Wednesday, March 27, 2013

RIP Rummy

She was my first baby.  I adopted Rummy (Rum Tum Tugger) a few weeks after I got my first apartment when I was 22 years old.  She was just a tiny thing and quickly grew attached to me.  Rummy was more dog-like than cat-like.  She would follow me around my apartment, sitting on the bathtub ledge when I took a shower, begging for treats, never skittish.  Back in those pre-kid days I was able to take random naps during the day and Rummy would always curl up on my stomach and nap with me.  At night she slept on my pillow.  Cupid came to me a year later when I thought Rummy needed some company.  I adored both of them... as evidenced by the pages of pictures of them in my old photo albums!  When I moved to California I left the cats in Ohio with my parents for my three month assignment.  I missed them so much and swore that I wouldn't do that again.  When I met Brad in California he sensed that I might one day be a "crazy cat lady".  I'd tell him how great my cats were, how they were different from other cats, how I couldn't wait for him to meet them!  When I reread that it does conjure images of me sitting a rocking chair with cats swarming around me!
Brad and I got married, Sierra was born, and Rummy quickly lost her status as "my baby".  I think she'd spent the last 10 years wondering what happened.  She's always loved attention so much that she would sit in a room full of toddlers during playgroup just waiting to be petted.  Rummy remained sweet until the end.  A few days ago she seemed off.  The next day even more so and we prepared ourselves and the kids that we would be saying good-bye soon.  Laurel stayed up late last night with me holding Rummy and telling her what a good cat she's always been, how she always had the softest fur.  Rummy died peacefully in my arms, I'm sure just how she would have wanted.  She may have lost her status as "my baby" years ago, but she will always have a very special place in my heart.  We'll miss her.
First cat, first apartment.

 We both look so young! 16 years ago!

Just last week

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bald is Beautiful!

Sierra raised over $3500 and shaved her head for St.Baldrick's Foundation! Thursday was one of my proudest days as I watched my daughter sit on stage, through her nervousness, and do something that many grown-ups would cringe at doing.  All in the name of helping raise money for pediatric cancer research and to honor her friend Alyssa.  I was anxious about how she would react to her bald head, but she has shown grace and courage and she looks beautiful.  She has let her friends sign her head and when she's not cold she sports her new due proudly!  Sierra's friends and family rallied around to cheer her on during the event and those that couldn't make it were definitely there in spirit!  It was an emotional and beautiful day.  We are so thankful for all of the donations and love that Sierra has received over the past weeks. 

Hair ready to be cut and sent to Locks of Love

Our FAVORITE barber!  Thanks for doing round 2 with us, Mary!

Team LAL (Live Alyssa Live) - Tamara and Sierra

Cadence was working on Kelli's hair

Alyssa's mom, dad, and sister Lexie joined us!

Team LAL after!  It's colder now!

Lexie and Laurel enjoying sweet treats

Abby cheered Sierra on!

Our friends support Sierra and the Bloop sign

Visiting her class the next day to get some body art

Hopefully this is as close as Sierra ever gets to having body art on her head!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St.Baldrick's - Round Two

Four years ago my friend Lisa and I went to a local bar to cheer on one of our co-workers.  He was shaving his head for St.Baldricks.  St.Baldricks raised money specifically for pediatric cancer research.  We had a few drinks that night, were completely caught up in the energy and excitement of the night, and I went home proclaiming that I would be shaving my head for St.Baldricks the following year.  That night I dreamt of my bald head.  I was less enthused by the morning!  Regardless, when fundraising time rolled around we had formed a group of enthusiastic nurses and respiratory therapists that committed to shave.  By March of 2010 our team had raised over $11,000 for St.Baldricks and we excitedly and very willingly shaved our heads on stage as our family and friends cheered us on. 

