The Financial Fallout Begins…

Kids Korner

Wow! I am really amazed at how much time has flown by. I imposed a blogging hiatus after my last surgery. I had to…didn’t want to…just had to. Just a few days after my last surgery back in January, my winter classes started back up. Last year, I was in freak out land. I was unable to finish my classes and so I just let them go. I thought I could do it, but realized I just couldn’t. So, instead of doing the smart thing and withdrawing from all three classes last year, I withdrew from one and vowed to continue with extensions in the other two classes. It never happened. My head just got too messed up. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see straight. Being the Type A that I am–it is an all or nothing for me. That’s just the way I’m wired. And so, I did the unthinkable–I just dumped my classes…I just let them go…and I took the F’s. Me!! F’s!! Can you freakin’ believe it? I couldn’t either, yet my head wasn’t there and it was too late to withdraw at that point. Gone was my hard earned 4.0 GPA–but ya know what? I didn’t care. I just didn’t care anymore.

So, I re-enrolled in those two classes that I left at the curb. I devoted my energy to once again, pulling my GPA up and proving to myself that I wasn’t just some quitter. I know that is far from the truth. So, for 12 weeks, I worked on my classes. I found out after finishing them up a couple weeks ago that I get a second chance option. Yes, the letter grade F will still show on my transcript, but it will not be factored into my overall GPA since I passed my Children’s Lit with an almost 99% and my Child Psych with an almost 97%. I was ecstatic!! Once, they were finished, I celebrated. I had come back and accomplished what I gave up on last year. I proved to myself and to my instructors that I was ready to get back in the game. I took a couple weeks off to just play with my family and with my friends. I played hard, laughed hard, and as always worked hard. There were a million things I needed to get caught up on, but instead, I relaxed. Those things are still going to be there and I’m still going to be behind, but I vowed in this year’s New Year’s resolutions that I was going to MAKE the time to hang out with friends, and work on my chill skills. Its just more important for me now to just let things go. I can’t do it all at once. I’ll get to it when I get to it these days.

And remember those taxes I was freaking out over trying to get done…they’re still not done. I need to still get ’08 ad ’09 in. Yes, there will be penalties. Yes, there will accountant’s fees, but you know what? I just don’t care. Well, I do, but I don’t. I have been sitting in a sesspool of financial obligations. I knew last year that the true financial fallout would happen this year. It would take that long to catch up–and it has–with a vengeance. All the bills from the doctors and surgery centers and related other physicians, anesthesiologists, radiologists, oncologists, pathologists, and any other -ologist you can think of has hit my desktop. It is mountainous and I can only do what I can do which is try to continue breathing as I wade through this nightmare. To make matters worse, Jeff was wrongfully terminated from his job of 17 years and we are in legal crap up to our ears. Lawyers don’t come cheap. So, we have tapped every reserve we have and watched it run dry over the past three months. He is caught in a non-compete clause. His former employer and life-long best friend is now appealing the court’s decision to grant him unemployment after it was contested in the first place (don’t get me started with this story–whole other blog, trust me).

If that isn’t enough, the first house we ever bought and subsequently poured our hearts and lives into as we renovated it extensively all by ourselves (except for the help of just a handful of people that were good friends or family)–was sold at a sherriff’s sale. Yep. After carrying that mortgage along with our current mortgage for nearly 4 1/2 years, we went into foreclosure–well, it was my name on that house, so I’m the one that will suffer the credit effects. We just couldn’t make it anymore. Hell, in this economy, I don’t know too many that could have carried 2 mortgages and all the expenses to keep 2 houses up for that long. I know several people that have lost the homes they were living in this year. I’m counting my blessings that we still have a roof over our heads–at the moment–with Jeff out of work and me still pulling down three jobs and contemplating a 4th part-time job–I’m afraid that the straw that will break my back will be a recurrence of my cancer due to stress–again. I’m ever mindful of this. I think about it a lot. Yet our situation is out of necessity at the moment. I’m also waiting for the gavel to fall. I’m waiting to find out how much the difference is between the amount left on the mortgage to the amount the house was sold for. I’ll be responsible for the difference. Up until last year, BOTH houses were under my name and you guys thought I was just stressed about cancer or my missing daughter…sigh…

Jordan 1 1/2 yrs. & Jasmine 5 1/2 sit proudly in front of their new home.

As I walked through that house one last time, I cried. The dreams and the hopes you have as you start out your lives in your first home were coming to an end. On one hand, it was out of my hands at this point, and I was relieved. I wouldn’t have to carry that weight anymore. On the other, I was sick that it never sold. Damn housing market…took a dump the week we decided to move. It was really like my life was flashing before my eyes. I saw my children growing up there..watched out the window as my oldest daughter learned to ride a bike down the street without training wheels…flushed boogey men down the toilet so my middle daughter could sleep at night…nursed my little boy when he was born from my muted mauve bedroom…saw the daycare children growing up there…listened to the laughter ringing throughout the house..echoing in my mind…reminding me of years gone by. I’ll never forget sleeping on the floor of the living room every night for 7 months straight in a big makeshift bed that held all of us as we gutted the upstairs bedrooms and refinished the hardwood floors by hand–not with big machines, but with tiny belt sanders…I thought about the gardens that I painstakingly planted full of perrenials hunched over for hours on end with a belly out to there–pregnant and happy…working until the streetlights were the only thing that illuminated the fenceline. I remembered all the Mother’s Day Tea Parties I had thrown and the friends I had made…I remembered Jeff spending one hell of a hot summer poised on ladders as he scraped the house by hand and repainted it a beautiful grey with navy blue and white trim…I remembered the fights…the arguments with Jeff about money, childrearing, or what ultimately led to our decision to leave. I remember, vividly, my dad…poised over the pipes in both the upstairs bathroom and the kitchen as we gutted those rooms and he slaved over a hot torch without central air on 100 degree days to help us replumb this big, old four-square. I will always remember the night we were robbed–our first Christmas there–they took everything–even our winter coats out of the closet to drape around the TV’s they carted out of the house. I remember Santa bringing us Cheyenne–our first dog. If you remember from a previous post, she past away last June 17, 2009. Even more bittersweet, her pawprints were in the drywall dust from where Jeff brought her back to play as he worked on getting it ready for sale.

Santa brought us Cheyenne '97

It was the fireplace that caught my eye the first time I ever saw the house…some would have thought I was crazy…weeds waist high…paint falling off like skin on a badly sunburnt back…in sheets…but I could see the beauty. The day I walked up those rickety stairs and stood on that raw porch and peeked in the windows, I immediately envisioned the Christmas tree in the alcove near a blazing fire with my kids racing down the wide staircase to open their presents. That fireplace sold me.

Christmas '99

I knew it would be years of work, but I was up for that challenge. I lived without a kitchen in that old house for 5 years. Nothing at all inthere except the beams, exposed wiring, a broken stove with only one working burner and the stove that backfired like the muffler on an old Ford escort wagon we used to own. A laundry utitility sink that served as my sink and a utility table for my countertop. For five years, I patiently waited as my husband built my dream kitchen with oversized custom maple cabinets, custom tilework and stainless steel appliances and enbossed tin blackplash. I only got to enjoy that kitchen for a few months before we moved. Five years! I know no other woman that would have put up with that for 1 year let alone 5!! With tears streaming down my face like a leaky faucet, I came to rest on the most important place of all in that old home–my custom made growth chart. The edge of the fridge wall alcove where I measured a dozen children mine and “mine” that grew up with us in that home. I placed my hand on that wall and could actually see the smiling faces of these children…feel their excitement once more as they scooted their heels back to the wall and waited with giddy anticipation to see how much they had grown. I would miss that spot in my house the most. (see sidebar for flikr photos of growth chart)

I placed some tracing paper up along the wall and taped several sheets end to end and sat and traced out every name, every date, every growth mark. Then, I took pictures of it. Although they don’t do the spot justice or to someone viewing them, they could never know all the laughter and twinkling eyes that stood at that very spot over the years, but for me I knew it would be just a matter of time before someone would paint over that spot. The sentimental significance would not be the same for them. Jeff and I loved to find the story of that old house. We loved to talk about finding a gun in the rafters of the basement or pictures of people that had been left behind. We joked that as we tore each room out and rebuilt it, one day we would find a bag of money or gold. Perhaps we did, but not in the physical sense of it. Perhaps our gold lied in our perseverance to turn that old dump into our goldmine–a home for our family. But as I stood there, last week, May 31, 2010…I knew even Jeff had given up. It no longer belonged to us.

