Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Saying good-bye

My mom, also known to many as Grandma B, died on June 15 just after midnight.  My heart is broken beyond words, and I miss her more than anyone can know.  She was suffering terribly at the end, even with Hospice care, and although I am happy that she is no longer suffering it doesn't take away the pain that I feel without her now.  She has been a mother and a friend to me and an amazing grandmother to my children.  The 24 years that I spent with her were some of the worst and best in my life, and I very likely would not be here today if it weren't for her.  When there was nobody else she was there.  

On Saturday, June 30th in Fernandina Beach a group of close friends and family said good-bye to both my mom and to Chris.  She asked me to keep his ashes after I received them from Australia and have a joint ceremony for the two of them at a very specific place on the beach there.  Their celebration was held in the Oceanview Room of the Amelia Island Plantation and then we let their ashes go out into the ocean.  I am reminded of them both when I listen to one of mine and Chris's favorite songs by Ben Folds titled "The Luckiest".  I truly am the luckiest for having had both of them in my life, albeit for far too short of a time.  I miss them both, and their deaths leave a hole in my heart.  I feel honored to have had the opportunity to be there with both of them as they took their last breaths, to say good-bye in peace and to make all of the arrangements for their celebration to ensure that it did them justice.  I think they would both be proud.
American Beach on Amelia Island.  Saying good-bye to mom and Chris.  June 30, 2012.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Catching up

It's been nearly five months since I had the chance to blog.  It seems like an eternity ago.  So much has happened, and although I know that I won't be able to cover it all in this post I will do my best to update.

When Grandma B was released from the hospital in mid-January she immediately moved in with me in Trinity.  She didn't even go back to her house.  In December and January I got her house packed and emptied and it is currently on the market.  Her health has continually declined, and since arriving here she has been in the hospital or rehab all except for about three weeks.

On March 31 I received a message that Chris, Grandma B's son and an almost-brother to me, was in critical condition in ICU at Royal Adelaide Hospital where he lived in Australia.  After a few conversations with the doctors there it was apparent that I needed to be there to make the final decisions regarding Chris' life/death.  My mom, Grandma B, asked me to go and take care of it all.  She was in rehab and didn't have a passport anyway, so I needed to go.  I left the following day on my 30 hour trip.  When I arrived at the hospital on Tuesday afternoon and met with the staff they advised me that Chris was already brain dead; showing absolutely no brain activity.  With the guidance of my mom we made the decision to discontinue life support, and the following morning I held Chris' hand as he died.  Over the course of two weeks following his death I emptied his flat, worked with the police, coroner and funeral home, arranged a ceremony of life for all of his friends in Australia (over 100 attended) and did as much for his personal affairs as I could in the time.  I'm still working on it here at home.

While I was in Australia I received a phone call from the doctor at the hospital saying that my mom had been transported there from rehab, was in septic shock, her kidneys were failing and they didn't expect her to live 48 hours.  Being in Australia left me feeling helpless, but she managed to hang on until I arrived home.  The lead to her pacemaker had failed, poking a hole in her heart and through her skin.  Bacteria entered there and caused the infection in her heart.  Her choices from the cardiologist were to leave the pacemaker alone and let "nature run its course" or do a surgery to move the pacemaker to the other side of her chest.  Her cardiologist gave her a 1% chance of surviving the surgery.  She chose to stop all of the medications and come home with Hospice.  That is where we stand now.  Her health continues to decline, but I will be here with her and for her until the very end, just like I promised her many years ago.

I'm working 12 hour shifts at the hospital, ranging from 2-4 nights or days a week.  I took this semester off of school to take care of my mom, but I am registered for the summer term to finish up pre-med. The kids are doing great, and I am so lucky to have them.  In addition, I reconnected with one of my boyfriends from high school, and we have since established an amazing relationship.  He is the most kind, generous and loving man I have ever met in my life, and I feel so lucky to have him.  He and his two boys are moving here from St. Louis in late July, and I cannot wait.

I hope to be able to update a bit more than I've done so far this year.  But that's it for now.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New year

Happy new year.

