October 31, 2007

"Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues..."

Ever seen "Adventures in Babysitting"? That great movie from 1987 with Elizabeth Shue? Great cheese factor moment in that movie is when the kids are on the run from the Mob boss, and they stumble into a bar...happen to take a wrong turn onto the stage...and a burly "Bebe King" type steps in front of "Chris" and tells her, "can't nobody leave this place without singing the blues". She stutters and says...no, we're just passing through...I don't sing. He repeats himself "nobody leaves this place without singing the blues". And so begins her homage to her horrible night and her adventures in babysitting. If you haven't seen it - rent it. It'll take you back, my friends.

Now that I've gone to great lengths to explain the title...enjoy the following...

Yes, friends - my first (and hopefully last) attempt to sing the blues in a nightspot called "Buzzards". I was invited to come and wail, and so it goes - I did my best. A little Etta James with "At Last" and a little "Summertime" (Ira Gershwin). But turns out I'm more of a quiet, romantic singer. Not digging the loud, cranky blues - more into the soft, lonely blues. The smoky, sultry blues are more me, as it turns out. And until I sang, this was much more of a "Hot Time in the City" group. Although, that is my dear friend Shelby in the corner playing bass, who convinced me to grab a mic and let er' rip. It helped I had friends in the crowd cheering me on, as well as the charming AB whistling, cat calling, and woot wooting his wife along. This group has been playing together at gigs for quite some time, and I was honored they pulled me in to their fold, even for one night. It was quite a learning experience.

The next night though, AB and I were dining on a gift card at a high end spot and there was a lovely piano in the corner, some dim candlelight, and a quiet and romantic ambiance in the air. He whispered to me "see, this is where I could see you singing...all soft and beautiful...and wowing the guests." Me too. Or at least, much more so. But it ain't happening. Somehow, I think with two babies - one on each hip - I'm gonna have my hands too full for cabaret singing in a steakhouse. Evening lullabies and housecleaning induced Barbra Streisand belting will have to do.

Window to my world...and now you know...

So...nobody leaves this place without singing the blues!

October 26, 2007

Ignorance is not Bliss

When you're dealing with adoption - one thing is for certain - milestones, however small or large - keep the motor running. This long and arduous road is paved with potholes, dips, and bumps - but the end provides us such an amazing sight for sore eyes that you can't imagine having not made the journey. But there is no doubt in my mind that what keeps the car moving forward are the milestones. Whether that be another piece of the dossier collected, turning it in and getting it off to country of your child's origin, monthly LID markers, or your actual referral.

Having said that, many of you know the details of our adoption of Keira. We're LID 3-29-06 and still just simmering like a good pot roast in the crock pot. Meanwhile, we've begun the pursuit of our son through Ethiopia while our wait for Keira continues to lengthen.

As a whole, it's a much easier paperchase. There is less certifying and authenticating of your documents, and actually - less documentation to have to collect. On the other hand, we are personally experiencing far more road bumps on this paper chase than we ever had for Keira's dossier. Not only is that a morale sinker, but an assault on our battle weary adoptive armor. We need something to go well. Something to go through quickly. Something to take off and surprise us.

We've had some frustration with trying to get everyone on the same page, between our agency, our Chinese agency, our Social Worker and her agency, etc. We've struggled to explain and re-explain our past, present, and future - but it's just starting to get old trying to prove that you are going to die trying to be the best parent you can be. Our Homestudy was done quickly for Ethiopia - and our Social Worker is a dream. But her agency held up the approval process for getting it turned in to the state for our I600A. So, it sat for a month waiting to be sent in to the Govt. Finally, it was sent and we rejoiced - "let's get this show on the road!!"

So imagine our surprise when we got a letter marked from CIS two weeks ago! Already?!?! You're kidding!?!? Keira's 171-H took two months to get to us. Actually, I think three months. And we just happened to have friends over who said "STOP! GET THE CAMERA!" So we husteld and bustled and found the camera and started to open our 171-H Approval for our BABY BOY!

Right...ok...so enter this picture - totally candid and utterly pained...

Yep...not exactly what we were expecting. Once again. Another disappointment. It was a letter requesting finger prints. For Ethiopia. Yeah, so the first three sets we had done weren't enough? The fingerprints we took in August are now, what....tainted? Our fingers haven't changed - I swear. It's still us. No miraculous surgical proceedures to change our prints from one month to the next. I promise. Still the same old couple from yesterday that you wind up with tomorrow.

Two frantic e-mails (because there is no number to call and no case number to reference) and we still hadn't heard back from CIS. What in the SAM HILL is happening when there are millions of orphans waiting for families and this political red tape is tying up everyone's process? Who are we kidding if we say this isn't about money and government? You have families desperate for kids, and kids desperate for families...and please someone tell me how it got so convoluted from that point?!?

Finally I got a call from CIS and I hurriedly dialed the number back thinking "omg! this is it - finally a real person to talk to..." When I called and got "Heather", she was really nice, but she wasn't calling about our fingerprints. What? She was calling about another issue. You see friends, she had on her desk both of our applications. One for Ethiopia, which was a new app. And our renewal 171-H request for Keira. She felt some of our information was lacking and needed us to provide additional background. Huh? But...why? Because it's her job to determine (dontcha know?) whether or not people are eligible to adopt a foreign child and she didn't feel she had enough documentation to support that. WHAT? Our homestudy is KICK BUTT. I've read it. Three times. It's all there...who we are, what we are, what we do, where we are, where we came from....it's all....there...

Yes, but still...if she's going to put her name on it, this is what she needs. And she's got both apps. And neither are going through until she gets what she needs. What the frig are you telling me? That the first time around, for Keira, it was all good - and now, not so much? That we're...somehow, deficient now? Well, no...just that she needs this documentation to move forward. Don't worry - she says - get me this stuff and I'll review it and sign off on both, and you'll go get your kids and life will be great. Did she just say "you'll go get your kids"? To me? I know she didn't...