As I turned to look through the house one last time, I whispered an apology to my home, “I’m sorry for neglecting you. I’m sorry for ever taking you for granted.”, “I’m sorry we chose to pay for medicines and treatment for me instead of medicines and treatments for you” and then I followed with a note of thanks, “Thank you…for the memories…for keeping us warm and dry, comforted, and loved”. With that I choked back the sobs and with tears streaming, I pulled out of the drive one last time. I told myself as I drove away watching the reflection of that house fade out of sight in my rear view mirror that it was another chapter closing. It was like leaving her as I found her, weeds waist high, paint peeling once again, gardens neglected, and on the inside, traces of renter’s that had not appreciated her beauty, plaster falling from the ceiling in the master bedroom where a leak in the roof had developed, a basement that had taken on water when the pipes burst over the cold winter months, a delapidated and tired looking porch, and broken bathroom fixtures. All that work. All those years. All that money…gone…but, I was alive. I was thankful for that. That was all that mattered.

I always wanted to bring the previous owner back…a little elderly woman whose husband had passed away and whom we fondly referred to as George, the ghost (we attributed all the weird stuff we heard or saw over the years to him). I knew I would have made the woman proud. I had brought back to life the home she raised her children in. I knew the importance of preserving the story and was looking forward to the day when I could tell her ours. That never happened, but one freak day, I did meet the owner who poured the patio in back. She was up visiting from the South and wanted to see her old place. This woman was two owners back and she showed me the place her and her husband wrote their initials in the cement. That cleared up that question I had had for years. Now, whoever moves in will find our handprints cast in cement in several places around the house–the furnace pad that was poured when we took out the big octopus, the central air pad when after sweltering through 4 hot summers with no air–we finally moved into the 20th century, and in the front under the apron skirt of the house. There will be reminders of us all over the place. Since we pretty much gutted each room, Jeff was good about leaving little time capsules around the house buried within the walls. I hope someday to go back–show the new owner who the handprints belonged to. Maybe, just maybe they’ll be happy to see me too. I really hoped the next owners would love it as we had and bring her back to life once more. She had great bones. She was and always will be my first love. If I could have picked that house up and moved it to where we are now–I would have.

Saying goodbye...

I’ve been enjoying these past few months despite the emotional ups and downs. I have worked hard at my number one goal for this year which was repairing, reaffirming, and reconnecting myself with friends and family old and new. I have been working on another blog site–not ready yet, but I’ll keep you all posted as I get close to launching. I have signed up for summer classes and have started the whole freak out thing all over only this time, I am cramming 16 weeks into 8. Gulp. One is a writing course and as much as I love it, I find myself needing to break down and buy a go-anywhere internet card to keep up with my classes and still be able to take the kids to the pool on the weekends. I could write by the side of the pool. I have SO many things I am looking forward to sharing. I also have many posts that I never got around to posting and I want to just get that story out of me so I can move on. You’ll have to check dates carefully to get a perspective on the time frame and I want to thank you all for continuing to stop by from time to time, or friend me on Facebook (a place I spend more time than I care to admit late at night–but that is part of the resolution), and sending me private messages of encouragement and hope. I’m looking forward to getting back to my blog. I’ve missed it terribly. I’ve posted some new videos, am working on uploading pics, totally need to re-do my own pictures since my look has changed dramatically over the past few months, and just want to catch everyone up to speed. For quite a while, I wondered–crap, where do I begin? Here’s as good a place as any, I suppose.


Race For the Cure


Throughout this past year, with all the ups and downs and major family crisis, there is one event that really sticks out in my mind–a moment where we ALL came together (including Jasmine)–The Race For the Cure. I am going to be completely honest here, I had always heard of it, but had never participated before. I had always read about it in the paper, but had never witnessed it. I had always seen news clips of our local race, but I had never been touched personally by breast cancer up until this year. I take that back, as I’ve stated before in my post Strapped In Tight , my oldest daughter’s daycare provider was affected by the disease and yet, after she got remarried and moved, we lost touch. We weren’t thinking about it daily anymore and therefore, details and extra curricular activities once again busied our lives.

I have spent a great deal of time flip-flopping between being on the outside looking in (even though I was very “IN”) or “owning it”. I have said openly–“I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO THIS CLUB”! I don’t. A big part of me really just doesn’t want to ever have to worry about cancer, statistics, prosthesis, chemotherapy, metastasis, reconstruction, wigs, mastectomy swimwear, etc. etc. etc. It’s like this…when you are pregnant for the first time, you are hyper tuned to all the strollers you see passing you in the mall, all the laughter of a preschooler playing in a park, a toddler crying for a piece of candy in the checkout lanes of the grocery store, or a baby and its mother conveying their love for each other through their eyes. If you aren’t pregnant or trying to conceive, you are busy with many other routines of life. Same goes for cancer. I am now, on alert when I read things in the newspaper regarding cancer treatments. I am more aware of (young and old alike) women that have lost their hair and whether they are wearing a head covering of some sort. I am more aware of the anguish some women are feeling as they are sitting in the Center for Breast Health. I know what they are feeling now. I have been there. I have walked a mile in their shoes. I have deep compassion and respect for these individuals who are facing their own mortality.

So, it goes without too much saying that when all the buzz about our local Susan G. Komen’s Race For the Cure was getting underway, that I found myself drawn to signing up. What an experience that was! I couldn’t believe how many people were at the sign up. I couldn’t believe how much pink was being proudly worn. I couldn’t believe how huge this was. The signup happened on a weekday and since I provide childcare during the day, I thought I’d just take them down with me–no big deal–we’d sign up–they would be my sign up supporters and we’d high five a good job done for Tina and we’d go grab a pizza somewhere. Little did I know that it would turn into a huge nightmare.

It was COLD and windy that day. The parking lot was jam packed and we had to park all the way to the back of the lot and run up. Once inside the convention center, I had to navigate through lines of women all the while continuously counting heads even though the kids are all knowledgeable about the rules I have while in public–hands on the stroller at all times, listen carefully for instructions, etc. We made it to the line where the applicants who hadn’t pre-registered were asked to stand. I waited approximately 20 minutes only to get to the front of the line when I remembered I left my debit card in the van. We turned around and headed back out into the cold to retrieve it. Once we returned the line had grown. We waited again for approximately another 30 minutes and once I reached the head of the row, the lady explained that they do not accept debit cards. I couldn’t believe it. I was so angry! She knew that was what I was going to get. It was the same lady. She heard me! Couldn’t she have told me then and saved me the trouble? Yes–but she didn’t. I turned everyone around and out we went to the van yet again. I loaded all the children, the double stroller and away we went looking for an ATM.

We ended up at a bank and after getting the exact amount of money we would need–plus a little extra to spend at the mini pink ribbon store that was there–we went back for a third time to the convention center. Pulling into the parking lot, I pulled out the snacks and had everyone finish up those before going in. I knew if I attempted it again, I would ultimately hear, “I’m hungry”. So, I crossed that one off the chesklist, first, and made my way through the throngs of women who were now standing in long lines. I found the same lady’s line that I had already stood in twice before. I know, you’re all probably wondering why I chose her again, afterall, she had already failed to give me pertinent information that would have made my life easier given the fact that I was trying to get through this process with 6 children by my side. It was a matter of principle at that point. I was going to prove to her that I was not easily deterred. That I was determined to sign up for this event–and really, if I left now without signing up after going through all the hassle, I would have been more mad at myself!

