She would Have Been 52

On Sunday (February 6th) my mom would have turned 52, but in September of 1998 diabetes decided she should forever be 39.

When Mom first passed away, I found it hard to think of Christmas, Mothers Day, her birthday, and the day she left us (September 25, 1998) without getting teary or feeling generally miserable. I would get moody or easily upset without warning weeks beforehand. I found it hard to listen to friends and other students talk about what they’d be doing with their mothers on Mothers Day or what they got them for Christmas. I felt as though the world should know Mom was gone and therefore no one should be talking about their mothers. Well, it’s been almost twelve and a half years and I’m noticing the days now sometimes pass without thought.

I still think about mom when I’m having a bad day or when something exciting happens. I think about her when I visit my sister and see my step-dad. I think about her when I’m not feeling well and wish she could be there just to offer a finger to hold – something I always did as a kid. I wonder what she would have thought about Huib and where we’d be now if she was still alive. Would we be living in Northeastern Ontario? Or would we be living closer to Aurora because that’s where her and Dad live? Would Brandi be the way she is? Would she still have that feeling of entitlement and expectation that I be there to catch her every time she fell? Or would Mom have made her grow up and make something of herself sooner than we were able to do so? All of these thoughts and questions move through my head whenever I think of Mom and what life would be like if diabetes had not decided she would forever be 39.

Even though you’re no longer with us Mom – Happy 52nd Birthday!!

Anniversary

On Friday (February 4th) Huib and I will celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe it was 5 years ago that we said our vows in front of family and friends at the Waterloo Inn and spent the evening celebrating. We’re still paying off the wedding, but it was a memorable day for everyone.

Huib and I have decided to mark this anniversary and every tenth one after (15th being our next) by creating a slide show of pictures from our years together. This one will include pictures from our full ten years together, but the ones following will only include pictures from the last slide show up to the current year of the anniversary. If I can figure out how to do it, I will post the slide show here and on Facebook for everyone to view.

Being Huib’s wife has been an indescribable experience. He’s one in a million and I’m blessed to have him all to myself. I know I write about how amazing he is all the time, but you really have to know Huib to understand that I’m not exaggerating. He’s extremely caring, overly loyal and wants nothing more than for me to be happy. Whenever we’re out and he sees something I might like he’ll show me and if I even smile, he’ll say we should buy it or tell me we’ll get it when it goes on sale. When at work he e-mails if I haven’t already to see how I’m doing or calls during his breaks just to hear my voice. When his co-workers ask him to come out for a drink after shift or invite him over for a party, he’ll either tell them he has to get home or ask if he can come later with me. I’m not sure people understand our relationship at times, but from day one Huib and I have always tried to include one another in everything – not because we have to, but because we want to.

I love you Huib with all my heart and could never imagine life without you by my side. We’ve made it this far, let’s try for a lifetime!!

A New Perspective

Last Wednesday I woke up with a migraine. This is a semi-normal occurrence so I wasn’t worried at first, but then I went to turn on the lights because it was on the dark side and I realized something was wrong – I couldn’t see… I decided to take some medication for my headache and just chill on the couch, hoping my vision would clear with the pain relief. Well…it didn’t improve, but I still wasn’t worried because I thought of all my friends who get migraines and tell me how their vision is all distorted when they have a really bad one (I have a high pain tolerance so don’t actually recognize the true level of pain I’m in), so I thought “maybe that’s the problem.” Huib got home in the evening from work and I told him about my vision and he said we’d just watch some TV together and see how things are in the morning – it wasn’t any better…

I called my sister Thursday morning and asked her if she was working. She wasn’t, so we headed to the hospital in Timmins to see if they could help me out. When I arrived they had me into the emergency department within an hour and I had a CT scan just a few hours after checking in with triage. The CT scan came back clear, but the doctors were still concerned about my vision and headaches so they wanted to admit me so I could get an MRI done within 24 hours rather than the usual 2-3 weeks. I really didn’t want to stay in the hospital, but my sister convinced me to do it and stayed the night so I could keep Cessna as well. Huib arrived the following afternoon and I was told I would need to stay another night because there was no room in the MRI schedule until the following morning. Brandi went home late Friday night and Huib stayed with me and Cessna (she was amazing, just sleeping on my bed the whole 48 hours). I had my MRI early Saturday and was discharged around 3pm after the results came back. The doctors are still not sure why my vision has deteriorated and whether it will return, but for now they are just treating the symptoms of the headaches.