Ok,...stutter...well...gulp...(sniffle) it's not that easy...we're gonna have to send away for those docs and we'll have to try and write to such and such to get that doc. Ok, she says. Take your time. WHAT? NO! NO TIME TAKING....IF I HAVE TO WALK TO MICHIGAN AND BACK, I WILL NOT TAKE MY TIME, SO HELP ME GOD IN HEAVEN. Meanwhile, she forgot to mention, AB forgot to sign the second page of the app - so she's sending that back and we can just send that in with the rest of the documentation. But what about this letter I got for more fingerprints? Oh, that? Just disregard - it's just a mistake - she has them there. Oh...a mistake. Like this whole call? She's holding both my kids hostage and she doesn't even know it. I felt totally defenseless. So sad...so beaten down. It's the only piece of paper we need to get this dossier to Ethiopia. The only one.

So, my friends - once again I must re-iterate. Adoption is not for the faint of heart.

Moving right along...

I started something that I was unsure of, but now am so glad I did. Wanted to share so that those of you that feel nudged by it, can make the most of it. Tonight, I was alone. AB was working and I was sitting in my chair in the office thinking about my kids. Man, I wish I could tell them how hard this has been. I wish I could convey to them, now...while it's fresh...what a difficult road this has been but how they are so worth every single minute. So I had a light bulb moment, and got out the digital video camera. I set it up on the shelf, popped a sixty minute tape in, and forgot about what I looked like. I pushed record and let it all come out. I talked to them. Just talking to them felt so good. I said that I love them and that I hope they are teenagers watching this and shocked at how young Mom looks. I told them how much their Dad and I have fought for them, and how much we long for them and love them even now. I walked through the whole process from conception to where we are now, and why we chose to adopt, and how difficult it's been to wait for them. I blubbered at some points. And I even felt a little embarrassed at first. But when I was done, I labeled it "Your Adoption Journal, Part I" and it felt good to have it all out. Then, I watched it. I surprised myself. I cried watching myself tell my kids how much Anton and I love them...and can't wait to hold them. Sometimes, I cracked myself up - and other moments, I just marveled with the thought that someday, before I know it, my kids will be old enough to watch that little tape and understand exactly where we were in this moment. And just how much we longed for them.

I also shot moments of our pets, and said "I hope you will know these furry sisters in your lifetime - because they have made this wait possible for us". I told them how old everyone was at this point, including their grandparents, aunts and uncles - so they would have an appreciation of where we were all at during this stage of the wait for them. I talked about our jobs, and our cars, just to give them a window into our world right now - sans kids.

I plan to make a few more tapes. One that shows them the house, Keira's nursery and all those clothes!!! I want to explain the M3 Posse and how they were pivotal in getting me through this wait. I want to tell them about my enduring love with their father and how much he is my best friend in the world. I want to share with them the days when I feel lousy waiting, and the small victories that we cross while waiting for them. And of course, I want it to all culminate towards the days when they're put in our arms and it's all there on video for them to re-live any time they need it, down the path of their lives. Sort of my adoption gift to them. So that they will never have to doubt for a moment how we really and truly waited, and rejoiced to have them in our lives.

Just a thought - if you're thinking you might want to steal the idea...I think it's a miraculous gift to give your children. And since we have the gestation of a Lemon Shark, we have plenty of time to give them us - as we are now - and maybe seeing it someday will help them know how passionately loved they are - now and always. To the moon and back - right?

October 23, 2007

For Anton...

Suffering Sukatash

I'm not a phone person. I don't like the phone - I don't like talking on the phone - and I don't like calls from numbers that are blocked or that I don't recognize. My distaste of phones in general comes from years of customer service and years of office work wherein you had to answer phones all day long. Now, even working from home I am on the phone constantly. Ring, ring, ring...and ring again. That little phone has become my arch nemesis. Every time it rings it's a time commitment. It's also usually a request for something that someone needs. I've gotten to the point that when the home phone rings, I won't answer it. AB and I have a stare down and I say "you get it! I'm done talking on the phone". Meanwhile, I've also gotten to the point that when the phone rings - any phone - I physically feel myself tense up. How sad is this? Any suggestions, and I mean this is all seriousness, for how I can conquer this? I dislike talking on the phone so much more than I can convey. And it drives AB nuts. I cannot seem to get around it. Anyone relate? What should I do about this phone anxiety?!?! Gah!

Ps. - Strange phenom - when it's AB or my Mom, I do not feel this way. I feel happy and quickly pick up the phone. I love talking to them any day, any time. Anyone else is toast...and I feel so bad about it.


October 22, 2007

Self Portrait

I got a haircut a month ago. So I was going to share it..because someone, I can't remember who, asked. And then AB and I were taking pictures one night of the dogs and I said "hey, how about a self portrait?" So he snapped the first one and then I snagged the camera and said "now silly!"

I really do have "real" things to share - about Ethiopia, and more...but it's Monday and I'm already behind. So you get ME instead! And probably more than you wanted - let's call it a self-portrait of the new hairdo post!

October 18, 2007

Empty Nest Syndrome?

How can you have "Empty Nest" Syndrome when you have no chicks in the nest to begin with? I went into Keira's room tonight and took this picture. The way I see it, I have a good (bad) case of "Empty Baby Room" syndrome. We used to keep the door closed, then we opened it, then we closed it, then we opened it again - because it's so happy and colorful, I couldn't bear not to see it when I passed in the hall. Not it almost feels sacrilege to close it - like we're saying "can't think about you now". So we leave it open and I miss her. Especially at night when I wish I was tucking her in and smelling her sweet little baby shapoo'd head, and kissing her little cheeks. But I'm not closing it.

Meanwhile, how can you deal with "Empty Baby Room" Syndrome???? Eat this. And I did. We have an amazing bakery in town and you can walk in any day of the week and they will have the most amazing, beautiful and delectable cakes on stands. But I'm always leaning over the counter looking for the pan cake. The one that's messy, dripping, and gooey. The one that's dense, heavy, and chocolaty. And they always have it. Today was no exception. Chocolate cake with buttercream (oo-ey, gooey buttercream) frosting, drippings of melted chocolate, and then crunched up healthbar all over the top. Today Heathbar, tomorrow peanut butter cups, Saturday Butterfingers. So moist and dense you can't eat it all in one sitting. Well, you can. Because I watched a friend do it today. But unless you want to enter into a Chocolate Coma, I suggest baby bites and a large glass of milk. All same...it is no more. I just finished it while typing this blog post. Gawd, I love cake. Cheers!

