremely close to not making it through the starting gates on that one! Medication limits got tested & pushed. Thankfully I am one stubborn goddess & the cover of night helped me to pretend that there weren’t as many there. I HAD to do it. It was the first 5k I finished EVER.


Today’s was pure daylight. It wasn’t the easiest day, but it was far from as hard as I worried it might be. So now I can say I have finished two events! Two large events.  The biggest thing for me was that I DID NOT panic – at all!  Did this one with my sister by my side & although I got nervous, I didn’t hit panic mode.

One big difference in the two events was the waiting to begin.  The first had us standing around just waiting without much to do but listen to the music.  This one had tons of swag tents!  There was a zumba group happening, food to tempt you into eating (yes I went for the free Krispy Kreme), lots of information and pink breast cancer themes freebies to pick up.  Both events people dressed festively but this one, HAD DOGS…. dogs IN costumes like pink tutus!  Animals make everything so much better.


It was 6 years ago tomorrow that I found myself hiding outside at my sister’s wedding because I couldn’t handle being around the about 300 guests. It was a time in my life that being outside my house was enough to send me into major panic attacks. 15 minutes was about my maximum limit anywhere. After the wedding, I decided to get help. Now…. I am proud to say that although I didn’t come in first today or raise the most money for the cause, I know I am winning.

& yes. I chalked my hair various shades of pink for the occasion! Now I am going to relax the night away playing with my almost 5 month old nephew while my sister & her husband go out to celebrate.

Admittedly I wanted my next 5k to be a smaller event, I am grateful that I did this.  May have been just to be on the Williams Warriors team I had heard so much about, but this experience has meant so much more than just a chance to show support for a Carolina Panther.

In fact, one of my fondest memories will have to be of the party Monday night.  Not only did we get to hear why this cause means so much to DeAngelo Williams, but we also got to meet him.  Something I never thought I would do.  He has the reputation as being a great guy (unless you are on the opposing team) & this night absolutely held true.  When I went forward to get my picture with him, he immediately greeted me with a big smile & a hug.  I was nervous being in the group at the party & was shaking.  He noticed & asked if I was cold…. it was HOT in there so no playing it off that way.  I explained I was just nervous in crowds & he took time out to give a pep talk, right then & there.


Yes there truly are still great people out there who care.

Luckily today I got to march with a whole lot of them.

They say time heals…

When you feel down, you have to remember.

So much gets us to where we are now.  It is easy to think of the hard days, the times you wish you could have but it just didn’t work. Reminding yourself of all you have overcome to get here is just as important.

It has been 6 months since Mom left us.  Today is six months to the day of the funeral.  Still feels surreal and a bit like she is off on some vacation and unable to contact us directly.


I have struggled with the last couple of days more than I imagined I would have.  I miss her.  In ways I never imagined, I miss her.  So many times I just want to pick up the phone & call her.  It truly is those little things that leave the void.  Having her listen, without judgement (expressed anyway) or trying to give solutions helped so much more than I saw then.  She knew me & knew what I was going through in ways no one else ever will.  Still….. I know me.  I have me.  & I will get through this.

Just need the reminder now & then that I can.

This is one reason I blog so openly.  I can look back & remember.


Lately my sleep habits suck.  I have skipped the ambien more & more.  Stayed up later than I should.  Waking up from dreams or sometimes the pug waking me from dreams. (I swear he is a therapy dog in so many ways, gently pawing my shoulder when I am in some seriously intense dreams is one of those things for sure.  The snuggles after I wake help too.)  Also I am finding I have been trying to use my hand during sleep & it is painful when it tries to stretch or grasp in ways it no longer can.  Which means I have to deal with the pain thru the day & the emotional frustration of knowing this is just the way it is.  Insomnia, night terrors, painful injuries & a helpful pug… not the recipe for a great night of sleep.

Thankfully tonight I get another chance.

Just have to keep going.

I’m not OK, I’m going 5K

Actually I am better than ok.  Wonderful weekend with a chance to see more of my favorite people than I ever could have if we planned it.  Love those moments that just happen.  Never realize how much you miss people til you are around them again & remember how incredible they are.

Thankfully I got in some time in the sand & was lucky enough to spot a few shooting stars to wish on.

Perfect weekend to end the summer.  As of Friday, it is back to classes.  Which meant getting the notebooks, files & textbooks.  Bring life back into focus.

So why not toss in another event?


Need something to work towards.

Another chance to push my limits, physically and psychologically.  I expect this event will draw a huge crowd which means I get to face the fears.


Every year I watch as one of my favorite Carolina Panthers enthusiastically encourages a group to participate in the Charlotte Susan G. Komen walk.  The event hits home since his own mother has battled breast cancer.  From her ability to overcome & his unending support, I find inspiration.  Wish my mom was around to help me  so much lately & there are so many times I wished her cancer was one as well known as breast cancer.  Maybe then doctors would know more or have had more of a chance.  Still so many women (& men) lose their fights that I in no way mean to insinuate that it is an easier war to wage – cancer is a bitch, no matter where it hits.