I've now been in Jacksonville for three weeks and two days. I spent Christmas here without my babies, and New Year's Eve in the home alone. Grandma B has been in the hospital this time for a week and two days, and she won't be leaving until Tuesday, January 3. Erin's 9th birthday. I'll be missing that, too. However, on Tuesday she will be transferred to a rehabilitation center for approximately a week, and then she will be moving into my home. That's right. She's going to be living with us in Trinity, leaving her home behind (to be sold). I've always known that the day would come that I would take care of her, and that time is now. This move will enable me to better supervise her daily care, appointments and be there immediately in the event of another emergency (of which we are all certain there will be more). The next couple of weeks will be some of the most hectic. In addition to starting my job at the hospital next week, I'll be commuting back and forth between Tampa and Jacksonville to oversee the sale of the home, estate sale of all of the contents of the home that aren't being moved, and any other necessities associated with her moving. I'm responsible for packing up, selling and transporting every item in the house. I'll be meeting/talking with her cardiologist, endocrinologist, primary care and podiatrist over the next couple of days to get access to all necessary medical records so that they are in hand for her new doctors in Trinity. When she's released from rehab I'll be there to pick her up and drive directly to Tampa. She won't be coming back here. She doesn't want to come back here. She feels that it would be too easy to get sucked back into the life she had here, and at this point that life is not condusive to her staying alive. There are too many steps and inaccessible areas in her home. And it makes her want to smoke. She hasn't smoked in three weeks, and she doesn't want to ever do it again. She knows that if she does she will die. Quickly. So this is a clean break for her, and she's optimistic and enthusiastic about it. I'm thankful to be in a position to take care of her for the rest of her life, however long that may be. This means, too, that my ties to Jacksonville are now gone.

So if you contact me and I don't get back to you for a while, if I don't update the blog regularly for a while longer, and if I seem a bit on edge when you do speak to me, please be patient with me. I'm making huge changes in my life in more than just one way. I'm optimistic for the coming year, and for all of the changes that are going to occur. I'm thankful for my children, my family, my friends and those that I hold dear to my heart. I'm emotional, I'm stressed, I'm tired...but I'm also happier than I've been in a very long time. I've found a peace within myself that I didn't know existed. More than anything I am thankful.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


I've been in Jacksonville now for 16 days. I haven't seen my babies for the past two weeks, including today. Christmas day. Grandma B had been home for exactly one week, and this past Friday (December 23) I had to take her back to the ER. She was immediately admitted, and we will be in the hospital until at least Tuesday or Wednesday. As a result I am spending my first Christmas ever without my children. I'm torn. I miss my babies so much, and want to be with them today just like every day, but I would not leave Grandma B here alone. Thankfully I have amazing children who can understand and accept the situation without tears or anger. They know that we are going to have a Christmas celebration here with Grandma as soon as she is back home and feeling better. But it's hard for me.

I bought a small Christmas tree and put it up in the hospital room. I placed the lights around it and decorated it with small bulbs. It was the only tree I decorated this year. Mine sat undecorated until Erin and one of her friends decorated it a few days ago. I always decorate the tree. The kids didn't want to do it without me, but by waiting for me to come home it ended up not getting done. So my tree this year is shared with Grandma in the hospital. It's a cute little tree.

I'll be here for a while more. More than likely until I go back to school and work on January 9th. She needs 24 hour care, and I'm the one that she wants here with her. She deserves this, and I owe her this. I wouldn't have it any other way. I just wish that I could have had my babies here with us today.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Corridors, cold and crying

I've been in Jacksonville for the past six days. Grandma B was taken by the paramedics again this past Friday, and she's been in ICU ever since. As is always the case when she is hospitalized, I am spending my days and nights with her. In the past five weeks I've spent nearly three of them in the hospital with her. She just hasn't had a break. Since June she's been hospitalized five times, but each time seems to take a bigger toll on her, and this time she has really struggled. I have really struggled. I cry at her bedside watching her suffer and agonize. I come back to her house, pay her bills, keep up with the house, and do what needs to be done for her. I wouldn't have it any other way. I will always be here for her, and she knows that. She's asked me before not to leave her with anyone else when she's in the hospital, and I won't.