October 16, 2007

Sickness and Health

WARNING: This post is long and took a while to write. But it is a very personal post and I put my heart into it. I feel it’s important and this is my blog, after all, so if you can – plug on through it.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and so I wanted to share my story with you. I am not sharing this with you out of the need for pity, or even out a sheer desire to talk about it. Truly, I’d rather not. I am only sharing this with you because Breast Cancer affects one in three women. Take stock of that number. That means that statistically speaking - between you, your mom, and your daughter – one will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer at some point in their life. Those are staggering odds and yet they are the terrifying truth about this disease. Let’s face it; most of us know someone affected by this disease. In the spirit of not burying our head in the sand, read on…

About a month ago, I was shaving my underarms in the shower. As I moved the razor down over my left armpit, I yelped audibly. I thought I had cut myself. But when I looked there, I saw nothing in the way of blood, a cut, or any sign that I had actually injured myself. As I ran my hand up and down my underarm, something else struck me as odd. It was tender and sore to the touch. Though there was no obvious redness or swelling. I did what anyone would do and rationalized it as a passing pain. I completely forgot about it.

Two weeks later, while in the shower, I felt compelled to check again that spot where the skin had been so tender. And there it was. No mark, no redness, nothing. Except now, a sizeable lump was there, both easy to see and touch. The skin was swollen, but as I said – there was no redness. I instantly felt the adrenaline in my body rush around, and my cheeks became flushed. I felt fear grip me in my stomach and my insides literally churned. I got out of the shower and stood in front of the mirror. There I was running my hand up and down over that lump in my underarm. All I could think: “Please Lord, no…I’m only 32”.

To the computer I ran, as I usually do when research is heavy on my mind. I started looking up whatever I could about lumps in the armpit, breast cancer, forms of breast cancer, stages of breast cancer, how to know if you have breast cancer, and what kind of cancer forms in the armpit, what does a lump in the armpit mean, all the causes of lumps in the armpit, and so on. You name it, and for four hours I sat glued to the computer screen – filling my mind with all the possible reasons and diagnosis for this large lump.

Funny thing about lumps under the armpit – there are typically only two reasons for them as it turned out: an infection or cancer. Who knew? Finding this out was like getting sucker punched in the gut. I cried at my computer and rationalized with myself that with no history of breast cancer in my family, and being only 32 years old; the odds were still in my favor. Weren’t they? Luckily, I had an appointment with my GP in two days and so I would approach her about it while I went in for another of my “Travel” shots. Remember those posts?

As I went in, I confessed to AB via phone how terrified I was. He reassured me that the doctor would know what to do, and that it was probably just an infected node, or gland. After the shot was over with (whew!) I said surprisingly casually “oh by the way…I found a lump in my armpit – can you look at it?” You wanna startle your doctor? Say that you found a lump anywhere in your breast region. You wanna get the “mothering touch”? Confirm for her that you are neither ready to start your period, or just past it, nor do you have any history of breast cancer in your family, nor do you have any pain associated with said lump, nor do you think it’s been there longer than a month. After a thorough breast and underarm exam, she confirmed for me that she indeed felt the half dollar sized lump and the swelling.

I left her office with a heavy duty prescription for the anti-biotic Augmentin, and practically a “pinkie-swear” moment that I would return in a week for a re-exam. Apparently, many women do not return for these types of follow-up appointments. They just can’t face the daunting prospect, I presume, that anything of this magnitude could be wrong with them. The doctor all but had me draw blood and press my finger to hers in a sort of “sister swear”, that I would come back. While I appreciated her tenacity, this did not bode well for my increasing fear that something was very wrong with my body.

The anti-biotics were strong. The pharmacist took me aside and gently reminded me that this type of prescription was bound to cause side affects. He asked me if I had taken it before, and if I was prepared for the “aftermath”. He also looked at me as if I had sprouted a second head. I’m sure he was wondering what I could possibly have that would require such a hearty dose. Nice though he was, I left feeling even more vulnerable. Surely my Doctor knew full well that she needed to eliminate one of two possible diagnoses steadfastly. Surely she also knew that she had to kick this “infection” to the curb if she was going to rule out the other option? I had a week to show everyone, including myself that it was nothing more than an infected gland.

I resisted telling very many people at all. Why? Because talking about it made it real. Talking about it felt like giving it power. Talking about it gave it energy that I wasn’t willing to expend. Through the nausea, headaches, and profuse sweating caused by the pills I was taking – I was exhausted. Not to mention the mental exhaustion from wondering if you will be getting a death sentence in the next two weeks. We set ourselves to battle, whatever the outcome would be.

As the week of antibiotics trudged on, there were two things that remained consistent – my increasing fear and the size of the lump. It did not change one iota. No matter that I was mentally willing it to shrink day and night – it would not budge. Having this type of “reality sandwich” daily, hit both AB and I like a ton of bricks.

We would stand, facing the mirror- Anton close up behind me. My arm in the air and his hand running down the length of my underarm. No change? No honey, I’m sorry – no change. Sometimes we cried. Sometimes we just stuffed it and ate ice-cream and watched our favorite TV shows on the DVR. Sometimes I pleaded with AB to pray for me just one more time. Sometimes I sat up late at night scouring the internet for any possibility that a lump meant something else. Infection / Cancer. Take it or leave it, lady. Those are your two options. If it doesn’t respond to antibiotics, I read, it’s time to take it to the oncologist.

As the week droned on, and the lump remained unchanged, we felt a level of desperation rise up in our household. There was a baseline level of fear, on top of which lay a heavy layer of self-pity, and both were topped off with total un-acceptance that at 32 years old, I might have Breast Cancer.