The first week was a little challenging.  I would startle as I caught a glimpse of myself in the car window when I closed the door.  I was self-conscious that people would misinterpret that I was sick rather than having shaved my hair of my own accord.  Very quickly, though, I enjoyed the benefits of having no hair.  First and foremost, time saved in the morning!  Thirty seconds was all that it took to "style" my hair.  And the shower... it feels like a massage on a bald head!  My kids loved rubbing my fuzzy hair.  Despite being concerned that they might be embarrassed by my new look, I felt their pride for me and what I had done.  They begged me to come to school to show their friends!  Coming together with my friends and coworkers to raise so much money for a great cause, being supported by family and my community, and being free of a source of vanity for a short time... It was truly one of the best experiences of my life.

The following two years Sierra wanted to shave her head for St.Baldricks.  While I loved her enthusiasm for doing something uncoventional for a good cause, I worried about her.  As a female, it can be shocking to sport a shaved head.  As a 10 year old girl, even more so.  Not only is it an adjustment when you look in the mirror, but seeing the look on others' faces when they see you for the first time.  I worried how she would handle that.  We discussed all of the issues and each year we've talked her into waiting a little longer.  This year, however, there was no deterring her.  She wants to do something for Alyssa. She misses Alyssa and this a little something that Sierra can do to connect with her.  So far Sierra has raised over $2500 to go towards pediatric cancer research.  She will be shaving her head on Thursday.  I am still worrying a bit.  How she will react to her shaved head, how kids will react to her, how she will react to the kids reacting to her.  But I also know from experience how great this can be.  I know that she will be able to build on the confidence that one gains from stepping out of their comfort zone.  She will always be able to look back and know that not only did she help raise money for a great cause, but she also showed the world that bald is beautiful! 

If you'd like to support Sierra and help her reach her goal please donate on her St.Baldricks page here.  Thank you!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Where's her mom?

The snowstorm that they were predicting this week, the one that I pshawed and rolled my eyes at...  yes, that one.  Well, it actually happened.  Snow fell hard and heavy enough to knock out our power.  Instead of being simply snowed in we were stuck in a powerless house with no running water.  One of the side effects of not having public utilities that I hate.  We had been planning to head to my happy place the next day.  When Brad got home from work we called Great Wolf Lodge to see if we could change our reservation to that night.  We grabbed our suits, crossed our fingers, and braved the roads.

We finally got to the water park and were having a ball!  Heat, running water, AND entertainment for the kids... win,win,win!  Eventually, though, the breakdowns came.  At one point Cadence was throwing a fit.  I was talking to Laurel, trying to focus on what she was saying, waiting for Cadence to chill out so I could deal with her more effectively.  A girl about 10 years old walked by with an older brother.  She stopped and was fretting about Cadence.  Probably 30 seconds went by and I finally stopped my conversation with Laurel and picked Cadence up.  I thought the girl would walk away but she came up to me.  She looked so concerned, almost distraught. 

"Where is her mom?" she said.
"Me" I muttered, trying to get Cadence to settle.
"No, where is her mom?" the girl practically shouted.
"It's me.  I'm her mom!" as the realization kicked in... oh, yeah, I don't look like her mom.

It seems so obvious to me.  Of course I'm Cadence's mom.  How could someone think anything else?!  Well, I guess there is... that!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Planes, trains, automobiles... and boats!

It's hard to believe that I have been back from Uganda for two weeks now!  It has been a packed two weeks.  I guess my time off was when I was in Africa!  It was the perfect mix of working hard and having enough downtime to breathe.  At least when I had downtime, it was my own... obviously not the case when I am at home! 

