Saturday, May 31, 2008
This past week, we were blessed to have the opportunity to help out The Linden Fund. Back when "we" were in hospital, I thought often about ways that I could give back once we were "out". It's true that I'm working on a documentary that will meet that need, but that is a long term labour of love. In the meantime, I took time out this past week to write 2 emails to friends, family and associates. I set our goals low, because we were so late in getting into the game to help. In fact, we were bordering on being deadbeats, because it was so last minute! I set a goal of $250 for each of our preferred hospitals (Kingston General Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital). The Linden Fund will direct funds we donate to those two NICU's.
Although I announced my goal was set at $500 total, in my heart and in my mind, I really wanted to raise at least $1000. That was my intention and my focus.
And you did not fail me. It's absolutely incredible, that with only an initial email sent out last Sunday and another reminder/update on Wednesday, in total we raised $1160 together for The Linden Fund. $469 will be directed to the NICU at Mount Sinai Hospital and $691 will be directed to the NICU at Kingston General Hospital.
This success does not speak to my being clever or a skilled marketing pro, it speaks to the generosity, compassion and humanity of all of you and that exists around us. The universe is abundant and you simply have to ask (be specific!) for what you want. "Don't ask, don't get" used to be my mantra. Now, it's "ask clearly and you will receive".
There were many families with premature babies involved with this fundraiser, and kudos to them for all their hard work. Not taking a thing away from their efforts to raise money for a worthy cause, I'd like to make special mention of Torran's parents, Lesley and Bruce.
I think they are exceptional because Torran is still in NICU. Most parents would not have gotten involved in todays' walk-run-bike-a-thon, waiting until their crisis was over and jumping in a few months or years after their baby was home. For their own personal reasons, Bruce and Lesley decided to participate in today's Pedal 4 Preemies. Not only did they drum up some funds on their own, they got other parents in NICU involved, created a team and had everyone drumming up funds. I have not yet heard what their final count was, but their team raised the most money and the last I heard, it was well over $4000. Bruce rolled in after working a night shift, and cleaned up, winning the 10K run. Lesley and the other moms would have all been up once or twice during the night to pump - yet they were all at the registration booth bright and early - long before yours truly showed up, I may add.
Despite medical advances, prematurity is on the rise in North America. If you don't know someone who has had a premature baby (other than me!), chances are that you will know a few before this next decade is out.
Although I have not heard what the final count is, the last total was over $43,000, raised by this event for The Linden Fund. So, I thank all of you for your support - financial and otherwise - in making this happen. This cause is very close to my heart, and you have been a big part of it. Many thanks.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Mommy says, "Thank you, Frances", for showing her how to label words and sounds when I was so young. Mommy says, if she had not known how to show me how to say sounds and letters as early as she did, it would be a lot longer before I could say them.
And I'm getting there with my big muscle skills. In the last 2 weeks, I insist on climbing the rungs on every jungle jim I can. Mommy used to discourage me from doing it ("You are too small and it's too dangerous"), but I don't let her stop me. Finally, Mommy showed me how to do it and she climbs up the jungle jim with me so I don't fall. The other kids don't like Mommy on their jungle jim with us ("No adults allowed"), but Mommy doesn't seem to notice.
I'll have to tell Alice that I'm climbing everything: going up the middle of the stairs (no hands!), running across soccer fields and down the halls at Sick Kids ("chase me, Mommy"), climbing the furniture, out of my high chair and up over the back, out of my stroller, into the car, in and out of my car seat so I can get to the drivers' seat to "drive". When I'm standing still or walking, sometimes I still fall over at unpredictable times and I'm still falling down the stairs ... but I'm doing so much more than last year at this time (16 months) when I was just crawling.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
HOWEVER, we had a moment last night. A wonderful, surreal moment. It was delicious. We sat in a regular coffee shop, having a break, a treat together. Tim Horton's is hardly a funky venue. And it's not the first time we've been to a coffee shop since Isla came home almost 2 years ago, but this time it was different. Isla was greeting everyone around her, waving and shouting "hi!" loudly. I looked over at Jacques who had the most exquisite look of love, pride and happiness on his face. And I must have had the same look on mine. We just looked at each other and nodded. I don't remember exactly what we said, but it boiled down to this: we were having a 'normal' evening out together, something we thought we may never have. In that moment we were a normal couple, with a normal baby, having a normal moment at a normal place. It completely floored us. It was fleeting and oh, so precious.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
When Isla was in hospital, I was told many times how important it was for her development and overall health for me to talk or sing to her while she was in an isolette. I sang what I could remember and many, many, many times, I recited from [faulty] memory, the words to "Green Eggs and Ham". I don't know if she remembers me doing this or if, like millions of other children, she is captivated by the catchy 49 [unique] words in that book.
in a car?