I thought that if we went and looked through the store, killed some time while picking out some bumper stickers, the lines would diminish some. I kept my eyes on their status and when I realized they were only getting longer, I figured I better go and grab a place. As we stood there, we played Simon Says and amused all the women around us. We also played I Spy until I was sick of it. I was getting hot and so were the kids. I started to peel coats off and pray the line would move faster. I finally get to the front after another 40 minutes only to have her smile sickeningly at me and ask me where all the registration forms were. That was it! I was about to blow and I knew I couldn’t because I’d have 6 children watching me. It’s moments like these when you know they are watching you. This is a teachable moment in patience, tolerance, and keeping my mouth shut firmly. I tried. I really did. I couldn’t help it, though and so I leaned over the table and got very close to her and as I smiled sweetly to her I told her through clenched teeth that this was my first time here. I had no knowledge of the process, the order to get that process done, or that I needed to bring cash or check. I told her that it was her duty as a volunteer to be trained adequately so that when someone shows up and looks lost, they are given ALL the information they need to produce the items necessary to register”. I then asked her where in the hell are the forms. She pointed to the back of the line where a table was set up. AAAAGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!

“Calm Down”, I told myself. “Breathe”. So, I did. The sound in the convention center was becoming deafening with all the chatter and women’s laughter. I was totally over stimulated. The kids, although satiated for the time being, were bored. What was supposed to take me 15 minutes had now taken me over two hours and I was still no closer to getting my race badges. Here is where the crucial mistake was made. Recall, I had given the children snacks in the van? What goes in must come out, right? Yeah–I never thought about that in all my frustration. So, after spending 10 minutes filling out all the information on front and back of 5 forms and standing in line for another 20 minutes, I hear that familiar sound, “Tiiinnnnaaa–I have to go potty!!!!!” That prompted the next one to grab themselves and start dancing–and the next one and the next one–etc. etc. etc. I looked at the front of the line–I was second in line. The women all behind me were secretly happy. I could tell. They were tired of listening to the umpteenth repetition of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”. “Can you hold it just a little longer?” I begged. “NOOOOOO! They all cried”. I should have pottied them when we were filling out the registrations. Hindsight. Crap. “I give up”, I dismally said out loud.

I took them all to the potty but the women’s line was out the door. Double crap. I can’t go in the men’s bathroom, especially with a double stroller so, I am going to let the 4 preschool boys go in as a buddy system and I would be standing right at the door listening for them. The first sign of trouble, I was coming in. Note to self: Never let 4 boys go into a public restroom with urinals hanging from the wall because 1.) they are not preschool sized or hung at a preschool height; 2). They can’t reach the sinks or the soap hanging from the wall; and 3.) the toilets are usually plugged and not flushed and no one will want to go. I could hear the laughter. I knew something was going on. It was just a matter of time, really. They all were bored and it was more fun to be playing in a big boys bathroom then to stand in a line waiting to be helped. I asked a man coming out how it was going in there. He was in there and I know not only had he heard me, but many, many women all around me heard the ongoing conversations I was having loudly with the boys. The man told me they were the only ones in there–noone else if I needed to go in and check on them. I thanked him and started maneuvering the stroller into the narrow opening.

What I saw was comical to say the least. On the one hand, it completely helped break the tension that had been building in me from our disastrous morning and on the other showed me how ingenuitive these boys really were. There they were–still buddied–only not hand in hand as I sent them in there. They had collectively figured out a way to use the urinals so they could all have a chance of peeing on the blue urinal cake. One buddy hoisted his partner up by holding onto his legs. Boy being hoisted was leaning with both hands on the wall on either side of the urinal and the forward lean was helping point the arc in the correct downward spiral. Once done, they switched spots and the hoisters now became the urinators. I do wish I could have taken a picture of that–although highly inappropriate–it was hysterical. My boy was heard throughout the immediate vicinity to say very loudly–“Just don’t pee in my mouth–ok?” I laughed and helped the boys all up to wash hands. I congratulated them on their use of logistical thinking skills and their cooperative teamwork, but asked them kindly to just use the normal potty from now on–even if it means you have to pee on someone’s poo (that was the overwhelming concern they all voiced).

As we emerged from the men’s room, I realized how odd that statement probably sounded coming from my son for those who had not witnessed what was going on. I couldn’t help but openly smile. I re-entered the line to register with all my applications and noticed the lady I had dealt with was now gone. “Probably out to lunch”, I thought. The lines were starting to dwindle and as I approached the front and got all the applications turned in and paid for, I mentioned to the lady as briefly as I could how unprofessional I felt the woman she replaced was. She asked me if the woman had shown or pointed to where the ATM machines were located there within the facility. I was horrified and speachless and as I turned around and looked down a dark corridor, I saw it. AAAAGGGGHHH!!! I turned and told her “Absolutely Not”. She shook her head and apologized. She finished up and told me to take my badges over to the T-shirt table to pick up our groups shirts. I thanked her and headed over there hoping we were close to being done. It was there that the gentleman helping me shorted me one shirt. He swore he had only received 4 vouchers. I swore I gave him 5. He went back through a giant stack of vouchers and began to check. I looked to see if I had dropped one somewhere. Then I saw it. One application that had gotten shoved down by the coats in the cargo bin of the stroller while I was in the restroom with the boys. It was Jasmine’s application. Triple Crap.

You know what that meant. I had to return to line to pay for hers and get her voucher. At that point I was wondering if I should just forget about it. I mean, she was, at that time, MIA and Lord knows when she was going to be back. I went with my gut and decided to wear her badge along with mine should she not show up. Knowing that if she were in her RIGHT mind, she would not miss this and if she did, she would walk in spirit with me. When I got to the front, the first lady was back. I glared at her. She asked me for the money and I handed it over. She said I was $5 dollars short. WHAT??!!!!! I was FURIOUS!!! I had no more money, time, or patience left. I began to replay the events of my entire morning to her including the part where she failed to tell me there was an ATM ON SITE!! Her supervisor came over and it was waived. I was not trying to get out of donating to a worthy cause, mind you, I had spent upwards of $100 that day and knew I would spend more at the race as I perused the vendors, so it’s not like the organization wasn’t going to be making any money off of me, that’s for sure. I snatched the voucher out of her hand, marched over to the T-shirt table and had the man bag up all my shirts. I was relieved to be done, finally. The kids were relieved to be done, finally. Finally, we were going home.

We left the center and it was so nice to hear the quietness of that cold morning. We went to the van, loaded everyone up, loaded the stroller, and began to exit the parking lot. QUADRUPLE CRAP!!!! This sickening feeling washed over me as I looked in between the seats for the bag of shirts. “Oh God, please tell me I didn’t forget them all in there!” I kept muttering “Please, Please, Please” as I pulled over to check the cargo bin of the stroller. Not there. I looked up at the convention center and realized I had to make one more trip inside. I was about to say “Forget It” and take off without them, but I had paid for them. I wanted my family to all wear theirs with me. I pulled back into the parking lot and for the last time, I unloaded all the kids and walked into the center. Now–I just hope someone hasn’t stolen them. We waded through the sea of women and came to the table. There, all bagged up and sitting on top a pile of t-shirts were mine. I opened the bag, counted the shirts, made sure the sizes were all right, and left for the last time.

This would be my first Race For the Cure. I prayed that my children would walk it every year in memory of me and not because they had been affected themselves by the disease. I prayed that I would be a more willing participant of the “Club” once I could see visually how many people are affected by breast cancer. I prayed Jasmine would come home. I prayed that I would have the strength of an army to get through the rest of this year. I was just happy I had made it out of the damn convention center without killing someone!