The last few days of our mission were quite busy, including a patient who had to go back to the OR emergently... he kept us on our toes.  We finished surgeries on Friday and another nurse and I spent most of the day wrapping things up at the hospital on Saturday.  Friday night a few of us had a blast at a small nightclub near the hotel.  That'll make you feel like a white girl, dancing in a club in Africa!  After enough Niles, though, this white girl didn't really care!  It was hard to leave the hospital on Saturday afternoon.  There were still a couple of patients in the ICU (although they were stable).  There were still lines and chest tubes that would need to be pulled and vital signs that needed monitored.  I know that the Ugandan nurses are good, but it was difficult leaving the patients that we put in those beds knowing that they wouldn't be followed by our team.  One of my favorite patients, a sweet boy named Innocent, still felt pretty awful.  I just wanted to see him smile and know that he was doing better.  I did take comfort knowing that one of the physicians from UVA was staying a little while longer and would be checking in the patients.  This physician, Joel, will be finishing his fellowship this summer and then taking his family to Kampala, Uganda to continue this work at Mulago Hospital.  Pretty stinkin' cool!  You can check out their blog here. They are not just moving to this country to work full time, but they have to raise half of the cost to do it... now that's dedication! Go Joel!  Anyway, happily Joel got a few pics of our sweet kiddos.

Samaritan's Purse hosted a lovely dinner Saturday evening for us.  It's always nice to sit down with your team members outside of a clinical setting (some of the Ugandan team joined us) and really get to know them.  I fully intended to get back to the hotel, pack up, into bed early and get a good night's sleep.  Regardless, the call of a Nile beer and the good company of a few other nurses lulled me away from packing!  The whole medical team that traveled to Africa was great.  Everyone was fairly laid back, fun, very competent.  I feel very blessed not only to have been part of the work that was done there, but to have had the opportunity to meet and spent time with all of these awesome people!  Some picture parties and wine tours were planned... here's to hoping that they happen!

*As a side note to my previous entries, I did find out from two sources that the company that runs the 4 wheeler business that we toured on help out with the homes in that community.  I was told that they assist with the kids school fees and supplies.  That made me feel a little better.  Additionally, a nurse from Mulago Hospital did tell me that if a family cannot pay, Mulago is the only hospital in the region that will provide patient care regardless. 

Our last day in Africa was packed full!  We got up early to go to a chimpanzee sanctuary on an island.  They are truly amazing creatures and so much like us (or we are like them).  Our flight was leaving late so I went over to the local gym to get a massage.  I was a little worried as it was described as a "sensuous massage" but another nurse swore it was kosher.  Not so great as far as massages go, but no funny business, and only $13, so I can't complain!  We flew out of Entebbee at 11:30pm and got to Amsterdam around 6am.  A few of us braved the cold (fyi, airline blankets do a pretty good job passing off for pashminas) to tour Amsterdam and eat at a fabulous little cafe.  In case you ever visit Amsterdam, don't ask for the nearest "coffeeshop" unless you're planning to get stoned!  Otherwise, ask for a cafe!  I had intended to stay awake for the flight to the US.  However, I closed my eyes for a minute and then woke up and wondered why they were serving food since we hadn't taken off.  Apparently I slept right through take-off! After we arrived in the US I had to drive another three hours home.

By the time I got home at 7pm I posted this to my facebook wall: I rolled out of bed 42 hours ago. In that time I visited a chimpanzee sanctuary in Uganda, toured around Amsterdam, spent 2 hours on a boat, 5 hours driving, 15 hours on a plane, and an hour on a train. I have never been so happy to kiss my kids and husband and see my bed! Thank you for all of your well wishes and prayers. It's been an awesome 12 days! 

The hardest part by far was being away from my girls and Brad for so long.  I only talked / skyped with them for a total of 15 minutes or so the whole time that I was gone.  I am so thankful to my husband for urging me to go on this trip, despite my protests of finding childcare and making arrangements, as well as thanks my parents, Brad's dad and stepmom, and my friends Sara, Megan, and Heather (and their families) for taking on my children while I was gone.  I couldn't have done it without all of you.  It warmed my heart to know that my kids were having fun and being loved while I was gone!  You have my heartfelt thanks!

I'm completely slacking on the photos, because real life has taken over since I've gotten home and let's be honest, blogger is sucking on the picture front right now!  However, if you really want to see how hard we worked in Uganda you can check out our mascot on this facebook page: Kermit does Uganda!  Real pictures to follow someday!