A return visit to my GP confirmed that the lump was ever-present and that it was time to move on to the next phase of diagnosis through the help of a surgical oncologist who specialized in breast cancer. Just hearing the words “sending you…breast cancer…she’s a specialist…oncology…biopsy…” I felt my spirit shrink and my heart ache. For me? No. For my kids! What about my kids?!?! I have two kids to adopt…I can’t just stop all that for cancer! I just can’t! I had emotional numbness from head to toe and AB walked me to the car as I cried. The appointment was set and I was to “go to the next level”.

Those who we told were supportive and realistic, albeit shocked. No one could believe that the swelling had not gone down. Dear friends rallied in prayer and I got many e-mails from trusted family and sweet friends encouraging me and lifting Anton and I up in prayer.

In particular, I should tell you that at one point I found myself crying out to the Lord saying “I don’t accept this! You can’t have this for my life! You can’t have meant this for me! Please! With everything in me, I believe that YOU led me down this road of adoption and that YOU opened doors where all seemed hopeless. YOU made a way, where there seemed to be no way. Now this? It’s unacceptable! What about my kids?!?! Lord, please – HEAL ME!” I would cry and cry.

Now let’s pause for a second – still with me? Let’s talk about my reaction. Does this seem dramatic? One day you’re life is going by and all is well, and then you feel a lump in the shower and the next thing you know you’re scheduled to see an oncologist. Everything gets blurry. You start taking stock of things you’ve never even considered. This fear that you cannot begin to imagine creeps into your every fiber and chokes you with the possibility of what may be. You cannot think straight. You cannot wake or fall asleep without, if even for a split second, thinking about your mortality. The whole Pollyanna “don’t worry until you have a reason to” goes right on out the window. And in its place, a humbling fear that a year, maybe three, from now, there is a shard of possibility telling you that you may not be here. Sound over the top? I thought so too. And yet…the number of times I felt this way was astounding. When control of your life and the future itself becomes even remotely objective in the light of affliction, you would be surprised what will cross your mind. You would be surprised the possibilities that seem suddenly out of reach.

The night before my visit to the oncologist, we had a respected and dear friend pray for me over the phone. Something both he and my husband had audibly asked God for was that the lump would be no more. That in it’s place, only breast tissue would remain. That nothing would be there, plain and simple. Remember that my GP described my lump as “half dollar in size” and that she “definitely” felt it in there.

A friend accompanied me to the oncologist the following week, where I would have an exam and ultrasound to determine the position, size, and depth of the lump. All I could think about were the countless needles involved in chemotherapy. Those who read here regularly can attest to my absolute and resonating fear of sharp foreign metal objects being inserted into my skin.

When it came time for my exam, that sweet friend I had lugged along reached up and grabbed my hand – and there we two sat – in the oncologist exam room, and I in my “cape”, hands held and she prayed for me. Right then and there. Lord, give Christie peace and reassure her – give her doctor wisdom and more than anything Lord, let this be nothing. Nothing.” I can’t tell you the boost that gave me in that moment.

In came a warm and gentle woman, my…(gulp)…oncologist…who immediately put me at ease. She did an aggressive breast exam and then the words “I have to say…I don’t feel a lump here…in fact, I don’t feel…well – it just feels like breast tissue to me”. To be sure, she did an ultrasound. She didn’t see any abnormalities or unexplained lumps. She did see a lymph node that while it looked healthy, was enlarged. I still felt ill at ease and found myself saying “but what about the swelling and tenderness?” She agreed that I would not be done until we had ruled out all possibility. I asked her point blank if she thought I might have cancer, and she did not think I did, but that we had to do all the necessary tests to be sure. Just hearing her say that was still like honey over my troubled ears.

I was scheduled for a mammogram – the first of my life. And I was also scheduled to return to the oncologist the following week for a biopsy of the lymph node. The mammogram was a piece of cake. Wholeheartedly recommend going and not putting this off. It was so not what I had heard about or expected. Clearly technology has come a long way, and I hardly felt any discomfort at all – other than the whole “I don’t know you and you’re handling my breasts” bit. It was absolutely nothing to be worked up over. I was in and out quickly and there was zero pain involved.

The biopsy took place at a local hospital last Thursday, and involved a “bee sting” anesthetic, as my doctor called it, followed by a needle inserted into the lymph node where cells and tissue could be extracted for study. They were to be sent off to the lab, where they would be analyzed and tested for any cancer bearing traits. The procedure itself was scary for me – but you just get to a point where the outcome is so much more important than the pain, in that moment – so you suck it up. It was not the most pleasant thing I’ve ever done – but it was over in five minutes and we were out the door. But not before getting to see several particles of my lymph node tissue floating around inside a murky pink liquid. “Here, this is what we got – it’s a great sample”, they told me.

Only today, Tuesday, was I scheduled to go in and hear the results. This would determine if the cells they found were malignant or benign. If I had cancer, or I didn’t. If my life would change, or I would be able to continue down the road I had been traveling to find my babies and bring them home.

The doctor entered the room and she wasted no time getting right to the point by saying “Christie, you’re ok…it’s gonna be ok! The cells are benign – no malignancy was found and there is no cancer present”. I just sat there staring at her. She said “this is good news, right?” I caught my breath…exhaled…found my voice and said “yes! Yes, this is wonderful news”. All I could think was “I’m going to live! I’m not sick! I’m not sick!” A blur of “check back…three months…make sure you’re doing fine…enlarged lymph nodes happen…virus, infection…just your body…” I was in a trance. I got dressed in slow motion. I was so happy I wanted to shout it to everybody I passed as I ran, yes - ran, to my car.

I promised myself I would not blog about this until I had answers for you – and only to encourage you all to get checked. Unfortunately, many women and even men will go for these same types of tests and will not hear the good news that I heard today. I can’t tell you how that probability affected me as I walked out of there. Unfortunately, too many women will have those same tests run only to find that they do have malignant cells and they do have to face the unthinkable.

I tell you all of this – and I know it has been a lot – to remind you that cancer is no respecter of persons. It doesn’t care who you are to the world, or who you are not, how old you are, how young you are, or who in your family had it or didn’t have it. It strikes unannounced and affects millions of people.