The morning of, it was chilly and rainy. Not bad, very spitting conditions, yet not my ideal forcast for my first race. We didn’t let it get to us. We donned our shirts, our race badges, and peeled Jasmine out of bed–she had made it. I’m not sure how with us she really was, but she was physically there and she was willing to participate–so that spoke volumes to me at least. I was overwhelmed and found my eyes tearing up on more than one occassion. I had never seen so many people! I even knew some of them–more members of this club of women–some I had even remembered seeing in the Center for Breast Health’s waiting rooms. We walked that day–all 5 of us. Jasmine pretty much walked ahead of us and at times I wondered if she were looking for an escape route somewhere along the way. We posed for pictures and I secretly wondered if I would be around for next year’s. I began to notice the little patch on the survivor caps that delineated how many years cancer free they had been.

I didn’t wear a wig and I was trying to own my baldness on that day. I had a baseball cap and a smile and my family. That was all that mattered to me. We walked the long route. We saw all sorts of crazy and funny things from t-shirts to dogs decked out in pink ribbons and booties. We saw memorials emblazoned across the backs of countless idividuals walking for loved ones they had lost or were battling their dragons. It’s hard to explain, but the whole time I walked, I had a lump in my throat. It was hard to swallow. Just as it is hard to swallow the fact that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed. Seeing that many women walking, and watching more intently to the chatter on Twitter regarding similar walks all around the country has prompted me to really think that statistic is not correct. “It just has to be lower than that”, I kept saying to myself as we walked.

One of my all time favorite movies is Superstar featuring Mary Katherine Gallagher, a clumsy parochial student who is just looking for acceptance. She always strikes a pose and cries, “Superstar” as an affirmation to her awesome-ness. When I passed the finish line I pulled my signature Superstar move. Everyone there laughed and cheered! The news crew came down and asked me to give my name so they could give a shout out to me on the radio. I told them I was Christina Heald, 3 month survivor so far, and I was a Superstar!



Moral of the story: Always pre-register for the damn race!!!

Ok, Fine, I’ll Sign Up…


For over a month now, I have been sitting quietly back and wondering whether or not I should join in all the excitement over NaNoWriMo. It Stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a contest to see if you can commit to cranking out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Anyone who reads my blog can verify that I am usually not at a loss for words and my posts tend to run anywhere between 2500-3500 words. So, what’s the problem, then? I have two stories that have been brewing in the back of my head for the majority of this year and I would absolutely love to jump in. However…I just don’t know if the timing is right. I’m going through with the surgeries and the fills and opening up my home each week to observation after observation so I can look back and know that my professional goals for this year were met. But, as much as I want to just write on my blog every day, the details of my life take over and if I’m lucky, I will get two minutes at a red light somewhere just to check stats. By the time the day is done, I’m exhausted.

I was unable to really get through school this year and ended up taking the whole year off so I could clear my head, not worry about those deadlines and exams. I still haven’t filed my taxes for 2008 yet and now I’m needing to get 2009 ready. I have a daughter that lives across the state at the moment and be that as it may, I am still busy with conference calls, staffing calls, writing to her, and trying to get through the horrific mess she made in her room almost a year ago. I shut the door and expected her to clean it up. But, I am hoping she will come home and I know that as fragile as she is emotionally at the moment, the last thing she needs is to feel overwhelmed in her own room. I’m trying to come up with a system that will sort of resemble how she’s been living for the past few months so she will feel at ease as she re-integrates.

I know, I know–excuses. Here I am–the biggest cheerleader to those friends of mine that are participating and have been on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon for quite some time, and yet–I’m just not one to start something if I can’t finish it. Yet–again–I didn’t finish school last winter–aaarrrggghhh–back and forth–back and forth. I drive myself completely nuts sometimes just talking myself in or out of something. So, I’ve jumped off the fence. I’m going to try. If I don’t make the goal–then I don’t make the goal–but I will have tried. It’s process over product and I have posted that on my friend, Traci’s blog, An Unencumbered Life over and over as she has struggled with some of the same issues I have. I know in any other year, I could do this with my eyes shut. Why not this year, I ask? There’s really no reason good enough for me not to just jump in and try. Whether I write a little or a lot, I am going to try. It’s not about the content or the correct grammar and such as it is about just getting your story on paper. I’m going to tell my inner editor to shut the hell up and I’m going to write. There are so many people who do this around the world and I have been really amazed at the buzz about it. I listen in on Twitter and have been reading some of the forums. I joined a region–Iowa (elsewhere) because my particular region wasn’t listed. I have Traci as a writing buddy and because I see her everyday anyway (she’s one of my daycare moms), we can commiserate together.

The website is really pretty neat and I would encourage all of you to check it out if you’ve ever had a story in you that is dying to come out. If you make your 50,000 word goal (which is really only about 1700 words or so a day–honestly–half of one of my blog posts–that’s it!) then you are considered a winner. There is a section for young writers also and I have taken the time to print out the entire high school workbook and take it over to Kinkos to be bound. I sent it to Jasmine. She has filled 5 journals so far since she has been where she’s at and the story she will tell, I’m sure will be worth the read. I have also told a young girl I used to watch and now teach piano lessons to. She loves to write. I hope she joins and becomes a writing buddy of mine too. I know there have to be many of you out there that have heard of this, have participated in the past, have won, or have just thought about it. I would love to connect with you and become a writing buddy with you. If you hunt me up on the website, my username is cjheald. Don’t look at the word count generator because so far, I’ve been trying to work out the title. I have the book cover already in mind, just have to wait for my next surgery to snap a picture of it. I tried to post a word count graph so you could all see my progress, but can’t seem to get it to work.

I have a post coming up that is mainly pictures. I have spent the past 3 weeks debating whether or not to do this. I have been editing not for my sake, really, but for the sake of my husband who is uncomfortable with me letting it all hang out–or not. I am an open book these days. If I can help one person, then I have contributed. However, I am feeling censored in some areas and am wrestling with how to continue to tell my story. I have come to realize that I have many posts that are from this year that are filled with some strong language or content. Pictures that are more suited for adults than children and so I decided to have my blog rated. It carries an R rating and is really not suitable for anyone under 17. How can I monitor this across the world–I can’t–except to exercise some caution or restraint…hhhmmm…I’ll think about it.

In case any of you were wondering–this post is approximately 1150 words. I had two additional paragraphs that were quite lengthy attached, but have put them into the next post as they were more suited there. My main concern in the next two weeks is my taxes. I will be pushing the end of November with Nanowrimo–I hope anyway and there’s quite a bit coming up on here as well. Stay tuned.

I’ve Made A Decision…

Hey Everyone!!

Hey Everyone!!

This is as good a time as any to tell you that I’m headed under the knife again in just a day and a half. Wednesday morning–October 14th. 8am. I have soooooo much to do to get ready. It seems like I’m moving at warp speed. I have so many posts I want to get out, but just can’t get everything done in the time frame I have left. I have SO MUCH NEWS to report that for as much as I am getting really wigged out about this, I am looking forward to laying on the couch for a week and half–so I can sleep, blog, sleep, blog, sleep, and blog. I have pictures galore to upload and I have so many things I want to tell you all! I’m going to situate my computer, cell phone, and home phone on the couch along with the remotes, pain killers, bottle of water and puke bowl. I’m praying and hope you will also that I will be able to move my arm by the weekend so I can just type and click my mouse. I am praying for NO complications whatsoever.

For now–all I can say is that I need to get a million personal details attended to. I am determined to lay out at least a week and a half of full outfits for my son who will go to school in too small clothes if I leave it up to my hubby. I need to pick up more meds, mail off bills, contact my accountant (no my taxes aren’t done yet and I so don’t want to hear her get mad at me), volunteer at my son’s school for an hour, and clean my totally messy bedroom and put away tons of laundry. It will be a tall order and that’s just the half of it. I cancelled piano tonight and didn’t go to my wellness class so that I could start in on some of those things. I was hoping to get some of that accomplished this past weekend, but as usual, I was swamped. Saturday I didn’t have to work at the Arsenal and I spent the majority of the day birthday shopping for Jasmine who turned 18 on Friday, October 9th.