Eat them! Eat them!
Here they are....
SO you say.
Try them! Try them!
And you may.
Try them and you may I say.
We could all stand to learn a lot from that Sam-I-Am. This is not just a lesson on trying new foods and new things in general. Being open-minded and a little daring are valuable life skills. That Sam-I-Am is who we need to be. He goes after what he wants, pursues what he believes in, he doesn't take no for an answer (a pitbull), he has flash and absolutely zero limiting beliefs. At no point does he question whether he's wrong to continue to offer up his gastronomical specialty. At no point is he cowed by his inability to get our character to try something new. He simply and completely believes he will succeed and that his friend will love to eat green eggs and ham when he finally tries it. He knows what he wants and goes after it. When one approach does not work, he just re-arranges his strategy. At no point is he angry, frustrated or discouraged. He approaches his goal with love and trust. AND eventually his persistance pays off. He shares a lot with our "little engine that could" from my May 18 entry. Let's all try to be like Sam-I-Am for today and as many days as we can.
Faith is like radar that sees through the fog.
~Corrie Ten Boom, Tramp for the Lord
He conquers who endures.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
-fresh, marinated artichokes;
-green olives stuffed with garlic cream;
-salty black olives - kept eating them unexpectedly;
-lots of her 'ole favourite hummus;
-taramsalata (greek fish roe) dip;
-and flaked pastry
Sunday, May 18, 2008
The best written children's books or movies contain fun ideas for the kids, but also have underlying wisdom for Mom, Dad or any adult other reading along or watching. I cry every time I read Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch and don't even get me started about the life lessons contained in Dr. Seuss books.
On the weekend, we had dinner with friends. Like us, they had a premature baby in NICU. Like Torran's parents, they were asked a number of times whether they wanted to remove life support from their child. When they declined that option, the wisdom of their decision was questioned by the medical team.
Having a baby in NICU, and following the 'usual' issues of prematurity with your child and having to make medical decision after medical decision on his, her or their behalf, on a daily basis, is horrific enough. To sum it up for you, it's like running a marathon, combined with military basic training, writing an LSAT or MENSA test, while grieving and trying to maintain your 'regular' routine all at once. There is no life lesson more harsh than this one because it involves a defenseless, vulnerable, innocent newborn child and, as most parents are not trained in neonatology, they are not equipped to care for their child while he or she is so ill. For those parents who are offered the choice to remove life support from their newly born child, the suffering they undergo is exponentially 100 times worse than for other parents of very early premature babies.
~ Kody Bateman, CEO, Send Out Cards
What makes someone be able to achieve the 'impossible' while everyone around him or her is not able to do the same? Roger Bannister is a good example. He broke the 4 min mile. After crushing failure at the 1952 Olympics, he decided he was going to be the first to run a mile in 4 minutes. He focused, he set his mind, his will, his training, to accomplishing that one thing. Within a month after he broke the record, 4 others accomplished the same thing. Why? Because they saw someone else do it and now felt it wasn't impossible. Up until then, the rest of the world looked on breaking that record as an impossible feat.
Bruce Jenner is another example. He was not the most talented athlete of his era, but he decided he was going to win the decathalon at the 1976 Olympics. He trained 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. He made this goal his sole focus and he imagined breaking a record and standing on the podium while listening to the national anthem. He visualized this scene over and over and over again. By the time he did break the record and win the medal, he had already won the race a million times in his mind. It was a familiar act for his body to re-create what his mind had already perceived and achieved so many times already.
So what has Roger Bannister and Bruce Jenner got to do with babies in the NICU? And parents reading children's books?
Children's books are written simply and directly. You only have to read a few pages to get the message. The best written books strike a deeper emotional chord with you. My friends found I KNEW YOU COULD!, which talks about meeting challenges head on, doing what it takes, and most importantly, the book conveys unqualified confidence that the reader/train will accomplish whatever s/he set out to do. This is a book someone undergoing a challenge could pick up and read over and over as needed. It's inspirational and it doesn't require a lot of time because it's not wieldy and it sets the seed, the idea in your mind. The repetition of reading it daily, sets your mindset to expect successfully overcoming the crisis at hand.