Since there are simple tests that can be done for breast cancer screening, make an appointment. What excuse can you possible have? So many women skip this visit every year, and so many women find out too late that they have breast cancer. There are cures, but the earlier it’s caught – the higher your chances are for survival. You owe that to yourself and to your family.

Once we realized that I was ok – Anton shuddered and said “thank God – now we can stop thinking in terms of the next three years or so, and go back to thinking in terms of the next 50 years together”. Until that moment, I had not truly realized the impact my potential diagnosis for cancer had had on my sweet husband. How much fear that had gripped him at his core to have to even consider a lifetime without each other, or a farewell to the dreams we had built around adopting our children and building our family. How much pain it would have caused him to see me sick and fighting for my life.

Lesson learned: No matter what the diagnosis is – take charge of your healthcare and be proactive. Don’t be too afraid of the answers or the treatments to seek the results. You’re not being fair to yourself or to those who love you.

If you’re over forty, call today and schedule your mammogram. No matter your age, give yourself regular breast exams, and if you discover a lump or swelling in your breast or armpit area – seek the care of a doctor immediately. There is no harm in being vigilant – like me, it could be nothing more than breast tissue. But if it’s more, you will be so glad you pursued it with tenacity.

Please visit these websites for more information about breast cancer awareness, diagnosis, and treatments.






I do my best to avoid being “preachy” on this blog. So forgive me this time if I give credit where I feel it is utterly due. Some of you are wondering if I think God healed me. I do. We know almost certainly that there was a lump in my underarm four days before going to the oncologist. We know that many people lifted us up in prayer and specifically prayed that nothing would be found other than “breast tissue” when the appointment with the oncologist came. We also know that that is exactly what was found.

We live in a day and age where convincing people of “miracles” is almost impossible. We find ways around it and our finite minds cannot conceive of supernatural healing. Even though we want to believe, I know the skeptics would simply say “you never had a lump to begin with” or “it was never an issue, you only thought it was”. Truly, I may never know for sure. But spiritually, here is what I can take away from this experience that I might not, had I a skeptical heart:

  • Anton and I took immediate stock of our lives and were able to assess where we are heading and where we are at. Our love for each other took on a brilliant light in the contrast of my impending infirmity.

  • My fear of all things medical has abated substantially. A gift I have asked God for on many occasions in my life.

  • My belief in God’s healing power and ability to hear His children gets renewed all over again each time He works a miracle in our lives. Of course, part of this miracle is in the believing and accepting that He can, in fact, do it!

  • My appreciation for my life, with all its many flaws, became tangible –a gift we don’t get to experience in our day to day lives.

I do not think God always heals or that He always answers with the reply we want to hear. But each time we face obstacles, which God in his infinite wisdom allows, I do believe that He works good in and through them. Had I had a diagnosis of cancer, I believe He would have worked it for good in some way. That’s part of the process of faith. Believing that the Lord has your best interest at heart in all times, and all ways. That He’s in control and that He cares so deeply for us. In sickness, health, poverty, wealth, good times and bad. He’s still on the throne and He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Bible says that not a sparrow falls from the sky that He does not have his eye on –how much more does your Father in heaven care for you?

So, yes. I think God healed me – or even allowed me to be sick so that I might call out to Him – and then to be OK, but to have had that time to draw near to Him and to call on Him. And this was a tremendous learning and growing experience, beginning to end. Both in my faith, and in the knowledge of my own limitations. When at some point you’re willing to let go and say “Lord, not my will, but Yours!” Of my humanity, and when pressed – my desire to live life, serve Christ, and to love others.

He works in mysterious ways…

~ Christie

October 14, 2007

Say what?

I'm sorry for my lack of posting - it's not even that I don't have blog worthy things to say! I just have...a little catching up problem. A hate going several days without posting - it makes me a little jumpy - like you're all missing out on all the things piling up to talk about. And then I have to start purging things...

"Well, that'll just have to go because I don't have time to post about that one...oh and that one is so 'last week' now. This...well, maybe I can fit it in...but this one - definitely not - no time now."

Hate that.

So sorry for the delay - lots of things to say but little time to catch enough breath with which to force the fingers into typing submission.

What can I say? Work, work, work. I'm buried in work right now and since I work from the old Casa de ABCB, I have to really make myself stick to it and not wander over to Bloggerville fifty times a day to see all of you. This has made me a lousy commenter on your blogs this last two weeks. Sorry friends!! Not intentional - just buried!

Things on the horizon to talk about:

Six Flags is not for Old People
Ethiopia Dossier and the Caper of the Big Let-Down
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and what that means to me

TIME - all I need is TIME!

October 10, 2007

Cleaner's Anonymous

So let me first start off by saying that I am a cleaner by nature.

I am one of the few strange and odd phenomenon of women/men who actually enjoy cleaning. It's kind of like this: much like any addiction - there is first the heightened awareness of the need. Just walking from room to room, my mind will start churning towards the, shall we call them "flaws", in any given room. I start to think of what needs to be done here and there, and how moving that item slightly to the left or right might actually make it look a little bit nicer. How the carpet is looking a little too...I don't know...carpety? Little pieces of lint or fuzz can be seen. Dust might be collecting on any given flat surface. The kitchen floor starts to take on that dull look.

Any one of these observations alone don't set the addiction to work. It sometimes takes several to finally send the addiction into full-blown NEED.

Then a day is set aside and I get dressed in those clothes that usually can only be worn to...well, let's face it - nowhere but home. The music goes on (preferably Barbra Streisand - good Lord - don't ask........alright! Fine! - it's because my Mother used to clean house to Barbra when I was a kid, and something about it just feels right...WHAT?! Don't question the addict, just accept!).

Once I have the house to myself and the appropriate cleaning supplies are in place, dress code has been established and enforced, and one can hear "Evergreen" in the background - the addict can begin her rounds.