I also have the most exciting news. I received my first haircut on Saturday along with my little boy. I haven’t had that feeling since February when I was having a meltdown over the stylists boobs hanging in my face. My little boy needed one too and we both went to get a cut. My hair has been growing in all funky since it fell out in May. Super dark, super soft, very colicky, long, gray, faster-growing, wild ones sprouting out, it parts to the opposite side now, but not in a neat part–one that is jagged as heck, and the receding hairline that has plagued me my whole life on the side of my head that I used to strategically place my bangs is now coming in thick! Go figure!! I have noticed lately that the hair on the tops of my ears was actually starting to curl a little and get fuzzy–and I thought I’d better trim some dead ends. Maybe that would help it grow, too! I couldn’t believe my eyes–when the stylist finished–my head had a style again! Very Jaime Lee Curtis-ish!!! I loved it! Amazing what a makeover will do for you! Just what my self-confidence needed! I have plenty of pics to post, (bear with me) but here’s a teaser:

Lookin' Good! Feelin' Great!

Lookin' Good! Feelin' Great!

Here’s the sunset that night shining brightly into the car allowing me to get these great shots of the new feisty haircut:

Super Spikey!

Super Spikey!

Short & Sassy!

Short & Sassy!

Oh–and here’s one of Justin’s new-do:

Shark Hair

Shark Hair

Have you all noticed that I’ve finally figured out how to use more than one picture throughout the post! Yeah!!

Since my car accident a month ago, the insurance companies have been haggling out who should pay and my hubby’s car is still not fixed. We had to break the news to her on Friday’s conference call that we wouldn’t be able to come up to see her over the weekend. She was devastated. We had already given her a heads up on Tuesday’s conference call, and I guess she took it pretty hard and the rest of her week didn’t go well. What she didn’t know on Friday when we called her was that we were totally blowing smoke. Jeff’s family let us borrow their fuel efficient vehicle and so we decided to make the 12 hour drive complete with an hour or so of pit stops just so we could surprise her and visit her for 3 hours. We’ve done it several times now and let me tell you–it’s exhausting to cram that much into one day and that many people into one tiny car for that long. So, that’s what we did on Sunday. When we got to Sioux City, IA we went into a back room while we waited for Jasmine to come in. When she got into the main room, we waited a minute or so and then we all busted out yelling “SURPRISE!!!” For a minute, she didn’t realize what was happening or who we were because she had resigned to thinking we weren’t coming up. She started crying and jumped up and hugged me sooooo tight and didn’t let go for the longest time. We had the best visit and I took the best pictures of her. Here’s the whole family together. Doesn’t she look healthy and happy!!

Heald Family 10-11-09

Heald Family 10-11-09

I have completed another observation to re-certify myself for ChildNet this morning. What a breeze that was compared to last week’s accreditation observation! I would love to get the State of Iowa’s Home Auditor out here as well–maybe tomorrow?–for a spot check and have talked to the Dept. of Health to come out the week I’m off to try and complete 2-3 of my spot checks for them. Since the house is clean and all organized and ready for me to be off duty from everything–may as well get as many people in here as possible to get some of those visits completed. I’ll just lay on the couch and they can do their thing. I’ll look like crap and probably smell that way too, but I know that from here to the beginning of next year, I won’t be able to do things–like lifting and hoisting kids–and I don’t want to go out of compliance on anything since many expiration dates will come toward the end of the year. I’ll work toward all other recertifications after the first of the year. Much to think about.

Through all the childcare hoopla, I have been under the most extreme pressure and stress to get the ball rolling with any additional surgeries I may want to have sometime in the future. Jeff’s job situation is getting very ugly and I am once again faced with the ever present threat that we will be losing our insurance not to mention Jeff will be losing his job altogether which will be devastating to our finances and all before Christmas. Sigh. My stomach just turns and the anxiety runs high because there are just too many unknowns that are still on the horizon and yet, all I can think about is that I may spend the next 40 yrs. plus–lopsided. It has spurned huge arguments and also great concern over a myriad of details. I’ll try to sort it out another time, but for now…

I’VE MADE A DECISION! A big one. There is much that went into this and it all came about pretty suddenly–like a week and a half ago. I’m moving forward on Wednesday with the first of two surgeries for a reconstruction. Yes–you heard it–I’M GETTING MY BOOB JOB!!!

I’ve had lots of tests to get ready for this.

EKG is good.

Getting all the electrodes ready

Getting all the electrodes ready

Placing the electrodes

Placing the electrodes

All hooked up for my EKG  10-8-09

All hooked up for my EKG 10-8-09

Bloodwork looks good. I guess my white count is good!!


My first mammogram since January came back clean!!!! Even my No-Bo side!!

Remember I posted in the beginning that my kids always referred to my boobs as Bo-Bo’s as they were growing up? Well, now I have a Bo and a No-Bo according to my son. Gotta love the way he thinks! And in case you were wondering–when they tried to gather up all my backfat and any tissue left to squeeze in the pancake masher–yes, I almost fainted. There’s nothing left. It’s just too hard to imagine (unless you’ve been in my situation) how painful that was especially since I have deep tissue pain that persists and I gotta tell you, I almost threw up it hurt so bad.

I did, however, get to see 3-D pictures of the boob I lost. A lump formed in my throat as I stared at my old friend. All I could think of was how my children used to nurse from there and how much love that little round button produced over 9 years. I couldn’t help but stare wide-eyed at my boob. I hadn’t seen it in over 7 months. I missed it terribly. Then I looked behind the nipple and saw the cancer. The dragon that had fed off me and used me as its host for God knows how long. The tears were streaming down my face as the past 7 months of anguish and anger were replaying through my head. I heard that doctor’s words over and over and over again–all over again–saying, “Do You See What I See”. (Yeah! I figured out how to link back to previous posts!)

The only suspicious thing I have to report is a 3 cm. mass that has been found in my left ovary. Cyst? Tumor? Not sure. Waiting for the film to be read. My uterus looked good, though–no fibroids and no endometrial issues (thickening which might signal cancer). So, I will wait to hear back from him on the mass. In case your wondering–I convinced my new onco man, whom I just love, to give me the ultrasound I wanted. Here he is. He’s spunky and gives it back to me just as good as I let him have it. We laugh and he thinks I’m the most stubborn Belgian woman he’s ever met. I have to thank my dad for that gift!

He gave me some hormone testing that day as well and, at first, thought I was menopausal and that’s why I hadn’t had a period since January. So, he was going to take me off the Tamoxifin and switch me to something else–less chance for uterine issues (possible cancer) that could result from it. I received a call today, though, saying my levels came back and I wasn’t menopausal. I will need to continue the Tamoxifin for the next 5 years. He also said that my CA125 ovarian tumor marker came back with a score of 12!! I guess anything over a 20 is cause for concern so, I am breathing easier on the reproductive stuff down there and can turn my attention back to my top half.

My New Onco Man

My New Onco Man

With that being said, I went to see my plastic surgeon once again to just check with him about the possibilities and ask a ton of questions. I left a week and a half ago, ready to don my hospital gown once again and take a trip down the corridor and back into that state of conciousness where you are hovering somewhere between life and death. I was super confident that this was the decision I needed to make. I was WAAAYYY too busy worrying about Accreditation than to worry about my surgery. Then, my friend down the street, Denise, calls me late one night when I’m almost asleep and tells me to turn on the TV because Lifetime is airing the movie “I Wore Lipstick to my Mastectomy”. I’ve never seen the movie or read the book, but I’ve heard about it. She tells me to turn it on, so I did. I found myself shaking and reliving most of my own ordeal as I watched this woman’s unfold on the television. The part that really grabbed my attention, though, was where she goes in to have reconstruction. She is having the same kind I’ve opted for. Implant–not a tramflap. Had I needed radiation, an implant wouldn’t be an option, but since I didn’t, I’ll stick with an implant. The tummy tuck I would have gotten out of the tramflap was enticing, but I really don’t want to lose any core muscle in order to do it. It’s not as simple as it sounds and for anyone who ever watched Dr. 90210, or Nip Tuck, you know that just a straightforward boobjob has its risks. Mine is much more complicated.