I’m so glad to be home and out of the hospital. It’s amazing to see the varying level of care you can receive from different nurses. I’m so thankful that Brandi and Huib stayed with me the whole time because I’m not sure I would have survived on my own. My evening shift nurses were great both nights I stayed, but the day shift nurses on both Thursday and Friday were horrid!! My Friday one was a male and he was so stupid and lazy, I think Huib wanted to slap him a few times – he (not Huib) is an example of why some people don’t like male nurses. I think the worst thing he did other than to just cancel my call bell when I rang without coming to see what I wanted, was when he told my neuro-ophthalmologist in London that I was no longer at the hospital and must have been discharged. He was my nurse and I was literally two big steps from the nurses’ station!! Luckily my ophthalmologist and I were trading e-mails back and forth so when he told me what the nurse had said, Huib went over and clarified with them that I was indeed still admitted and that my doctor wanted to speak to the E.R one in charge of my care. My neuro-ophthalmologist was amazing and made sure to get the Timmins doctor to do all tests and send him the results as soon as they came in. even though it was a weekend, he still checked in via e-mail with me and gave me updates on what he was hearing from Timmins. Thankfully I had someone taking good care of me since my neurosurgeon in Hamilton really didn’t seem to care about what was happening, but that’s a whole other story and the conclusion is I’ll be getting a referral to a different one that my ophthalmologist has recommended.

It’s been an interesting 5 days. I’ve gone from seeing very little – through only 3 pin holes in my right eye – to seeing barely anything – sometimes even nothing. I’ve told some friends through facebook about my ordeal and called my aunt in London yesterday, but I’m not sure what to tell everyone. In the mornings I wake up and it’s almost complete darkness, I can’t tell if the lights are on or off and when I’m outside with the dogs I can’t tell if it is sunny or cloudy. At some point through the day though, not sure if it is related to the level of pain, my vision clears a bit. It’s like looking at the world through a not yet defogged car window I guess… I can see things around me, like the TV, the opening to our bedroom, the fan on our ceiling, motion on the TV, etc, but I can’t always tell people exactly where it is I see it (my hand-eye coordination is off or something) and at times I’m not even sure I’m seeing what I think I am – could it be my mind seeing what I know should be there? I’ve always wondered what it would be like if I ended up losing the rest of my sight and I guess I’m getting that glimpse or could it be forever…?

I guess time will tell, but for now I’m trying to move on and figure out how to do some of the things I enjoy.

Christmas 2010

This year my friend and her son came to visit for the holidays. Caleb came on the 17th and is staying until after new Years, but his mom arrived on the 23rd and left on Monday. It was an eventful few days, full of memories and first time experiences.

Here are some pictures of Caleb posing in different kid’s rides during our visit to the North Bay mall for some last minute gifts.

Taz isn’t much into the whole Christmas thing so instead of buying her a gift we took her and Caleb dog sledding near Timmins. Dog Sledding Adventures is run by a man named Shane who has about 21 greyhound like huskies. I cannot totally remember the breed or if they are actually husky greyhound crosses, but if anyone knows from the pictures please let me know. Shane started his dog sledding career in Whistler as a guide and instantly fell in love with the sport. When he decided to move from Whistler back to the Timmins area where he grew up, he made an agreement with the company owner and brought about 6-10 dogs back. The snow conditions on Friday were on the faster side so Shane only hooked up 7 dogs to our sled. We had – coconut (leader), Shooter, Mr. Penguin, Dora, Doughnut, Madison, and Mr. Deeds – most of our team were from his Adam Sandler crew. The dogs were extremely excited about the upcoming run so barked and whined constantly until they were hooked up and told to go. It was amazing to see how focused they get and then as the run goes on how tired they become from the concentration. Each of us got a chance to ride in the sled while Shane directed the dogs and taught us all the necessary commands and features of the sled itself. Then Shane stood off to the side and let us take one another for rides during the next 45 minutes. In total we spent 2 hours with the dogs and it was amazing! Shane told me that the next time I came to bring Cessna and Canyon and he would hook them up with his dogs to the sled and I’d see how well they took to the exercise. It wasn’t overly expensive and I had so much fun that I will for sure be returning later in the winter.