The following are the 11 rules of cleaning, for those who long to be a cleaning addict, like me:

1. Set a day when you know you will have the house either to yourself or mostly to yourself. Having AB around distracts me and has on occasion made me resentful. Cleaning is not only NOT his strong suit, but he actually loathes it. While I'm humming away, like the little gal in the picture above, he's cringing and sweating, and hating life. But I find that if he is watching TV, and I'm cleaning around him, I feel annoyed and thus ensues the drama. Cleaning is a strength of mine, and Lord Bless Me, I enjoy it. This means, we set AB to his strengths - fixing things, cooking all the meals, grocery shopping, and all things trash related. It makes for a lot less drama. If neither you or your spouse are good at cleaning - then I suggest you both bite the bullet - split up the rooms in your home, and turn up the music. It'll be over before you know it.

2. If you do laundry like I do laundry - then it's a haphazard "get to it, when I get to it" or when we no longer have clean underclothes to wear. I have been breaking this long-term habit by setting myself to do all the laundry one day a week. Doesn't matter which day, just make sure you're around to see it through. Pull it all into one place, sort it however you prefer to, and get moving. If you arrange this on the same day you clean, start the laundry before anything else, since it's something you can keep moving through and checking on as the day progresses.

3. Change the sheets and pillow cases on your beds regularly. Some people change them weekly, daily, etc. The important thing is that you change them regularly. Don't go a month. Sweat, dirt, dust, and bed-mites accumulate on your bed daily. This can actually lead to restless sleep, difficulty breathing, and in some cases; sickness. Especially if your kids climb in bed with you - or the family dog lays between you and your spouse, the cat shares your pillow, or the hubby has a cold. Change those sheets! If you do laundry once a week, I highly recommend it.

4. One room at a time. Top to bottom. Or at least top to bottom in terms of what makes you tick. Sometimes, when I'm short on time, top to bottom only means dust, vacuum, and pick up. Sometimes it means suck the dust off the ceiling fan, clean out the fireplace, and purge the knick-knacks.

5. A large laundry basket follows you. This means that a large basket is brought into the room and all items that don't belong in that room are placed in the basket. This will keep you in the room, and not wandering around the house.

6. In lieu of the rule above, we have the "no wandering" rule in place. Most people will go to clean a room, pick up a pair of shoes off the floor and walk them back to the closet they belong in. On the way, they will notice that the frame in the office is hanging slightly off. They will stop, set the shoes down, and straighten it. Having done that, they will then notice that the frame is dusty. They will then seek out a cloth to dust it. Once in the laundry room for said cloth, they will notice that they never set the dryer to "ON" for the last load. Having done that, they will remember the load they meant to wash. Putting the load of wash together, they will start to notice that they are out of certain detergents and will run to write down on the shopping list the missing items. While running to the list, they notice that the plant in the entry way is looking a little droopy and will go to the nearest faucet to gather some water. After plucking twenty dead leaves from the plant, the floor is littered with dead leaf trimmings and must be swept. Off to get the broom, they might notice there are shoes sitting in the hallway outside the office. For this reason, we must instate the "no wandering" policy. Many a women have lost entire days being run down by loss of direction.

7. If it ain't broke....: Listen to the addict - there is nothing more frustrating than being frustrated that your house isn't perfect. Or maybe it is. But for most, our homes are a constant work in progress. I look at pictures of my home from three years ago, and the transformation is drastic. We have painted, added new pieces of furniture, changed the arrangement of the rooms, etc. Don't start your day with good cleaning intentions and then find yourself sitting in the kitchen drawing out maps of everything you would change if you won the lotto. Just remember that the age old adage "Home is where your heart is" has profound truth to it. Stop trying to have the perfect home. In most cases, stick with clean, warm, and inviting - that usually wins over anyone.

8. No more Comet powder - work smart: Stop the insanity ladies. You know how I said above about the whole "Babs" music? Pure insanity - but it doesn't chafe the skin and burn the eyes. (Well, unless your AB - let's just say, he's not a fan) There are many, many wonderful cleaners out there and we have evolved in this department. I once let my toilet go for a month. It was an experiment to test cleaners. On half the toilet bowl, which was actually turning a dark musty color, I squirted the new liquid Comet. On the other half, I sprinkled the dry powder Comet. I waited five minutes. Coming back to the bowl - the side with the Comet "gel" had practically cleaned itself. No kidding - it was all but bright white. The other side, the powdered down side, had not even remotely changed. Result: I would have to get on my hands and knees and scrub that side to get the gunk off. So other than the nasty smell of the powder, and the burning sensation I was already getting in my eyes - I now had to pull myself down to the underworld of toilet scum and use my hands to physically remove each and every "deposit" of grime. Lesson learned: millions of dollars on research and product development have been spent so that with a gel squirt I can walk away - clean the sink (with the gel of course) and return only to have my toilet bowl sparkle all on it's own. Now why, for the love of harriet, would anyone, anywhere, defer to the old fashioned powder just because it's what they had growing up. I had lace gloves and spandex growing up, but you sure the heck won't see me sporting them today. Allow yourself to "splurge" on cleaners that will help you to work smart and efficiently. Cleaners that will do the hard part for you and allow you to come along behind and gently wipe away the bubbles.

9. Every once in a while you must "go there": You have been meaning to wipe the top of that bookshelf off for six months, or was it a year? Stop procrastinating. When I say to take a room floor to ceiling, I mean - leave no stone unturned. Move things around a bit and get rid of the dust. You can't believe the amount of allergens in dust. Do you have pets? Even more so! Pet dander, hair, skin - all these things heavily contribute to the dust you see in your home. So the next time you look at a big thick layer of dust, you can say "there's my skin shelf!". Isn't that nice?!?! Seriously though, dust is a pain. It accrues constantly. So the more often you can remember to hit the nooks and crannies, the better. Two tips for dusting: If you use a dusting spray like "Pledge", be sure to wipe down the surfaces really well and use a clean towel. Pledge is great, but leaves an oily residue that beckons to airborne dust. If you use a dust mop and no spray, you're really just pushing the dust into the air to settle somewhere else. If you must, at least wait to vacuum until after you have dusted.

