Monday, November 7, 2011


...all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh I believe in yesterday

Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh yesterday came suddenly
-The Beatles, "Yesterday"

Many of you have already heard about the shadow that's hanging over me.

My mom, Laura McLean - or LaLa to her grandbabes, was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago.  To say that the past few years have been crazy doesn't begin to do justice to the emotional roller coaster we've been riding.  Really, having 2 kids is plenty life-changing.  I've watched 2 kids arrive, held hands through Jay's 2 heart surgeries, and watched my mom endure countless rounds of chemo, a couple of hits of radiation, 2 brain tumor surgeries and some crazy nanoparticle liver treatment.  Yeah.  Call me stressed.  Or call me really, really, really bad luck to people who love me.  Y'all might want to keep your distance.

Anyway, mom got some more bad news on Friday that even my weak attempts at corny humor can't gloss over.  She's got a lot of additional tumors in her brain, and there really aren't many options left.  She can do whole brain radiation, but that comes with some miserable cognitive side effects like trouble making decisions or following the steps of a process.  Or she can stop treatment and risk seizures and difficulty with balance and movement.

Where is option F - None of the Above?  No one should have to make these choices.  No one should have to make them over and over for 5 years straight.  Life is hard, but this is impossibly hard.  And while I know that death is a part of life that we all deal with, I still have no idea how to wrap my mind around what is happening - around the idea that we're going to lose her before we're ready.

The thing is, we've gotten bad news before - over the past 5 years, we've heard rotten reports so many times.

It's cancer?  "Wow.  I really don't know what to say."

It's spread to your bones?  "Oh, that's awful.  I wish I had the right words."

It's spread to your liver? And your brain?!  "Oh my God.  I'm speechless.  I have no words."

And now, it's spread to your brain and there's nothing good they can do about it?

You'd think that I'd be getting better at this by now, that I'd have a clue about how to react or what to say.  You'd think I could pull out some words that had comforted in the past.  That all of us would be ready for our reactions.  But practice absolutely does NOT make perfect.  I'm as clueless and dumbfounded and angry and sad and confused and all of the above as I ever was.  I'm just as lost as I was each of the times before.

And yet...

I have a fabulous husband who is a partner in every sense of the word.
I have two beautiful children.  They are healthy today, thanks to an incredible miracle I was privileged to witness.
I have girlfriends who are like sisters.  And they will wipe my tears.  They bring milkshakes and hot chocolate and warm blankets of hugs.  They assure me that my crazy thoughts don't mean I'm crazy.
I have a huge extended family of amazing people that make me laugh.  We will hold each other up when the going gets tough.  We eat together and we laugh together, and that's how we get through both good and bad.
I have a church family that is supportive and loving and has showed me how the love of God really works -  in the way they love others.
I have a great job that is fulfilling and meaningful and makes a difference to others.  It surrounds me daily with colleagues who are like family, and they help sustain me.
I have a warm house and a car to drive and plenty to eat and clothes to wear and everything I really need.  Everything.
Most of all, I have had an incredibly close relationship with my mom, and I've been blessed with learning from her.  I have seen an incredible example of how to face scary things, how to love people around you, how to smile in spite of the toughest of circumstances.

I have so much to be thankful for.  

So mom - look at me!  I am taking your sunshiney attitude and stealing a few rays.  (You've still got plenty.)  I wish I knew what to say.  I love you.  I hate that you're having to make these impossible choices.  I hate that you're going to feel pain.  I hate the mere idea of living without you and your never ceasing positive attitude.  I will hate the reality of it far worse.  But I am trying to focus on the present - that I have you today.    I love you.  And I am incredibly grateful for all that you've taught me.

LaLa and Luke, March 2010

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Listening and dancing to music...

... is AWESOME!!!
-Super Music Friends Show, Yo Gabba Gabba

We'd been anticipating the night for many months, and last night was the big event.

I realize that people generally fall into two camps when it comes to this show: love it or hate it.  That's cool.  I don't love the same music or movies or children's programming that you love.  Haters - feel free to ignore this post, and definitely feel free to keep comments to yourself.  But as for me and my family, we LOVE Yo Gabba Gabba.

Once upon a time, our little guy was pretty sick.  He got pneumonia 5 times in as many months.  We didn't know it at the time, but he was in congestive heart failure because his mitral valve was so badly functioning that fluid was backing up into his lungs.  To open his lungs a bit and help him breathe, he had to do a nebulizer treatment every night.

Ever tried to make a two year old sit still for 30 minutes and breathe scary-looking, funny-smelling smoke?  Yeah, me neither.  He fought the treatments like crazy, and I didn't have a clue how to get him to settle down.  So this anti-TV mama resorted to the one thing I knew had a fighting chance of keeping him still for that long.  Television. And all he wanted to watch was Yo Gabba Gabba.  So we watched.  Every night.  And he'd sing along through that blasted fish mask.

In a really interesting coincidence, I learned about another little girl named Davy who also has Congenital Heart Disease (among a number of other congenital issues).  Her mom writes an uber-cool blog, the mom, and I got hooked.  Know who the mom is married to?  None other than Scott Schultz, co-creator of YGG.  Yep, the guy who comes up with the creatively awesome ideas for this show has watched his little girl endure heart surgery and weeks in the hospital and medical procedures galore.

Then, in August 2010, we went to Philadelphia for his open heart surgery at CHOP.  And as soon as we got there, we saw an ad in the airport for the YGG Live tour.  Jay was SUPER excited to see the Gabba friends welcome him to the airport.  We'd planned for 2 weeks in the hospital, and the show was scheduled to be in Philly a week later.  We were hopeful that we'd be back home and into regular life by then.  Of course long time readers will remember that he was still in ICU at that point, and home was still many, many weeks away - with "regular life" many months behind that.

So when the chance came along to see them in Raleigh, we jumped.  (We didn't jump for the $117 dress circle tickets, but the view is lovely from the back row, too.)  When the Gabba friends came on stage and I saw the ecstatic look in that little boy's face, I gotta admit, it got me.  There were tears rolling down my face.  We joked in Philly that he had complications intentionally, just so that we'd still be there and he could see the show.  But the truth is that I feared he'd never live to see Yo Gabba Gabba in person.  Or that he'd have endured so much time without oxygen that he'd be in a wheelchair, or unable to express himself through language, or any of the other millions of debilitating, life-altering issues that could have happened so easily.

But last night, this boy was fully and completely alive - in every sense of the word.

He clapped.

He hugged himself.
You put your arms out wide, wrap 'em around, squeeze tight!
Hugs are fun - Hugs are fun - Hugs are fun!

He danced during Dancey Dance time.

He was, in a word, enthralled.  Completely focused on those silly-looking, lovable creatures.

But he wasn't the only one!  Oh no.  Derek, Luke and I had every bit as much fun as Jay did.  Luke sat in his seat and clapped enthusiastically at the end of every song, even standing in front of his seat to dance.

And when Biz Markie came out (oh yes - THAT Biz Markie!) and started teaching the kids beatboxing for Biz' Beat of the Day, Derek and I were like "Is this for realz?!"  Oh yeah.  Loved every minute.

After the show, we had to check out all the confetti and paper leaves that came down.


Yeah, it was THAT fun.