So if you are wondering (and I'm sure you aren't) why I haven't posted very often in the past month or so, that is why. I am taking care of Grandma B, and I'm right where I belong right now.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Cinnamon rolls from scratch

After a few failed attempts at making delicious, homemade cinnamon rolls, I finally found a recipe for both the rolls and icing that I love. Tonight Erin and I rolled out another batch for the second night in a row. Thankfully this recipe for the rolls makes enough to share, and that's exactly what we do. Some go to school with Sean, some to our neighbors, and the rest to us. Homemade cinnamon rolls are so worth the time and work, and these recipes won't disappoint.

Cinnamon Rolls recipe is here, courtesy of The Pioneer Woman.
Cream Cheese icing recipe is here. (Just ignore the cinnamon roll recipe unless you want to try this one, too).
Erin kneading the dough for me, wearing her apron that Sean made for her last year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A snake?

Yes, we now own a snake. He is beautiful, and so sweet. He loves to be held. He's a ball python, about three months old, and about two feet long so far. I never thought that I would adore these reptiles as much as I do, but I do. Brendan hasn't decided if his name will be Kaa (the snake from Jungle Book) or Radley. He said he'll decide in a few days.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The past couple of weeks have been a blur. I'm hoping for a bit of a break now.

Last Monday I got a call from Grandma B that she was being admitted at Baptist Hospital with a blood clot in her arm. Within ten minutes I was on the road to Jacksonville. The days following were nothing short of chaotic. During a procedure to attempt to break apart and suction the clot her heart stopped beating and she had to be resuscitated. The doctor quickly came to get me and allowed me to be with her while they continued to work on her, and it is an image that will stay with me for the rest of my life. However, over the days following, and despite a few setbacks, she started to recuperate. She's been in ICU since last Tuesday, and as of today will be sent back to a regular room. I came home this past Saturday, but only after Bart (from Orlando) and Chris (from Australia) arrived there to be with her. I'm so thankful for her medical staff. The nurses that were there with her around the clock were amazing, and I was so thankful for such capable hands. I have no doubt that she'll be back to herself in no time.

Today Brian and Erin left for Tulsa, Oklahoma. Erin is currently #13 in the country for 8 year old girls, and by competing in the Grands she has the opportunity to move into the top 10. Those that know her don't doubt that it will happen. The Grands is the Superbowl of BMX. It's the last big race of the year, and it's huge. Thousands of people from all over the world, and the best racers. She'll be racing Thursday through Sunday, and the entire event will be broadcast live on Erin has really excelled in BMX, taking 1st place in the state, and now competing for a NAG (National Age Group) plate. I'm so proud of her.

Two more weeks of school for me, and the semester cannot end soon enough.

I'll be back with pictures and videos of Erin in Oklahoma!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Brendan's new race bike

He was long overdue for a new race bike, and he got it today. One of our good friends from the track, Mark, built the bike for him with all of the custom parts that he has been dreaming of getting. It's a beautiful bike, and he can't wait to get it out on the track.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Follow up to Milking

As you read previously, I declined to pay the orthopedic surgeon the $35 to sign the work release so that I can start my job. Brian, however, went back to their office yesterday and paid the fee. The staff there knew that I was scheduled to start orientation this coming Monday, 11/14, and that the release had to be faxed to Mease Countryside Hospital (my employer) by noon on 11/11 in order for me to be able to attend orientation. I got a call this morning, 11/11, from the staff at Dr. Pigeon's office stating that he would not sign the release until I schedule an appointment with him to be seen, and that he would fill it out at that time. In addition, he would not be in the office until Monday, 11/14, and so would not be able to get the release signed prior to the noon deadline today. None of this crap about scheduling an appointment had been mentioned in the two previous trips to get the release signed. Since I currently have no medical insurance I would be a self-pay for the visit with Dr. Pigeon, and if you have any idea how much an orthopedic surgeon charges then you know that it isn't cheap. Not even for an office visit. I was even more angry at this point, telling the staff that I would not pay them another penny for this release, and that I will not be coming in for a visit. Brian called and was refunded for the signature on the work release, and I contacted Mease. The health care coordinator advised me that instead of getting the release signed by Dr. Pigeon I could make an appointment with the rehabilitation center that the hospital uses for their employees, that they could do the evaluation for free, and then they could sign the release for me so that I can start work. All at a cost of ZERO! So I have an appointment with the rehabilitation clinic on Monday, but this does mean that my orientation has to be delayed until 11/28. It was going to be delayed either way, but at least this way the office of Dr. Pigeon will not see another penny from me.