10. Vacuum like you mean it: If you use a "bag-in" vacuum, make sure to change it. Not only will the vacuum be less productive, it will also burn your motor if too full. If your like me, and have a canister vacuum - be sure to empty it often, and replace the filter every six months. When vacuuming, get into as many places as you can. Again, dust settles on our carpets and in every crack and crevice. It's the nature of the beast - it's very invasive. I don't recommend carpet powders, as the powder is only partially retrieved with the vacuum. Many particles settle into the carpet fibers, and beneath, into your carpet pad. After a while, you will notice it when you walk barefoot in your living room. In addition, use your attachments! I use mine for baseboards, cobwebs in tall corners (and short corners for that matter), ceiling fan dusting, windowsills, mini blinds, and even for sweeping tile and bathroom floors. I also use it for sucking up pet hair that has accumulated on the sides of my furniture where the dogs lay up against, and for - hate to admit - sucking up large lines of ants trying to make their way into my kitchen. No shame. The vacuum attachments are such great tools - use them to make your job easier.

11. Take breaks, but don't lose your groove: This means that it's ok to sit down for a second, ok to stop for a drink (not talking about at Shady's Bar either) and ok to break for a meal. But tried and true results have forced me to realize that turning on the TV while I break is a bad idea. Reading is preferred. Don't get too comfortable, or you're finished. Stay on your game, and just give yourself enough time to refresh and get back in the running. After all - you're working towards the goal of addictive cleanliness.

Well, there's my "dirty" (pardon the pun) little secret! I like to clean! And I find that the more organized and clean my home is, the more at ease I feel and freed up to do what I like with my spare time. I don't feel burdened by the ever increasing piles of work. Not to mention that I don't mind as much if a friend wants to pop by, or if AB invites a family over for dinner.

If you feel overwhelmed, don't. For some, cleaning is like the boogie-man in the closet. (oh, and don't even get me started on closet organization! Ha!) What it takes is a little tenacity and some brief organization before you start - in terms of deciding exactly how your going to attack the project and what type of cleaning you can feasibly accomplish in the time you have. Some days are for light cleaning and general pick up, and others are for hard-core, rolling up your sleeves and diving in.

Either way, the sense of accomplishment I feel when my humble abode is cleaned up and a candle is lit and I'm relaxing on the couch with a good book - well, there is no defining it, other than to say it definitely gives me the "fix" I need.

And let me add, that it's "to each her own". My ideas about cleaning are my own and they are made up from almost ten years of cleaning with my Mom, and fourteen years of cleaning my own home. They come from my love of entertaining friends at our house, and my husbands love of cooking for other people. They come from years of wanting to make our house a home, and to me - there is no better place to be - especially when it's clean and inviting. Let's face it, a dirty unorganized space leaves most of us feeling chaotic and uncomfortable. I think it's safe to say that my preferences for cleaning also come from a long line of OCD. Uh-huh. Shocked, aren't you?

~ Ciao Fellow Cleaners

October 7, 2007


Sometimes people ask me, or e-mail me for my LID. My "Log in Date" for China.

I was like most - every month the date would roll around and I would rush to post about my latest "LID-Aversary". I would wax thoughtful, hopeful, and positive while secretly wondering if anything I was typing was remotely true. You can check my history back in April, I think for the last one.

But several months ago a strange reality sunk low our ever lengthening LID-struck mentality. No matter how much we counted down, or up, LID's were no longer "happy". So saying "Happy LID to me" sounded trite. There was nothing happy about it. Actually, quite the opposite was true. Every time that date rolled around, it had become another reminder that we were getting older, so was our expire-able paperwork, and our dreams of being parents seemed further and further away. Instead of a happy "we're __ today!" it was more of a "@$(*&#$(*@&#!(@##@# stupid LID...@(*$)(#@*$ crappy process".

I posted several months ago that I was done posting false sentiments about our wait. We were not happy. We were not hanging in there. We have no idea when we will ever get a referral. We have very little confidence in the "system". We feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the adoption process in general. We feel slightly bitter that it's so hard to give kids a good home. And we are tired of pretending the know the answers to give well-intending people who ask about Keira.

Our monthly LID celebration had become, for us, a way to gauge not only where we were in terms of the "line" but it had become an emotional attachment to something we falsely assumed had an end in sight. When we started this process, the wait was 10 months. That was back in '05 for the curious. Yes, we're old-LID-timers, as are many of our dear friends. So celebrating our LID was a way of counting up to the inevitable. But as we all know, 10 turned to 12, and 12 to 14, 14 eventually became 18 and 18, 22.

I think when this grabs hold of your attention, the fact that you're not counting towards a goal any longer - you're just counting - you start to feel jaded by your own sentiment. In other words, a celebration becomes a bit of a joke - doesn't it?

There is a bright shiny aspect to this story. In the midst of letting this "happy" date slip from both our calendars and our minds, we found a sort of peace in waiting for Keira to come home. This day now comes and goes every month, and while the reality of the number of months we have waited to meet our little daughter continues to pass by and grow, the load has become slightly easier to bear because we have one less let down a month associated with it. The monthly reminder that she's still not here. The little note on the calendar that mapped out exactly just how long we have waited, missed, and longed for her. And the double agony of wondering every time that date rolls around, how many more we will count until she is ours. Now it's just the 29th and it more than often rolls on by without a second glance from either of us. Truly, I can say that we hardly ever remember it until is has passed by.

So you see, this is why I dropped from the ranks of those who celebrate this date. To many it is a comfort and a necessary. To many it IS a source of celebration, a reason to be happy. And for those I really am glad. It's absolutely a personal preference. And I'm no saying that it's silly or that people who take comfort in it shouldn't bother. I am speaking only for us. This isn't meant to be bitter or harsh. It's simply a vulnerable topic that I rarely broach here on the Keira Show. But that doesn't mean that people don't ask. Because they do...

For Keira...Mom and Dad are tired. We will never give up - but the less reminders we have that she's not here yet - the better situated we seem to find ourselves each month when the timeframe slips further away, yet again. And better suited to handle the lack of referral days and numbers that are coming through. Right now we talk in terms of years, rather than months. As in "well, if we have Keira home in '09 we could do ____". Rather than guessing or surmising when our number will be called, we just rest knowing that all the counting up or down in the world will not bring her one day closer to us - but that letting go of it, for us, meant peace of mind until she does get here. Trying to analyze numbers, count referrals from years past and compare them to now, etc - all seems somewhat wasted when she will be here no sooner than she will. What can be gained?