My sister and step-dad came over that evening and we had dinner and opened presents. Brandi had to work all weekend so we had our Christmas get together a little early. At first Brandi wasn’t in a great mood, but as the evening progressed her mood improved. Dinner was delicious and dessert was even better – Caleb and I made both a plain and a toffee chip cheesecake.

This year for Christmas from Brandi I got a Tassimo coffee maker, season four of Dexter, a Glee calendar, Starbucks coffee, and an I.O.U. for pajamas. I absolutely love my coffee maker and can’t wait until we get some cappuccino, hot chocolate, and latte pods for it. Dad gave both Huib and I a hundred dollars and Taz bought us the game Rock Star Life. Huib and I decided not to buy one another gifts since there tends to be more sales during the weeks after Christmas and it’s more fun to go on shopping sprees.

We didn’t do too much during the weekend, but enjoyed one another’s company and exercised the dogs. On Saturday we took everyone for an hour and fifteen minute walk and then yesterday went for a two mile walk in the opposite direction. Taz really enjoyed seeing our home and the areas around where we live. Right now it’s beautiful up here – tons of snow and animal tracks everywhere.

We really enjoyed having Taz and Caleb here for Christmas and hope they’ll join us again next year.

My 31st Birthday

On Monday, (the 29th) I turned 31. A lot of my friends and even my sister complain about getting older, but I don’t see a problem with it. I’ve had an interesting life so far and am excited to see what the future holds.

A week before my birthday Huib and I went shopping in timmins and he bought me a new white winter vest along with four long-sleeved shirts – poppy red, dark brown, plum & teal. My sister knew I needed a new watch so when we went to Toronto during our trip to take Phoenix to the vet she bought me one from the cnib – where we had stopped to look around and buy some Braille playing cards & a slate with stylus. This year for Christmas I want to Braille a message in our cards along with the print above it (which will of course be done by Huib).

On Friday, (the 26th) we piled Cessna, Canyon and our stuff into the truck for a trip “down south” as my sister likes to say. Phoenix and Aspen stayed home with my step-dad and the cats. We did tons of shopping and visiting with friends. On my birthday we attended a puppy potluck – a bunch of friends got together with each of our respective dogs for a play & social gathering. We were responsible for bringing dessert so Huib agreed on a chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard cake from Dairy Queen. I don’t think anyone actually knew until just before that it was my birthday so it kinda just worked out that we were able to bring a cake of my choice to celebrate. When we arrived everyone acted as though nothing was special, but when it was dessert time they gave me a cool homemade sailor’s hat to wear and sang Happy Birthday to me – it was so unexpected! I absolutely loved the blizzard cake and am delighted to share that this year I actually didn’t have to pretend to like a cake I didn’t!!

Overall my 31st birthday was a great one and now I can’t wait for Christmas to come!

Phoenix, the Miracle

On Thursday night we got home from a week in Waterloo to find Phoenix in terrible shape. Dad was watching him and Aspen, since they don’t enjoy the traveling and aren’t a huge fan of my friend’s current foster puppy. Huib carried him out to greet me and I was in shock to see how immobile he was. We worried all night and had him sleep with us so we could monitor his health and help him when needed. He could not sleep well on his right side, finding it hard to move and find a comfortable head position, but on his left he was a bit more settled. We set off for Guelph around 9am and called the vet from North Bay.

Dad told us that on Wednesday morning around 10:30 he came out of the bedroom and stopped in the doorway. He said he all of a sudden began to tremble and fought to stay on his feet, but eventually fell over to the right and couldn’t get up. Dad didn’t have a phone or car so cared for him the best he could. He said it looked like a stroke and he was so worried.

When we first arrived, Phoenix couldn’t stand and didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything. He was drooling excessively and his nose ran. His head was at a tilt to the right and his eyes twitched. I was so upset, but knew we had to take him to his vet in Guelph because I knew she would do everything possible and be honest with us regarding his prognosis. We decided to stop at his foster family’s house before the vet just in case the worst was to happen, we knew he needed to see them and they needed the visit. After visiting for 10 minutes we set off to Guelph (they live in Etobicoke). It was the longest hour I’ve ever spent in a car and couldn’t stop crying and thinking that this could be the last drive we sat together.