I requested and received a copy of my entire medical records from Dr. Pigeon's office today via email, and will no longer do any business with them. This doctor was paid in excess of $70,000 for my two surgeries, and the fact that they attempted to charge me for a signature on a release form and then force me to pay for another appointment is beyond what I am willing to do. In speaking with one of the office staff at his office yesterday I found out that he charges these fees "because he can". Well, he may be able to get other people to pay them, but he won't see it from me. I know I mean nothing to him in the grand scheme of things, but it makes ME feel better, and right now that is all that matters to me.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


So I got the job at Mease Countryside Hospital that I've been waiting to open for a year. Everything has gone great with the hiring process. Yesterday I had the health screening (blood work, urine, etc.), and the nurse told me that a release will have to be signed by my orthopedic surgeon since I had my back surgery in 2009. No big deal. I told him that I would drop the release off to Dr. Pigeon on my way home and have him fax it back to her. I did that, and called to follow up with them today to ensure that they had faxed it only to find out that they won't fax it. They said that I have to go into the office to pick it up and pay a $35 fee for him signing the release. Are you kidding me!? This guy was paid $33,000 for my laminectomy and he can't put his signature on a piece of paper so that I can work? I've had releases signed in the past by other doctors and they didn't charge. It's a signature, and I'm not paying him $35 for it.

There are so many injustices in the U.S. healthcare system. It's a system that I will spend the rest of my life working in, but I hope that I can do my part to rid patients of these kinds of petty fees and inconveniences. It's such a shame.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Hello Mr. Turtle

I love all of our critters. Even the smallest of them. This little one inch turtle is so cute, and I can't seem to stay away from him. Brendan just set up a new habitat for him in a 40 gallon tank, complete with a floating log, plants, hides and a sucker fish to help keep his tank clean. He doesn't have a name, but he sure is cute. Especially when he looks right at me when I take his picture!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Halloween cake

I made this cake for Halloween several years ago, and it is delicious. It is one of the most moist and flavorful cakes you'll ever eat. And it's pretty.

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake
1.5 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, plus one yolk

Heat oven to 375ºF. Line the bottoms of two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper and lightly butter. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Stir the buttermilk, pumpkin and vanilla together in a small bowl. Beat the butter and sugars together using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and yolk, one at a time. Reduce mixer speed to low and alternately beat in the flour and buttermilk mixtures in thirds. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake until a tester, inserted in the center, comes out clean-about 35 minutes. Cool layers completely before icing.

Beat 6 ounces softened cream cheese using a mixer set on medium high speed until fluffy. Add 1.5 cups confectioners sugar, 2 1/4 tsp cocoa, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and 3/4 tsp vanilla and beat on low speed until well combined. In a separate bowl, beat 1.5 cups heavy cream with 3/4 cup confectioners sugar and a scant 1/4 tsp orange food coloring on medium high to soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until well combined. Spread 1 cup frosting between the two layers and use the remaining frosting to ice the top and sides of the cake. Chill 30 minutes and proceed to next step.

Place 4 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate, 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter and 3 tablespoons corn syrup in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring 1/2 cup heavy cream to a boil, pour it over the chocolate, and let sit for 3 minutes. Gently stir, using a whisk, until smooth. Let sit for 3 to 5 minutes, until the glaze thickens slightly. Pour the glaze onto the center of the frosted cake and smooth out to the edges to allow the glaze to drip over the sides.

Halloween 2011

Here are a few shots from our Halloween. I hope you enjoyed your day!
My 80s girl

Layla (Mazin's sister)
Kaylee, Erin, Ashley and Layla
(l-r) Kaylee, Erin, Paul, Bryce, Mazin, Layla and Ashley
A neighbors Angry Birds pumpkin display.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I noticed earlier today that Zoe was starting to shed. She had a large piece pulled back just below her head, and knowing that they like to have help to release the shed I grabbed it and pulled. The skin from her entire body came off in nearly one piece, including around her toes and fingers. It's such a cool thing, and perhaps I'm a bit weird that I have it sitting here next to my computer to look at.