These parents tapped into the simple message in that book. Not only did it help them bond with their son while in NICU (parental presence and involvement in the baby's care has a HUGE impact on how well the baby does medically, developmentally, emotionally - on all levels, really), but it helped them create a picture in their mind of success. A vision that they would make it through that nightmare successfully, and the vision of their son successfully overcoming all the medical odds. And he has overcome (and continues to do so) an enormous number of odds, despite his prognosis.
I am a product of parents who decided to treat me as a 'normal' kid, despite being very ill with a particularly frightening case of epilepsy. Doctors told my parents I'd never make it past public school, that I was not to climb or have a bike, that I would not be cured and I would not be able to participate fully in life. While it was not news of extensive brain damage, it would have been a devastating blow to any parent. And I proved those doctors wrong. Not only did I graduate from high school with Honours, I graduated from university, am able to drive any vehicle, and have no ramifications after recovering fully 28 years ago.
I credit my parents to a great part with this success. While they told me how dangerous it was to climb things (I did nothing else but, as a child), and kept me fully informed about my condition, never once did they tell me I could not, or would not be able to, do something. They made a decision - I think it was when I was cycling down the street on some other kids' bike with hands and feet flailing in the air "look Daddy, no hands" - to treat me as if everything was normal. I got a bike. I took figure skating lessons. I went to weekend girl guide camps and on week long school ski trips. I did everything the other kids did and moved forward without labels or limiting beliefs. I knew that if I climbed something, it was possible that I could have a seizure and fall - thereby becoming injured or killed. It was a sobering thought for a child, but I learned to either make responsible choices or else assume responsibility for my choices if they were unwise. It was an important life lesson.
If we trust in ourselves, in our innate abilities, if we nourish ourselves with stories of success, and promise and love, that will become our experience and our outlook. And if we instill those beliefs and strategies in our children, no matter what kind of start they begin with, they will overcome or work around what obstacles they are presented with, even early on in life. We strive to achieve what we believe. So be careful what beliefs you adopt, because they are your blueprint upon which the foundation of your life will be built. Build well.
I almost sliced my finger off while cutting tomatoes and Jacques came close to spitting out his coffee. Jacques asked her the question again. Right away, she answered "Ha-ppy" again. We gaped at her. It was the first time she has ever shown she might understand the range of emotional thought, feeling. How does a 2 year old understand what happy means? How?
No matter how it's possible, we were ecstatic to hear her tell us how she felt at that moment. A baby step forward that was more like a gigantic leap.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Check out Donna Pilato's tips on sending thank you cards, with notes about how to write the following types: for wedding gifts, baby shower gifts, after a job interview. Also find out which situations really demand a thank you vs. in which situations it would be a nice touch. And lastly, she provides links to pages that have all kinds of different samples.
You're all set! You'll no longer have any more embarrassment about card-sending. Become a card-sender!!! www.LifeIsOneBigAdventure.com
Friday, May 9, 2008
Having a baby, especially a premature, pre-term (these 2 words are no longer defined medically as being identical; I forget which medical journal I recently read this in) baby, in hospital is a completely different ball game than having a parent, sibling or friend in hospital. That adult, even hopped up on painkillers, is able to be somewhat of an advocate - in most cases - for him or herself and is better able to cope.
It's almost 2 years since we brought Isla home (how time flies when you're busy taking your child to follow up appointments! haha), and quite a number of Isla's 'roommates' from NICU have had to be re-hospitalized at some point or, even now at 2 years of age, have had to run into emerg with lung/breathing issues. We are not being over-protective; we are advocating in the best interests and safety of our baby, whether you believe it or not.
Below, I've included Torran's Mom's comments from her recent blog entry (Thursday, May 8), which you should read in its entirety. But I've posted part of her comments here, for those of you who may not make it there right away, because she says it so well, and I wish I could have expressed myself with such ease during "my time" instead of becoming defensive when complete strangers and (a few) loved ones alike grabbed and kissed Isla without so much as a please or thank you.
To read this entry in its entirety, click on my link to Torran's diary in the upper right corner.
"... So, please don't compare the premature baby to other babies. It is hard enough for mothers and fathers to avoid this, particularly when things seem not in favour of their own children.