We arrived at the office around 6:00pm and were greeted by Dr. b and one of her assistants, who just happened to attend the University of Guelph when Phoenix and I were there. Huib carried him into the examination room and placed him on the table which was covered with a blanket and towel for comfort. Dr. b asked us questions and then began examining him. After a few heart wrenching minutes she looked up and I said “it’s bad, isn’t it?”. She said it actually wasn’t as bad as we’d thought and that dogs do not really have strokes, but that they are more common in cats. She diagnosed Phoenix with Idiopathic Vestibular Disease and said that he should almost fully recover, but that I had to be willing to put in the time and effort to get him back to “normal”. I told her I’d do anything necessary and asked what was needed. She explained that there aren’t any treatments, it just takes time and patience since this condition seems to appear all of a sudden and then go away within a week or month’s time. She said there shouldn’t be any ill effects, but that he may have a permanent head tilt and his eyes may not completely stop twitching, but that he can see perfectly fine and will slowly get used to all of this. She explained that the reason he cannot walk on his own and tends to fall to the right is because IVD effects his balance and causes dizziness – I guess sort of like Vertigo in humans. Dr. B went to prepare a homeopathic remedy while her assistant and I stayed with Phoenix. He didn’t like being up on the table so Huib picked him up and put him onto the blanket on the floor where he felt more comfortable. After giving Phoenix the remedy, Dr. b assessed him further and asked that we call her on Saturday with an update and then set up a phone consult for Tuesday or Wednesday. She asked that we put him onto a mixture of mushy kibble and canned food so he won’t inhale his food and aspirate – this was her biggest worry since he could get pneumonia. After picking out some gluten-free food and paying the bill, we set off for home. It was a long day, we barely slept Thursday night and couldn’t relax in the truck on the way so slept off and on during the drive home – thankfully Dad came and drove most of the way home.

On Saturday, Phoenix woke me up around 8:30am wanting to go out and eat breakfast. I put one of our doggie life jackets on him so we could use the handle to support him as he tried to walk. I found improvements in the way he held himself, standing straighter and actually weight baring, rather than needing assistance to both stand and walk. When in a down in the kitchen – while I ate breakfast – he was able to lie semi-normally and look around at all the action. At one point he even got up on his own and walked over to the water bowl for a drink before I noticed. I put him on the couch for the afternoon while I surfed the internet and watched some television. Whenever I got up and he was still asleep I attached a bear bell to the back of the life jacket so I’d know when he was awake. Dad and Huib carried Phoenix inside the last two times he went out for relief because he seemed to freeze in one spot and refuse to move any further – guessing the outdoors got a little overwhelming at night for him. The other times Dad or I took him out during the day he seemed willing to help as much as possible as long as we were patient enough to wait for him to try a step. Huib and I slept with him between us last night and once he was put onto his left side he fell asleep and didn’t stir until about 7.5 hours later.

Today he seems a little stronger on his feet and actually wanted to stand while eating breakfast. Huib tried to get him to lie down, but he refused, so we just held his bowl up and watched to make sure he didn’t lose his balance. I took him out around 10 this morning and he tried to walk further than yesterday, but it is sort of a blizzard out there so I convinced him to go back inside. I have to almost carry him down the stairs, but he tries to help on the way up. He’s been sleeping on the couch beside me this afternoon, but I’ll probably take him out for relief soon and see how he does.

From the research I’ve done on IVD Phoenix should continue to improve and like Dr. B said not have any real side effects other than the slight head tilt. I’m so blessed to still have Phoenix and am relieved to know that he will soon make a full recovery.

My soul Mate

Today Huib and I are celebrating our 10th year of being together. Ten years ago we began dating and although it hasn’t always been perfect, we have defied the odds and are still just as happy together.