You can click on each picture to see it in more detail.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Disney Cup 2011

We are home from Orlando. We arrived at the track on Thursday evening to setup our tent and chairs and familiarize ourself with the setup for this year. Already there were almost no spots left for tents, but our team had already setup in a great place right along the third straight. Erin and Bren had racing all day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We were at the track for approximately 12 hours each day, and it was a blast. We were together with all of our team families and the owner of Hyperforce, Don DiBucci. Erin placed 2nd in class all three day, and 5th in her mixed open that she raced on Saturday (for her first time). Brendan had a tough class all weekend, racing the world champion in his age group and 35 others that have been expert for much longer than he. He still had a great time and raced his hardest, and he knows that he'll be right up there with them in the nationals next year.

Here are a bunch of pictures of our weekend at the Orlando BMX track. We are so lucky to be associated with such a great group of people. I've never been to any sports function where there is such a feeling of family.
Erin, in the green helmet towards the bottom, getting ready to go up for her practice laps.
Erin (right) and her friend, Bailey (next to her). Bailey is 6th in the country.
Here comes Erin...
Part of team Hyperforce-(l-r) Madison, Erin, Bren and Jesse.

Jesse during a practice lap.
Donnie racing 46-50 cruiser class.
Cute little Zuri sporting her "BMX SISTER" shirt.
Our home for three days.
My baby boy on the track.
Tony and Maddox.
Bailey again. Such a sweet girl.
Here comes Jesse again.
This is my little buddy, Caden. He is five years old. Yes, FIVE. He started racing this past April and he is so darn cute on the track.

Jackson, aka Big Bear at our track. This boy loves to jump.
Oops. These are the pro girls racing, and it looks like the one that crashed is doing a handstand.

More of team Hyperforce...Jesse and Morgan.

Erin and Big Boss, Don DiBucci. He is our team owner.
Logan, our six year old on Hyperforce, and Donnie in the background, our 46-50 class rider and Team Hyperforce Florida leader.
Mark and Brian doing a few last minute adjustments to Erin's bike before her last race of the day.

The days and nights were long, and it caught up to Kara. She was with us for the weekend.
It apparently caught up to Don, too!
Erin practicing her gate before another race.

The next and last big race of the year is the Grands in Oklahoma next month. It's not far away!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Disney Cup

We are leaving tomorrow afternoon for Orlando. The last National of the year for my BMX riders begins on Friday and runs through Sunday. We'll get to the track tomorrow to set up our tent, and then spend the night with Tony since he lives so close to the Orlando track. The riders have practice for most of the day on Friday, and racing begins at 3pm. They race again at 11am on Saturday and 8am on Sunday. They'll each have three rounds of qualifying to make it to their main event, so if they make their main event each day they will race a total of 12 times this weekend. Erin is currently in 2nd place in the district, but if she has a good weekend in Orlando she'll take 1st place. District numbers are not by age group, so this means that she would be 1st among all girls in the state of Florida, regardless of age! We have confidence that she can do it. I would love to see my girl sporting the 1st in state and 1st in district plates for next season!

The races are all played live on if you are interested in watching any of the days. Erin races in the 8 Girls (Expert) motto and Bren is 14 Expert. Look for their green Hyperforce helmets and jerseys!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hand in the disposal prank on Bren and Kara

I love pranking my kids. I truly do. Sometimes they are funny, and sometimes they scare the shit out of them. Erin and I saw this one on a show last night and decided right then that we were going to do this to Bren and Kara. Sure enough they both freaked out. Pause the video and look at their faces. Brendan was telling me to stop, but you can tell by the look on his face that he thought something was really wrong. I love it!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Sean and Tina's new creation

Sean and Tina have been working on a new sewing project, and it is one of the most unique items I've ever seen. The pattern called for a couple of the Fedex or USPS bags, fabric for the lining inside and mesh to line the strap. The inside is lined with an orange fabric, and it is so neat. Sean now has a messenger bag unlike those owned by anyone else.