The parents of preemies also need your patience. We're not just neurotic individuals. We have spend weeks washing our hands before every touch, dealing with someone else looking after our children (wondering whom the child thinks of as mum), staring instead of holding, and guarding against infection with heightened sensitivity. We have seen our babies stop breathing for so long that they turn blue, needing someone to take a rescue mask/bag and re-inflate them. One baby in the NICU, now 1.5 months past due, has "death spells" requiring cardiac massage (CPR) to get her breathing again. Her twin brother is at home. We have been told to expect impairments that only show up with age, and we watch agressively for that time. So if we seem more knitpicky, cautious and possessive than other new parents, we are, with some justification.
Mums and Dads have waited weeks and/or months to have a "normal" parental relationship with their premature child. Holding your baby in the NICU is wonderful, but each time an alarm goes off your eyes jump to the screens to find out if it belongs to yours. Then you wonder if you're doing something wrong to induce the alarm. One mother was afraid to breastfeed because her daughter had a spell the first time she was put to the breast. When the babies finally come home, parents need that time to adjust, like any parent of a newborn, to the baby being at home. However preemie parents have the emotional need to hold their child without the environmental intrusion of nurses and technology. It is hard to accomplish this when every other member of the family and friends are requesting their turn too. As I saw in Tuesday's meeting, parents are well aware of the desire of their friends and family to hold the new child, but sometimes they don't know how to say "please, not now", or "please, wash your hands first", especially with more assertive folks/cultural heritage. So, on behalf of the parents who can't vocalize this, I ask that you let parents guide you with respect to holding the baby - when and for how long.
As for Bruce and I, neither of us are quiet mousey individuals who would have difficulty expressing ourselves, and our circles of family and friends are very understanding. Besides, you'll know when we don't want you to hold Torran. I am going to carry a spatula in the diaper bag *whack* My baby! No touch!"
(c) Creative Nurse with a Travel Bug
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, May 8, 2008
HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU I CAN'T SAY
How much I love you I can't say:
It's more than words can hold.
You're all at once my rich, red clay,
My potter and my mold.
Yours the words that shaped my voice,
The spirit within mine.
Yours the will that shaped my choice,
My fortune, and my sign.
How lucky I was to have had you
At the core of me!
Wise and good, you always knew
Just what I could be.
And so I came to be someone
Whom I could be proud of.
For this I give my swollen sum
Of gratitude and love.
(c) Nicholas Gordon
Monday, May 5, 2008
Food for thought. Instead of racing around like chickens with our heads cut off, why not focus on achieving 1, no more than 3 major things a day? Throughout the day, check in and ask yourself, "Is this the best use of my time?"
Try these 2 steps for 2 weeks and notice the calmer, more focused pace to your life. Certainly, you will be calmer, more productive, more organized and happier!
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Saturday, May 3, 2008
-- Mike Wickett
When we have a destructive, addictive habit, the first step towards healing is to acknowledge there is a problem in the first place. Denial of the issue to ourselves and others can be an automatic gut reaction.
But what if the problem isn't glaring or obvious? What if it's something seemingly innocuous or a coincidence, like:
- If we often miss the bottom step of a flight of stairs and repeatedly wrench our ankle?
- If we always attract relationships with people who have the same, negative qualities into our lives?
- If we are always late meeting our friends, for class or for appointments?
- If we can never master landing a lutz jump in skating or never miss the water trap in golf?
- If we can never hold a viable, lucrative job due to different circumstances that come up each time?
Is all of this just plain bad luck?
Would you believe me if I told you it wasn't? Would you believe me if I told you that everything happens for a reason and it's meant to be?
That statement alone will make some of you mad. Why does a baby die who has never had a chance to experience all life has to offer? Why does a relationship of 30 years dissolve "overnight"? Why does anyone have to suffer through a chronic illness? and on and on.
Setting aside discussion of whether Goddess (God, the Universe, Spirit, the Collective Soul, Yahweh, or whoever makes sense in your world view) has a set plan for each of us - let's call that the BIG PICTURE - let's focus on the smaller picture... on you. In virtually all cases, things that happen "to us" are our own fault.