We met through a program at the University of Guelph called Safe Walk. I was the coordinator and he was one of the volunteers. I had seen his name on the volunteer list during my first year with the program, but it wasn’t until my second that I actually got a chance to meet him. One evening in October he was volunteering with one of my friends and they came by to say hi and to use my residence phone since he wouldn’t get back to his room until late and he needed to call his mom. After this initial meeting we had a chance to volunteer together a few times and this began our friendship. At the end of the month I had to attend a conference in Ottawa and after calling everyone, Huib offered to attend with me – as long as we could stop by his parent’s place for lunch on our way home. We had a blast in Ottawa, he showed me all the tourist attractions during our free time and we became closer as friends by the end.

All through November we spent our free time together and as he would now admit developed a “unique” friendship that crossed several boundaries. I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t wait until the next time we’d see one another whenever he left, even if it was only for an hour or we’d spent a whole day together doing nothing. Around the end of November I decided to be straight and ask him if he wanted to go out with me. I had been asked about our relationship by friends constantly and got up the courage to ask since he wasn’t really making any clear moves. He told me he thought I was a great friend and saw me as more of a sister than a girlfriend – I was crushed. We still continued to spend all of our time together and it seemed as though nothing had changed, so I was relieved.

On the 24th of November Huib went to Toronto with his roommate to attend the Barenaked Ladies concert and told me he’d be back the following day. He called me when he returned and said it was his roommates birthdays (they are twins) and had to stay for dinner and cake, but would be over later to watch a movie. We watched Far and Away that evening and when it was all over he looked over and kissed me – I was shocked!

Our first year together was a bit rocky, his family didn’t approve of me and gave him an ultimatum – either he break up with me or they would stop paying for his schooling – but we stayed strong and will celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary on February 4th.

Huib is an amazing husband and friend. He is always there for me when I need someone to laugh with or when I need a shoulder to cry on. He will attend girly movies with me without a complaint and help pick out clothes during my shopping excursions. Most remarkable of all though is how he puts up with my more emotional moments and reminds me of all the good things I have accomplished in my life.

I don’t know what I did to deserve such an amazing man, but I am thankful for him and for the love and support he provides every day without a second thought.

What If

I am currently reading “Remember me?” by Sophie Kinsella and can’t stop wondering – what if this happened to me? This is the first book of hers that I’ve read, but she also wrote the popular book “confessions of A Shopaholic” which I think was recently made into a movie. From what I’ve read, her books tend to have a humorous tone to them and “Remember me?” doesn’t seem to deviate from this trend.

Lexi (the main character) wakes up in the hospital and doesn’t know where she is or what has happened. As far as she can remember, it’s 2004 and she had been out with friends clubbing and remembers falling down some stairs. When the doctors come in to speak with her, she learns that she’s been in a car accident and that it’s the year 2007 – which means she’s lost 3 years of her memory! The book is told in the first person and describes the turmoil she experiences while trying to piece together what she has lost.

I’ve read other books where peple have lost memories or been through traumatic experiences, but for some reason I find myself constantly thinking about this one. What would I do if I lost three years of my life? I know Huib would be by my side the whole time trying to help me through the process, but I also wonder – would I want him to have to deal with this? He’s just such a wonderful man and has never once complained about the things I ask his help with or about me not having a job. Would I want to put this additional burden on him?

I guess I’ll never know the answer unless I’m put into the situation, but this book has sure got me thinking…

A Day of Mixed Feelings

It has been 12 years since my mother passed away and 6 years since Huib proposed – such a mixed bag of emotions.

Mom was a big part of my life up until 1998 when her diabetes got the best of her and she had to leave us for a better place – one without pain and illness. I remember our final night together, it was the Sunday before she went for her usual Monday dialysis. We used to rent movies a lot back then because mom wasn’t always up to doing much more than relaxing and spending time at home. This particular day we decided to rent City of Angels – a great Nicholas Cage movie where he’s an angel and falls in love with a living human, so decides he wants to be alive too. It was such a cool movie, to think we could someday be like the characters and watch over our friends and family. Mom and Dad left the following morning, as usual, but sadly this was the last time we’d see Mom at home. I often think of Mom every time I watch City of Angels and wonder if she is looking down on us, trying her best to keep us safe. There have been times where I know something bad should have happened, but it didn’t and I wonder if it might be her and Granny keeping us out of harms way.