I have nothing on the right side of my chest except a 10 inch scar. Nerves have all been severed. No feeling on the surface. When they cut my boob off, they had to cut all that skin off too. The top of my chest was stretched down and the bottom was stretched up and where they met in the middle–they sewed me up. It’s taught, concave, and in order to make any kind of mound there to level me out again, the skin and the muscle will all need to be painfully stretched out. How? By inserting an empty bladder (looks like a deflated woopie cushion) under my pectoral muscle. They will have to cut me back open, lift the muscle off my chest and insert the empty bladder. A port will be left in place. I will be sewed up and will heal for two weeks. After that, once a week, for 6-8 weeks, I will go back and have a ginormous syringe filled with saline injected slowly into the port. It will fill over time. Actually, it will over fill and I will have a huge cyclops boob on my chest for a couple months. That will allow enough give once the real impant is put into place. The saline insertion, I have heard (and I saw on the movie), is extremely painful. I didn’t know this. Actually, I just didn’t give it much thought. After the 6-8 weeks, I will go in for another surgery where the bladder is taken out and the new implant will be put into place. The other boob will get a lift and a small implant if necessary to attempt symmetry. Barring any complications, that should be it. Are you still with me? You haven’t passed out yet, have you? So, I am now–just now–literally hours away from this surgery and I am beginning to get cold feet.

I wish I could say that my new Bo will look like my last one. It won’t. I am going to have to accept that, but I have also seen this doctor’s work up close and I can confidently say that he is meticulous. I’ll have to let it heal for some time before having the areola tattooed on. I can choose to put a nipple on or not. To do that, the doctor takes a circular skin graft from the inside of my thigh (wish he’d take half the crap that rubs together while he’s down there and maybe inject it back up into all these worry lines I’ve accumulated this year –lol) and he makes a slit in the mound. The patch is folded over to resemble a nipple, inserted through the slit in the mound and sewn into place. HOW FREAKING WEIRD IS THAT!!

The biggest question I have asked myself is, “Is going through all this-worth it?” You’ll have to read my upcoming post to get a sense of where my head has been and how I came to my decision. For now, I’ll leave you with that question and since it seems like I have a ton of readers, but only a few commentators–I’m going to ask that you comment and tell me what you would do–honestly–think about this. Really try to picture yourself without a Bo or both. Try to imagine what it would do to your self-image, confidence, sex life, ability to wear pretty bras, or a normal swimsuit. If you were faced with losing insurance that would pay for the job, would you do it? Let me know your thoughts. I’m going to be stuck on the couch for a week and a half alone in the house while everyone is gone and I’m going to need some kind of interaction. Leave comments and even if I may not type right away, I’m going to be reading them. Keep me in your prayers and I hope to be back to tell the tale, soon.

Ciao for Now–and keep your fingers crossed for me. cj

She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not


Remember I said I was going to put the provider checklist manual down on Sunday night and walk away? Yeah, that didn’t happen. I worked into the wee hours double checking all my paperwork, files, and steam cleaning carpets. Really the list was so lengthy and I got so much accomplished this past weekend that I look back and wish I could clone myself and have that much energy every day. Take away all the nervous energy that was building and I would be superwoman once again. Fell asleep about 1:30am and got up at 5:15am to greet the first daycare child to arrive. Another child stayed home that day and for the majority of the day I only had two toddlers. They napped great that day and I was able to start in on finishing touches to my environment and making sure my last minute To-Do list for Tuesday morning was in place. With all the vacuuming and steam cleaning there were a lot of child proof caps that had been taken out of electrical sockets and it was all that tiny stuff that needed to be checked over one last time. I also needed to remind myself not to leave a lipstick out on the counter–I did that once–and I’m here to tell you–that’s a no-no. Dumb, right?–afterall, it’s non-toxic. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen if a child did get ahold of it?–mark all over my walls with it?, play dress up with it?, eat it and poop pink for a couple days afterward?

Monday night I prepared my lasagna in advance and plated and filled all fruit bowls and milk/juice cups in advance. Jordan and Jeff helped me with details also and by the time I had gone over my last checklist for the hundredth time–I went to bed at 2:30am. I woke up at 5:15am and greeted my first arrival at 5:30. I quickly started in on making and baking morning snack–pumpkin bread. I wanted the house to smell cozy and spicy when the observer came in on that rainy morning. While the house still slept, I got ready and then started pacing. My good friend, Becky, called to wish me luck and together we went down any last minute “Did you remember to’s”. She’s already been through this process and has been a great resource for me. After hanging up, I wondered why I do this to myself. Becky is just like me and can completely relate to my desire never to be considered “Good Enough”. I can’t be perfect, but I try awefully hard to be amazing in my profession. The ultimate receivers of this awesome-ness are the children and that’s what its all about.

The observer arrived at 7:15am and got settled into her chair in the music salon–which also doubles as my infant/toddler room. The rest of my families arrived and for the first 1/2 hour or so I was hyper-ly worried about this or that, but I ultimately had to just let it go and do my thing. She was either going to like me or she wasn’t. I just had to do what I do every day with the children and as I worked with them in various domain areas–music, science, math, language, art, gross motor as well as fine motor activities–she shadowed us around the main level of my home. At one point around 9:30 am, I looked up and she was wiping tears out of her eyes. I immediately thought,

“Oh no, what in the world did I do that I wasn’t supposed to?”
“Does she need to pee and she’s sitting on the barstool holding it?”
“She didn’t just start her period and she’s afraid of getting up off my chair, has she?”

I asked if everything was ok and would she like a drink of water or something. She replied, I have to tell you, watching you has moved me to tears.”

(In a good way or a bad way I wondered quickly)–so I asked.

She laughed and added, “watching you work with these children is magical. I’ve heard of providers like you, I’ve seen environments like this in training videos, but I’ve never had the opportunity of experiencing it first-hand until now. This is what childcare should look like. This is what childcare should sound like. This is what childcare should be. I’m in awe of how they all look at you and respond with enthusiasm and wonder at what your going to talk about next. I am in awe of how they apply the lessons that are being taught. I am thinking back just a few hours ago as I was facing a more than two hour drive on a cold rainy morning to come to a home where it was probably just going to be ‘ok’. I can tell you this really is so much more than ok–it really is the model.”

I beamed. I mean it. I think there was light being reflected off the extra 30 pounds I’ve gained and casting a huge glow around me. She likes me. No, she didn’t just like me. She loved me! All that worry–all those details that probably didn’t matter–or maybe they did?–all those sleepless nights wondering if I would measure up to be good enough in my profession. Why did I do that to myself? There is really one thing that has been unwavering in this year filled with uncertainty and that’s my relationship with the children I watch. My ability to “Bring It” each and every day even when I am feeling down, even when I was scared to death, even when things seemed bleak–there is no faking that. That’s all me. Genuine and 150%. I knew then that once I had let go of the worry of her liking me–she would see me for who I was and my passion would come spilling out over the banks.

She stayed and observed for a little longer and by 11:10am–way before she had even observed me serve lunch–she said she was going to go and get a bite to eat and would be back at 1 pm for the interview portion once all the kids had gone down for a nap. Again, I asked, “Is that good or bad?” I asked her if everything was ok and why she was leaving so early. She laughed and said, “I was done scoring you in the first hour and a half. I have never been in such a rich environment with such incredible interactions.” I said, “You haven’t even seen how the kids play downstairs yet”. She looked at me incredulously. “There’s more?–I was blown away by your main level”, she replied. I smiled, then. I told her to go have lunch and come back ready because the best was yet to come.