"Well, that's brutally harsh. What do you mean by that? "
I mean we attract what happens to us -- with the exception of the baby dying, in my opinion. In exceptionally few instances, sometimes horrible things happen and we grow stronger learning to handle the emotional and psychological fallout from them. But in almost all situations, you can trace back what happened to a lack of awareness on our part, to an inability to monitor and re-direct what's happening into something constructive.
"OK, now this sounds like pure drivel. What on earth do you mean?"
whether we know it or not,
but we're usually in the habit of doubting or contradicting it so
automatically that we don't even know it has spoken."
What I mean is that if we stopped for just a moment, to pay attention to our mind chattering on, to how our body feels, to what's going on around us, many times situations or bad "coincidences" would be avoided or overcome.
For example, on May 26, 1992 at 10:30pm, I was cycling home from a friends' place in the rain. I turned onto a major street that was empty and a voice that seemed to originate above my head and to the right said, "It is safer to cycle on the sidewalk."
My immediate thought was not, "oh thank you". It was, "hello? it's illegal to cycle on the sidewalk. I could get a ticket" and so I continued to cycle on the roadway, but not for much longer. In less than 60 seconds I was struck head on by a car. I don't remember how it happened. I do remember bouncing on the hood of the car (and I do believe I did a Judo breakfall automatically) and then excruciating pain as I went through the windshield of the car with my head (and I'm only here today because I wore a helmet). After that, I was unconscious for a good 45 minutes. I 'came to' hearing the voice of the doctor who was working on me chanting in amazement, "You are so lucky... You are so lucky... You are so lucky." That's his perspective. Lucky or not, it took me over 4 months to heal my broken bones and bruises.
Now that example is pretty dramatic and extreme, right down to the voice above my head.
"Yeah, swanjames, I never hear voices. I just think you're looney."
When I talked about our minds chattering on earlier, I didn't mean hearing voices, like I did before my accident. What I meant was we need to stop and listen to what we are telling ourselves.
We need to develop mindfulness. By that I mean, paying attention to what we are constantly telling ourselves. Just before you glance the 5 ball off the 3 so it slides into the side pocket, are you focused solely on your task, or are you mentally noticing how the guy at the end of the pool table is standing while you tell yourself, "I was never good at this game" just before you miss the shot?
Just before you pick up a phone to try to make a sale or ask someone out on a date, what are you doing and saying to yourself? Are you sitting there, sweating in fear? Are you telling yourself you desperately need to make your mortgage payment this month? Or she probably doesn't even remember meeting me? Without a doubt the person on the other end of the phone will pick up on your energy.
like you sometimes talk to yourself,
would you continue to hang around with that person?"
"So, what happens when you catch yourself from beating yourself up, and turn this process around?"
You walk, talk and act in the belief what you want to achieve is going to happen. No question. In fact, it's even better if you act as if it has already happened.
Is this simple?
Is it easy?
I can only tell you my experience. When I'm feeling insecure or powerless, I think back to the following challenging time in my life and draw strength from it:
My full-time job in hospitality ended abruptly one sunny November 29th morning, with the closing of the hotel I worked at. I went back to school, but after graduation had to admit that the chances for my new career in my hometown were minimal. I had always said I hated Toronto and would never move there - EVER! - but suddenly, it seemed a fantastic place to settle. My boyfriend was happy because he'd wanted to move there for years. So, "ever" was here and we made plans to move at the end of the summer.
Two weeks before we moved, my boyfriend told the company he did freelance work for he was moving. They presented him with a lucrative contract, which he promptly signed. Suddenly, I had a decision to make. I had not yet secured a job in Toronto and so didn't have an apartment either. Without J., should I stay or should I go?
I thought about the lack of opportunity in my field and how I'd have to ditch my recent schooling and start a new career if I stayed. The choice was clear => I went.
I didn't know how I was going to do it, I just knew I had to do it. For the first time in my life I operated from the stance of assurance, rather than from fear I would fail. Over the next 7 months, places to stay, jobs and apartments all fell into place at exactly (and not a second too soon) the moment I needed. Chance encounters ensured jobs; conversations with strangers created places to stay. It was one of the weirdest, scariest, most beautiful time of my life. And one of the most difficult. It changed my outlook.
This happened long before the book/movie, "The Secret" came out, with all its talk about the Law of Attraction. If I had not already experienced it, I would have attributed that "Law" to a lot of hooey, but I am here to tell you, life is abundant and there is more than enough to go around. Believe it. Receive it. Achieve it.... Just do it.