This year, I joined the team.


Officially part of the Williams’ Warriors!

Will be doing the 5k this year instead of just being in awe & supporting from afar. So excited!  Looking forward to joining others for the Race for a Cure event October 5th, 2013 in uptown/downtown/center city whatever you want to call it Charlotte, NC!

Promise I won’t constantly bug people requesting money, but I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE any & all support.  For everyone who raises $100 via their site, they get this year’s tee shirt from the event & you KNOW I want it.  So chip in if you can.  Even a couple of quarters would make me smile…promise.  It all adds up.  Just like I keep reminding myself that each step gets me further along.

You can help me here.


There is an Elephant in my Room!


Last week was my parents’ wedding anniversary.  The first one Dad celebrated solo.  The plan was for my sister & I to be around him as much of the day as possible to try to make it a little easier.  Since it fell on a Monday, and I have class Monday nights this semester, the best I could do was stay for the weekend then head back home after lunch on the anniversary date.  Distractions worked.  Evidently better than we thought because he didn’t realize it was July 1st til after I left.  It may have been months, but we are all still adjusting to losing Mom.

Bright spot in the day for me was learning that I had won a contest on Facebook!


Not just any contest but one from Lower Cape Fear Hospice and LifeCare Center’s  Begin The Conversation program. Talk about life’s interesting timing! Not sure there is room on the internet for me to say enough good stuff about hospice.  We really would not have been able to deal with losing Mom in any way near as well as we have without them.  Locally, I was extremely thankful for the grief programs offered.  There was a great comfort knowing that even though I was home, I could still have support resources to help.  The program I went through was focused on adults who have lost parents and the specific focus of the group really did help.

Know what else has helped? Having had “The Conversation” – Which is the focus of the Begin The Conversation program.  Knowledge really is power.

What is Begin The Conversation?

Their mission states is better than I ever could:


The objectives of Begin the Conversation include: 1) the understanding of possible healthcare choices, including timely hospice and palliative care services; 2) the knowledge about ways to record decisions, using advance care planning forms, legal documents, toolkits, and other resources; 3) encouragement to have end-of-life conversations with loved ones, family members, clergy, and physicians.

Basically, knowing what your loved one would want IF anything did happen is ideal for everyone.  They have the comfort of knowing that their wishes are carried out, or more likely that their loved ones aren’t going to be stressed out trying to plan or do everything, and we who lose someone have some guidelines in place to allow us to do what we think should be done while we also try to deal with adjusting to losing someone.
Key is understanding the options available.  After understanding the choices, put them in writing.  For some cases having them spelled out will help in legal situations.  Other times it helps to be a reminder of what they want.
I remember the first few times coming to my parents to see the big orange DNR posted on the fridge.  Was the first thing you’d see walking in the door.  It hurt.  BIG TIME.  But after a while I got used to seeing it and it hurt less.  Even when the sight of it grew less startling, I knew what it meant.  Do Not Resuscitate.  If something started going wrong with Mom, they were not to take extreme actions.  Very hard to grasp emotionally, but learning to get used to that sign, helped me get used to the fact that she was at the point where things were not going to get better and we had to learn to let go – for her.
Her coming to terms with passing in a lot of ways felt like giving up.  We as a family wanted to inspire her to fight on, even when the odds were not in our favor.  There comes a point where you just can not keep putting up the fight but there is beauty in the grace of letting go.  Looking back, finding peace with her decision probably prolonged the process and certainly it took away some of the stress of constantly searching for a long term plan.  Instead of planning the next round of attacks, we enjoyed as much as we had left together.  Turned out we had more time than we could have imagined and it went by quicker than we wanted.
Honestly.  In writing this post, I have tears in my eyes.  It still hurts.  But the pain is from missing her.  Not from wondering if we could have done anything differently.  Which truly is a gift.
Truth is we all will lose someone.  It will always hurt and we will never be quite as ready as we want to be.  Still there are things that help greatly.  Discussion, tough as it is, really does help.  Doesn’t need to be done at the end or after someone is diagnosed, but that certainly should be done then.  Every adult should think about what they would want IF something happens (which it will at some point).
Get it out of the way.  Think about it.  Talk about it. Then live knowing you are prepared.
Sure it is a bit scary and tough to think about.  Doesn’t get any easier the longer you put it off.  I promise it can make it all a lot easier when the time comes, which I sincerely hope is a long, long way off.


Grateful for the T shirt too which I hope sparks conversations as I wear it proudly.  Also couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that I won elephant related gifts!  Truly is the year of becoming an ElephAUNT.  Will have to let my nephew try out the stress elephant next time I visit.  Which thankfully will be soon.

Lasting Footprints

Escape at times can be a life saver.  Moments where you leave behind all the chaos & pain to relax.

my salvation.  was so beautiful tonight.

my salvation.
was so beautiful tonight.

We all need these moments.