Huib and I have been together for almost 10 years now, but it wasn’t until 4 years into our relationship that he decided it was time to move to the next level. Our relationship has always been one of timing and moving slowly – it’s worked out so far, so why change? I remember the day he proposed, it was so unexpected. We had decided to go visit Granny and stopped at Costco on the way to pick up some stuff. He went in on his own because we had Phoenix and Aspen so didn’t feel comfortable leaving them in the car. When he came out he told me he had bought a surprise but that I couldn’t have it until Saturday (the following day). I was so annoyed, but thought it was just a yummy snack since I remembered him telling me that there were some cupcakes I liked on sale before he went in. the next day we had a good morning and afternoon, but I was eager to find out what my surprise was. He told me I had to wait until dinner, which was frustrating, but I left it alone. When dinner was over though I was full of excitement and told him I’d waited long enough so to hand over the surprise, he told me “I think you have to go pee”. I didn’t want to, but obeyed after Granny told me to behave lol!

When I came out he handed me a card he had brailled along with a box… I wasn’t sure what to think of this, cupcakes don’t fit in a little box… I opened the card and tried to read the note through tears. Granny had asked me to read it out loud and I tried, but had trouble near the end – she just laughed… I guess Huib had asked her if it was okay before he proposed so she knew all along what he had planned. He told me that he wanted to propose then with Granny watching so she could enjoy our special moment – she had heart failure so we didn’t know how long she would be with us. He said he also wanted to make this day more of a happy one, rather than having it continue as a sad one – well it worked. We spent the rest of the weekend planning our big day with Granny and decided upon the date of February 4th since it was as close as we could get to Mom’s birthday (our way of including her as well). Granny passed away the following July so didn’t get a chance to see us marry, but we had no regrets because we knew she had helped us plan it all and had seen the beginning of our special day.

I miss you Mom and Granny, but know you’re in a better place and that you’re never far away.

Our Step-Dad

Dad entered our lives when I was 4 ½ and Brandi was 18 months. Both our sperm donors weren’t “ready” to be fathers so it was up to mom to raise us. She worked as an RNA (now called an RPN) at a local long-term care home and found it hard to meet people with her two young children following behind. She met Dad at a neighbour’s New Year’s Eve party and I guess that’s where it all began.

Over the years Dad has been a sore spot for me at times – not being willing to work longer than a year at a time and often spending weeks on end lying around and making things tough for the rest of us. When mom was getting sick Dad took care of her, but he also made things harder for us as well – financially and emotionally. Dad wasn’t really into children and found it hard to be patient and caring when Brandi and I were causing trouble. I remember asking mom why she put up with him and wondered if things would have been easier if he wasn’t around. Well mom passed away in 1998 and my relationship with Dad became tougher.

When I went away to university I made sure to spend as little time as possible back home and this seemed to suit Dad fine. Our relationship became really rocky though during my second year when I decided he had used up enough of our inheritance and decided to remove it from our joint account. Over the following years we saw very little of one another, but seemed to get along fine during our occasional visits.

Last year Dad came to visit for a couple weeks in Guelph when we decided to hold a birthday party for him. This visit began our new chapter. Since April Dad has been living with Brandi and things have really seemed to improve between the two of us – with him staying here once in a while for a week or so break. I’m not sure if it is his decision to finally deal with his debilitating depression or if he’s mellowed during his older years, but I really do find myself enjoying our time together – which was not something I did as a child.

Dad and Brandi have decided to move into a 3-bedroom house together and we’ve been helping them paint when Huib isn’t working. The house is cute – 2 bedrooms upstairs along with a bathroom and downstairs a small kitchen with a large living room and a third bedroom off that which Brandi has decided to use as her office and a spare room for visitors. The painting process has been a little stressful, with Dad not taking the time he should be with preparation and more careful painting, but Huib has promised Brandi that he will help her and fix what needs to be done better. On the weekend we helped her paint the living room and the house is finally looking presentable. I wasn’t sure about Brandi’s colour choices at first, but now that they are up on the walls – I think they’re great! Tomorrow we’ll go over and finish off the living room before moving onto the sun room or dining room as they will be using it. The upstairs is where Dad is doing his work and from what Huib has said, he sure isn’t the painter he used to be.

When all is done, I will try and post some pictures.