Letting it go, for us, allowed us to pursue other things. To put our focus elsewhere. To find that underneath all the adoption proceedings, we still had a life. That there were important things to do, and valuable ways to grow outside of the emotional chaos that adoption has become. It also freed us up to consider moving our plans to adopt a second child, up. Why wait? In this process, time certainly seems to be on your side if you have something major you need to do. Renovate your house? Go for it! Saving for a big vacation post adoption? Take it now! Plan to adopt another child? Well, you know...

By the way, it's 3-29-06. "Happy LID" to us...some eighteen or nineteen months running now....

Good grief...

October 3, 2007


I think we sometimes underestimate the power of extending hospitality to others. When was the last time you got a dinner invitation to sit in someones home and dine? It's been awhile for me too. On the other hand, when was the last time we invited someone over to spend a worry-free evening at our own home? Sipping a nice glass of wine, and enjoying AB's amazing culinary prowess? I'm ashamed to say, it's been too long to remember. I'm not talking about a pizza, or takeout, or a large group. Though, I think those nights are great too! But I'm talking about the kind of evening where you're one on one with one or two couples, and allowing them the opportunity to be "pampered", if you will in your home. Both by ambiance, sites, smells, and sounds. By the taste of the food, and perhaps a beautifully set table, a real linen or cotton napkin, and enjoyable conversation - you've invited them in to rest awhile and enjoy your friendship.

I know it sounds easy, but with the busy schedules we all have and the constant demands of our daily lives, it's so hard to make time for ourselves, let alone others. This topic has been a constant challenge for me in my marriage to AB, because he loves to entertain and to cook for people. While I see all the work that must go into these type of invitations, he sees the fellowship and the opportunity to bless others through his gift of cooking and conversation. His faith in my ability to turn our home into a sanctuary is unwavering, and his compliments flow when the finished product is presented. Candles, soft jazz, the smell of dinner, and a clean home usher in the guests we bring to our home.

Mind you, we do not get an opportunity to do this often enough. Which set me to thinking, why not? Couldn't we set aside one night a month to spend with a different set of friends? After all, it's so hard to build relationships with others, when we let too much time pass without interaction. Good conversation can turn a bad day around. Laughter and a lovely meal can truly warm your soul. I challenge you to pick a couple with whom you've been wanting to spend more time, hand-write a personal note inviting them to dinner, and choose a date that works best for you both. Do a quick sweep and dust, throw the pasta in the boiling water, light some candles, break open a bottle of wine, and set the music to "nice and relaxing". Enjoy yourself and don't get hung up on too many details. What your friends will remember from your get-together is your conversation and the food - not the condition of your bathroom shower.

While I'm on the subject of hospitality - a long standing order with AB is that when someone has a baby, moves, or experiences a death in the family - he makes a meal for them. Recently, we met a family a couple neighborhoods over who had brand new baby at home, and no meals planned for the next several days. AB instantly offered to bring them a hot meal, and I piped in for dessert. This is such an easy and quick way to extend hospitality to someone in need. I can't tell you the number of times we have tag-teamed on this type of meal, but I've included a slide show below, showing you just how easy and quick it can be to serve someone. We whipped this out in less than an hour, ran it over, gave hugs and handshakes and were out the door in a flash, leaving them to relish in the yummy dinner and their new baby's coo-ing. I present Beef Stroganoff and Mini-Yellow Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Frosting and topped off with Chocolate Sprinkles. (A huge hit with their 4-year old daughter!) You can add side items like a fresh loaf of Artisan bread, green beans or broccoli, or even a Green Salad with Vinaigrette.

Happy Hospitality Hunting!

Make a PhotoShow Full Size

October 1, 2007

Dog Days of Fall?

Well, at least at my house it is. This is my sweet Anabelle lying in her "spot" under a tree in our backyard. She loves this time of year almost as much as I do - and not for the pumpkins, or the decor - but for the cool breezes and long afternoon naps out in the sun.

She's such a gentle spirit - Anabelle is. She just doesn't have a mean bone in her entire body. She is protective when around other dogs, but is entirely a push over when it comes to people. She's never met a person she didn't love instantly.

Something about seeing her lying out in the yard, taking it easy, sleeping the warm afternoon away - made me think about how much I have needed that lately. And often how easy it is to find yourself immersed in the stress of life and details all the time. How easy it can be to get caught up in the fast day to day, calendar pushing that we do. Sometimes I look at my Anabelle and among the many other things she has taught me about loving, and patience, and forgiveness, also lies the simple truths like "it's ok to stop and take a breath, and just go lay in the grass for awhile and feel the breeze".

I have needed that reminder and seeing the visual today really made me take a moment.

Love my fur-babies so much...


Fall Goddess Recommendation

It's not enough to quote her amazing ideas here, or to share with you some of her delicious recipes. You really should go visit her here. Really. I love her website because she kind of encompasses my personality within all its pages.

And because she has been, since I started scrapbooking, one of my all time favorite paper and embellishment lines to purchase.

And because I've been sending little notes on her stationary for years, and envelopes covered in her sticker line.

And because to me, she is the real deal...and not a M@rtha S. knockoff...

And because she somehow hones in on all the little things I love, adore, and cherish about my own life...

And because she makes me miss my family and all the things that were wonderful about my childhood.

And best of ALL - because even though I have never met or spoken to her in my life, she stopped by my little blog and left a comment! (which you can read here!!!) Which, by the way, caused my jaw to drop a whole three or four feet to the ground. I was in SHOCK! I think when you're that well known, and have books and calendars, etc. you probably have someone who has to scan the net making sure no one rips you off. To be honest, I specifically made sure to give her credit in my posts so that the opposite would be true. But just the fact that she took time to post - and to say anything at all - well, it just darn near got me a little teary eyed!

Reason enough I think. Go visit her....you will absolutely love peaking into her corner of the world and absorbing the domestic goddess that she truly is.

I am honored she stopped by! Susan, if you're reading this, you've made my day, and I really needed that!

Cheers everyone!