Lately I prefer them as often as possible.

A change of plans for the day found me extra lazy.  Lounged around with the pug and pampered myself.  Hot bath, the good smelly lotion I never can wear around my sister (or could around my mom), a brownie for breakfast.  All went well til I noticed my feet.

Simply laying in bed in my robe, when I looked at them resting side by side.  For a moment I didn’t see my feet, but my mom’s.  The last couple of months when she couldn’t leave the bed we had to watch out for bed sores, especially on the backs of her feet.  One way to help was to prop them up with a rolled up towel for several hours off & on.  I also had become in the habit of making sure the blankets were tucked in and her toes weren’t getting chilly.  Mom’s feet had become familiar as ever.  She had these long toes with skinny nails and always had to find special shoes for narrow feet.  Towards the end they were emaciated.

Wouldn’t say I hallucinated.  My feet aren’t the same as my mom’s.  Mine are wide.  Just for a second though I could swear they were just like hers.  It was just the reminder.  Never realized how similar they really are… or were.

After I got myself together again I painted my toenails a bright pink.  She never wore nail polish of any kind, ever.  Plus she would never have worn the color.  It seemed to help.

Lately I am starting to have more thoughts of “Why her?” and “What if?”  Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma isn’t really something I should worry about.  They may not know much about it due to it being so rare, but it doesn’t seem like something one generation passes down to the next.   More likely was caused by how her body interacted with environmental factors (although that is still scary).

I have had my scare & survived.  My tumor was caught early.  No real drama.  I am alive.  So why hers?  What sick twisted lottery picks one opposed to another?  Why is one person lucky and another not?

This past week was the first session of grief group therapy, so I may bring it up and see if it is one of the things that is typical.  Also may schedule a doctor appointment just to clear my mind of any worry.  Actually I can’t really remember the last time I got a check up, so it probably isn’t a bad idea in general.

Peace of mind.

Even if I can’t figure out the big questions, it helps to still feel close to her.

She & I were and will always be connected.  I have my memories… & my feet.

Simple It Is Not

This weekend has turned into a tougher one than we expected.

Some things you expect will hit hard (anniversaries, holidays, traditions), some just seem to come out of no where for a sucker punch.

Friday I rode along with my Dad to the attorney’s office, which happens to also be a relative.  Of course I’m not going to pass up a chance to see where I hope to work one day!  Well not THAT office, but with a legal team.  We picked up a folder with some of the estate paperwork.  Since I just wrapped up a course on wills last semester, I turned to Mom’s will & reread it.  She had plenty of time, so she had a basic one drawn up back in August 2011.  Everything of course goes to Dad.  No dramatic surprises there, but what did kind of hit me was seeing the Death Certificate in the folder right behind it.  Just surreal to see the term Death & all my Mom’s information on it.  Still really just feels like she is away somewhere visiting family or something.

Wish this was the one I saw...

Wish this was the one I saw…

After the initial shock, I read over it and found the cause of death.  “Complications from salivary cancer”, one of those four words I didn’t expect.  Salivary? Not really.  I mean it started there back in 2000 (or 1999 depending on who you talk to), but as of her last round of tests where she made the decision to stop testing, it was areas in her lungs and brain causing the problems.  Salivary just makes it sound so simple.  So small.  Her illness and death were anything but simple.

Even from the beginning diagnosis of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma we knew it was anything but simple.  Even learning the name was an issue.  Try being asked what type of cancer your mom has & having people expecting to hear breast or lung and you respond with adenoid cystic carcinoma.  The most common reply is “What?” & a strange “are you making this up” look.  It wasn’t a common cancer.  Mom was always a rare gem.  It was not that simple.  Clearly they messed up.  Checking up online, it seems that ACC is considered a salivary cancer.  So I guess technically it is true.  Just strange to see it all reduced to 4 words.

Just all feels so diminished.

Like life some how just wants to make it all go quietly away.  The vacant gap left from her exit sealing up as if it never happened.  Not in my world.  Her presence is missed dearly.  Watching my Dad deal just hurts.  Wishing now more than ever I could pick up my phone & call to talk about it.  I may not have always agreed or taken her advice, but it was always there when I wanted to listen to it.  And thankfully she cared even those times where I went my own way.

The other hit came in the mail.  A normal unassuming envelope brought THE CHECK.  Life insurance payment to my Dad.  Honestly I don’t really remember seeing a check like that, but it couldn’t begin to cover what she means.  No number replaces her.  While it is helpful that the insurance policy is there, it again just seems to put it in a single dimensional black and white world instead of the vivid legacy I feel it should be.

So many times I wanted to ask her questions this weekend.  So many memories I fear losing.  Just feels empty.

Grateful for the time with family right now.  Tomorrow I head home, back to classes.  Means the world to look forward to coming back here to grieve with Dad & the family. Even if the surprises pop up it feels better to be with others who miss her instead of alone in a world that seems to forget she was a person at all rather than a string of numbers.