When she came back, I took her downstairs and instantaneously, her eyes got watery once more. I took her around explaining my art and music program. I explained the centers and how they are used. I explained that I am the best of both worlds–a homey feel with lots of natural learning experiences upstairs and more of a center feel downstairs. She was in awe. She quickly started talking:

“I thought about this all during lunch and I would really like to ask you a few things. I really hope you give consideration to these things because I truly feel you would be the kind of person we need to really change the face of childcare in Iowa. What I am proposing is this:

1.) I would like to nominate you for the State of Iowa’s Childcare Advisory Council. You will have a say in how different issues that legislators are debating get pushed through.

2.) I would also very much like to make an appointment with you to come back and bring a couple people from NAFCC so they can meet you and see you in action and I would very much like to know if we could videotape you in your environment with the children so that we could begin working on a new series of training videos that will go out statewide as other providers are going through the process of being accredited.

3.) I am wondering if you might agree to getting a webcam so we could conference in with each other and a few others so they can learn from you and see you in action.

4.) I would also like to really ask you to consider presenting trainings in my area and beyond and I would really like to book you for a huge March 20, 2010 childcare conference I am in charge of organizing. Perhaps the keynote speaker and then an extended class afterward.

Now I was blown away. “I am so thrilled that you’ve enjoyed your visit here and I would be very happy to entertain any or all of those things, but I am going into surgery again in one week and I will need one more surgery by the end of this year as well. I need to do a lot of recuperating and I’m sure the March 20 date is do-able, and if you and I could re-visit some of these additional options at a later date, then that would be more conducive for me in terms of what I’m going through right now.

She was thrilled and said, “I’m so excited. I am soooo glad I was called to come to your home and meet you. I am so excited to really start working together!” “I am too!”, I replied. I was thinking that 2010 may be my comeback year. I was thinking that I was glad I had made the earlier decisions to have more tests and surgery and that way I could close the chapter on 2009 and not look back. I would start living again–fully. I would meet new opportunities and challenges with a renewed conviction and I would keep moving forward with a positive outlook.

We moved upstairs for the interview portion. I was wondering if I would get to see all the notes she took earlier that morning, but that quickly faded as we chatted at my kitchen bar like two old friends that hadn’t seen each other in ages. She said, “Do you see this book? Usually I have a ton of little sticky flags sticking out of it signaling that I didn’t see something, or you met the criteria just partially. It’s then that I have to go back and ask the provider to explain more fully how they do things or to show me something I didn’t see. I want you to take a look at how many sticky flags are sticking out of this large book.” I obliged and I counted–one, two, three. That was it. Just 3 points she needed to check and then the interview would take place. I smiled when she told me what she was looking for–can you guess? Yep, she wanted to know if I had posted the instructions on how to use a fire extinguisher! Hahahahaha. I quickly jumped up off my barstool and opened the pantry where the unit is kept and said, “Why, yes, in fact, I do!” Since she wasn’t here to see me lay the children down for naps, she asked how that is done and of course I replied, “on their backs”. The third point–I’ll be honest–I don’t remember because I was still laughing inwardly about the signage I had posted just that morning before she arrived regarding my extinguishers.

The interview lasted about an hour and after completing that successfully, I walked her to the door. We exchanged emails and information and made a time to get back with each other again soon. It was an incredible day filled not with worries, but opportunities. The children were wonderful and cooperative and there were no power struggles about anything. It wasn’t long after she left that the kids started getting picked up. They were all gone early that day and for 1/2 hour, I crashed on the couch. I woke up to what seemed like just 5 minutes later and found myself laying in a handful of drool. Gross, I know, but just goes to show you how sleep deprived I had made myself. I spent 1/2 an hour running my kids to extra curriculur activities and then took myself to my childcare class that I had to leave early from two weeks ago because I was sick.

I sat down by a woman I barely know but had taken a few classes with. Her name was Carol and she immediately leaned over and said:

“I’m glad you’re here, I made you something”.

“What?”, I said. Then she handed over this very large pink and white Land’s End canvas bag.

“I made you something”, she said.

“For me?” I asked. I mean–I didn’t even really know her. Why would she make me anything?

She smiled and said, “Open it!”.

When I did, the tears popped into my eyes. I was so overwhelmed and touched by what I saw that I was at a loss for words–so unlike me. 🙂 I looked up at her and said, “You made this for me? Why?”

“I wanted to”, she said.

I asked her if she had breast cancer since she was wearing a ribbon. I asked her if any sisters or her mother or any female relatives or friends had breast cancer. She simply stated, “Nope”. Then she added, “I just felt moved to make that for you. Maybe you’ll be able to use it.”

“Actually,” I replied, “I am having surgery in a week and will use it everyday as I recuperate on the couch for a good week and a half.”

Her eyes got wide and she said, “I knew there was a reason I needed to make that for you.”

I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t like it was a potholder or a homemade candle or a plate of cookies or something that wouldn’t require a great deal of time–No–inside this very nice large tote, was a quilt. A pink and white quilt. A beautiful and simple expression of her heart and it was stitched with a large pink ribbon on the back. In the corners were quotes and other messages about “Quilt Pink” and “Generous”. This is what they said:

Quilt Pink
Better Homes and Gardens American Patchwork and Quilting, and Husqvarna Viking are bringing you Quilt Pink Day!

Calling quilters of all skill levels! Bring a friend and together we’ll support the fight against breast cancer. Better Homes and Gardens American Patchwork and Quilting have joined forces with Husqvarna Viking to make a difference and help find a cure for breast cancer.

Quilt Pink fabric collection commemorating a joint effort between Moda Fabrics and Better Homes and Gardens Patchwork and Quilting magazine to sponsor the first-ever Quilt Pink Day, observed on Saturday, September 30, 2006.

I purchased ten different pieces from the Moda fabric selection to make a quilt on that day but I was sick that day and wasn’t able to participate. This quilt is made from those fabrics for you.

A portion of the purchase price of the fabrics were donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The next big piece just states over and over again: by Mae & amp; Nobie for Moda; Me and My Sister Designs for Moda, and

That’s the first word that comes to mind when we think of quiltmakers. The reader’s of American Patchwork & amp; Quilting magazine have repeatedly proven that to be true, our first fundraising event, Quilt for the Cure, brought in nearly 25,000 quilt blocks which were made into quilts and auctioned on eBay, raising $100,000 for breast cancer research. When we announced our plans for Quilt Pink a year later, the response from quiltmakers and shop owners was overwhelming.

More than 1,100 quilt shops and guilds around the world–from all 50 states and nine countries signed up to host a Quilt Pink event. On Quilt Pink day, September 30, 2006, estimates of more than 100,000 quilters spent the day cutting, piecing, and quilting the nearly 1,000 quilts that were sent to us the following spring. We then auctioned those quilted treasures on eBay and as this book went to press, we were on track to contribute $200,000 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure benefitting breast cancer research.

As you might imagine, that many quilts offered a wealth of inspiration from one-of-a-kind pieces to creative combinations of favorite patterns. Many quilts also came with stories. To celebrate the creativity and share the stories, we chose nearly 100 quilts to present in Quilt Pink for Hope. In keeping with the intent of the Quilt Pink events, we are pleased to contribute a portion of the proceeds from the sales of this book for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

To participate in future Quilt Pink events, visit to find shops in your area that are signed up. Then contact the shop to see how you can get involved. Togeter quilters can make a difference in the fight against breast cancer.

Happy Quilting

The Editors American Patchwork & Quilting magazine

The last square that had something written in it came from Carol herself. It read:

This quilt may not be a masterpiece but when you’re not feeling on top of the world and in need of comfort, put this quilt around you and know someone is thinking of you.

Made specially for you by:
Carol West
Davenport, IA–September 2009

I looked at Carol and asked, “Do you want to be friends?” She smiled and nodded. I was touched. I was completely amazed that there are these angels that walk among us everyday and when we are needing comfort–they are there with open arms. Many times we pass them by and never realize the hidden treasures they will bring to our lives and then, when we least expect it, they make themselves known. We spent most of the class talking and laughing instead of paying attention. Luckily we sat in the back of the room!

I came home to show my hubby and he was truly amazed. He looked at me and said, well, you deserve to snuggle up with your new blankie and relax tonight. You had an amazing day and I have built you a fire to warm up to on this rainy night. I bought you a big bag of marshmallows to roast in the fire and why don’t you just watch some TV and relax. I changed my clothes and as I snuggled down on the comfy couch with my new comfort quilt feeling the warmth on my face from the fire, I thought back on my day. I had made two new friends. I was loved. I was cared about. I was home–my most favorite place to be. I was surrounded with family and as I was counting my blessings, I realized that the petal I had picked that day from my observer’s flower was stamped with, “She Loves Me”. The past week had been filled with epiphanies, resolutions, and renewed convictions. I was beginning to see–the light. It was warm and burning bright that night and the possibilities seemed endless.

(pics of my quilt are in the sidebar)

Swimming in a Sea of Details


I’m swamped. There are so many details I’m attending to in order to ready myself for my National Accreditation visit which is coming up on October 6. I’m sure things are fine as they are now, but this means so much to me and for a year and a half prior to 2009, I worked steadily toward this observation knocking out one quality benchmark after another in the process. Some details I think are just redundant, for example, I have to have the instructions on how to use a fire extinguisher POSTED by the unit itself. This is sooo dumb, in my opinion, since all my fire extinguishers have the directions and pictures of how to use them right on the extinguisher itself! And I’m sure in the event of fire–I will be too harried to read a wall full of instructions. Thank God, I have attended enough fire safety classes and have enough knowledge of how to operate one–like it’s rocket science, anyway–duh…

I will be working diligently all weekend to finish up all details–I hope. The weather has been cold and raining for two days now and I will be busy shopping for last minute items, steam cleaning carpets, mopping floors, planning out/cooking all my food for the day so I don’t have to worry about prep time, and going back through my manual at least once if not twice more. To me, that is just the tip of the mountain I will need to climb this weekend. Come Monday, I don’t want anything left to worry about. I want to sleep that night, but I’m notorious for staying up all night fretting. I’m sure I’ll do fine, but there’s always the chance that they feel I’m not ready…Lord knows my world has been shaken up this year and it has taken all my energy the past few weeks to get back in the saddle and really hunker down. I need everyone to keep their fingers crossed for me! I really want to knock this out of the ballpark! I want this lady to leave my home with a smile on her face and the assurance that really good stuff is coming out of my unassuming home and contributing to the lives of little ones in positive ways each day.

I have heard that compared to the FDCRS–Family Day Care Rating Scale–the accreditation process is a breeze. I voluntarily went through that process a couple years back and it was grueling to say the least. The criteria that you are rated on is extensive and overwhelming at times, and when I look back from where I started to where I am now, I am glad I went through it, it totally transformed my environment and that has helped out in a bazillion different ways. The national average for a rating is a 3 on a scale from 1-7 with 7 being the highest rating you can achieve. I only know of one other gal that went through it here and she received a 5.something. I remember thinking that she really nailed it and never thought I could top that. Then, I set my eyes on the criteria and systematically and methodically started fixing every flipping thing you could imagine–and trust me-most people don’t have a clue what that entailed. When that observer came, I was ready. I was more than ready and I couldn’t have orchestrated the day any better if I had tried. The kids were angels and boy did I reward them for their good behavior!! Lots of ice cream!! I will never forget the day when I got my rating in the mail. A 6.3!!! It was absolutely one of the best days of my life.

Then I jumped onto the Quality Rating System and decided I wasn’t going to just jump in at a level one star, I was going for the top dog, a five star rating. I could use my FDCRS score, my newly met CDA (child development associate), my ChildNet re-certification, and my partnership with the Department of Health among a host of other things to earn the points needed for that 5 star rating. I swear, that parents don’t really have a clue what some of us providers will undergo to ensure safe and high quality homes and qualifications. An average old “baby-sitter” I am not and yet, when families drop out of care to go to a provider that’s just “good enough” it makes me just shake my head and wonder why I put myself through this. Mainly, because it is my passion and because I am committed to providing quality early learning experiences to kids in the Quad Cities.

Getting ready this time, though, has been different. I am tired earlier in the evenings and can’t stay up all night like I used to working on this or that. I get so tired it feels like I’m drunk and I hate that feeling. So, I will get done what I can in the next two days. I will try not to over-detail myself. That’s sooo hard for me, though–each time, I think–yeah–I think I’m done, I look up and re-analyze how I’ve been doing something and make another list of how I could do it better. I’m going to let it go as of Sunday night. I will. I think. I am going to try really hard to put the manual down and walk away and trust that I know what I’m doing and that it will come across and look effortless. I just hope the observer is in a good mood that day and hasn’t just gotten into a fight with a teenage child or a husband who has just asked for a divorce or gotten or anything else that might put her in a really icky and hyper critical state of mind. I don’t want anyone taking anything out on me that day. I hope I don’t get some man-eating shark that comes swimming into my sea and tears me limb from limb.

It all boils down to that insecurity that someone isn’t going to like me or will pick me apart. It’s that need to feel accepted–a basic human need we all share. There have been great portions of my life where I didn’t care what anyone thought of me, and it’s so weird–I used to feel so uber-confident about everything in my life. This year has really knocked me down a few notches, though. As much as I shouldn’t worry about what others think–I do. I think it’s because I haven’t been able to come to terms with how I feel about myself right now and that really projects outward. Also, I have really had outward signs of people I thought were friends rejecting me this year, my oldest daughter rejecting me, my own body rejecting me, and I’ve even found myself rejecting my own image for the majority of this year. In the grand scheme of things–what’s a year?–a tiny blip on the face of time. But to me, it has been excruciatingly long. At some point, all that rejection over an extended period of time starts to affect your confidence. It starts to waver like a spinning top that becomes wobbly right before it topples to the ground. Rejection is a part of life, I know–I preach it to my kids. It’s how you handle it that is the true test of courage.

I’ve been on the fence with that one. When it came to those so-called friends–I moved on–had to–it broke my heart to much to dwell. When it came to my daughter, I moved on at times–but kept getting sucked back into the vortex. When it came to my body’s rejection and my own self-image issues–I have wobbled uncontrollably–just like that spinning top. When it came to my spiritual well-being, I have found solace in my bible and my new church home-even though I am not good about regular attendance. Have I passed the test? Depends on what areas we’re talking about. I’m sure if I were to see the report card, I wouldn’t be happy with the grades in most areas. As with any struggling student should do–I have assembled a few tutors–a few individuals that are helping me put things into perspective a little better. Up until now, I haven’t really reached out for support–a little here and there, but now I am starting to see that in order to get through this–I just can’t do it on my own. Nor do I want to, but I just hate burdening anyone with my troubles or imposing on them for their time. So, I have retreated into my shell on many occasions this year just as the wise sea turtles do as they make their epic journeys through the oceans of their lives. They retreat for respite, for survival, for a need to become invisible at times so that when they do emerge they are renewed in faith and energy to stay the course.

Maybe I was supposed to lose my confidence to really find the source of my true strength. Maybe I was supposed to be humbled so that I could remember all the reasons why I do what I do and to try and let go of those insecurities and not let them get to me as much. I know all of this. My brain really does. It’s just my heart–its been really shredded up this year and its hard to be that confident right now. I could fake it–like I did back in high school…I could… I’ll really have to pull it out for this one. I’ll really have to squelch those feelings down and let “Tina” shine through. It’s really the only thing I know how to do well at the moment. So, that’s the plan–sort of–along with a lot of prayers.

So, I’m going to be busy for the next few days, but boy do I have news for all of you! What a whirlwind week of doctors and medical tests with more on the way, but out of it all, I made a decision. A big one. And I wish you could have seen the genuine confidence dripping from my grinning lips! I poked my head out of my shell this week and I smiled at the possibilities that are in store…I’ll be back to update as soon as my observation is over because my brain is swimming in a sea of details regarding this decision as well and I will need to purge SOON!!! Until then, check my tweets for quick snippits.

Ciao for now–CJ

Started Tracking on 12-1-09


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