What Happened Next

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

December has been an eternity wrought with pain, sickness, and a multitude of blessings.

As long as I live on this earth, I will never forget the sound of my sister's voice telling me over the phone that her daughter had just been diagnosed with leukemia. What has felt like a lifetime in some sort of alternate reality has only been 23 days since that Sunday afternoon. As a family, we held our breaths until we knew which leukemia she had, which translates, at its simplest form, into odds of her survival and the preservation or obliteration of every dream we've had for a lifetime with these three little girls we love so completely. We received among the better prognoses of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, but what that doesn't translate into is any measurement of her suffering every day during treatment. It cannot give a finite amount of tears that will fall or even begin to cover the true depth of this collective familial heart break. Or, that she has a higher risk of relapsing due to her genetics. But, still, it is a prognostication we cling to with hope and prayer.

While I have desperately wanted to be at my sister & niece's side down at Vanderbilt, my household cannot get or stay well long enough for me to be able to. I had a respiratory virus with a bad cough when she was diagnosed and as soon as I could get through a night without coughing my head off, Kindred came down with a stomach virus that has lasted longer than any stomach virus I had ever heard of prior to this one. If it weren't so incredibly frustrating, I would laugh at the absurdity of it all. We are never this sick. How could we be this sick now, when it is crucial that we be well? I think about how frightened I was to have a baby during the flu season, when so many family members were sick. And, I think about my sister now and how terrifying it must be to hear of so many cases of flu, strep, stomach and various respiratory viruses circulating our region now. If ever there was a case for constructing 'the bubble'...surely Naiya is the perfect candidate for its first occupant.

So, that's where we are now and a little of what happened next.

Naiya

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Our world is forever changed.
My niece has leukemia.

Halloween!!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017
We have Trick or Treated in our small hometown since Dylan was toddler. We only missed out on a few years due to moving away, him getting too old, and Kindred being too young. Besides the close proximity to my family, this tradition is my favorite thing about living here. On to the pics!

Kindred wanted to be Ariel, Tinkerbell, and finally settled on a Witch once she found out her two cousins were going as witches. We dressed the girls in a theme (Wizard of Oz) last year, but this year we didn't consult each other. Ash decided on a witch for Naiya. Nova wanted to be Winifred Sanders but settled on a light-up witch costume. When Kindred jumped on board..err, on broom, I put her costume together from a couple different stores. Michael's for her hat, Once Upon a Child for the jacket & ruffled shirt, my striped socks, and the tutu from her Lightning Bolt costume a couple of years ago. It turned out so cute...except the hat was slightly too big and kept coming off. So, we just kind of ditched it toward the end. Didn't seem as necessary once she started calling herself 'Skeleton Girl' anyway. The interesting thing was that none of us knew what kind of witch the other was planning...but all three girls had purple as the accent color in their costumes. Ha! Sister magic...


Eye on the prize, Kindred...Nova better watch her candy closely.



Let it be known that In The Time Of Now, I was a very happy mama...


I can remember taking Kat when she was younger than Nova. Where does the time go?


Speaking of time...Dylan came along, as a typical teen with an iPhone. But, in my mind's eye, I can still see him as a Ninja Turtle, a Spiderman, a Batman...walking these same sidewalks.




This was Kindred's last house. The next one, she told her daddy "I have enough candies. Let Nova have it." You know, the Top 1% in our country could learn so much about humanity from the giving heart of a child...


So, that was our Halloween and a good time was had by all... I can't believe how lucky we are that this is how it all turned out. How blessed.

Dear Daughter,

Monday, October 23, 2017

After we met up with your cousins and finished walking the Scarecrow trail, you said you were just out of energy. Then, you fell asleep in the car on our way to the grocery store. I did all my shopping like this. Sometimes I had to hold your face in my hand as I reached for an item. I wanted to just stop and alternate studying and kissing your sweet little face as you slept. Moments like these are so precious to me. I love you, daughter.

Scarecrow Trail

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A spontaneous meet-up of my sisters, nieces, and mama earlier this week. Does our pumpkin patch look sincere enough for the Great Pumpkin to visit us? We had such a good time chasing the girls down the scarecrow/pumpkin trail. Moments like these are quite a blessing, no?

Even though I want so badly to travel and fall in love with a new place better suited for our family's personal beliefs & interests, I am aware of just how lucky three sisters were in having these three little girls at practically the same time. With our age gaps, we didn't get the closeness we see unfolding in Kindred, Nova, and Naiya. Moving away someday leaves me feeling very conflicted.

For now, I am just going to enjoy the present moment and see where life/fate takes us... There may never be a place quite like home. Who knows?


Bill's Birthday

Monday, September 18, 2017

Because he managed to survive a significant blockage & stent placement last week, my dad lived to see 60 on Saturday. I took him to dinner at the iconic Loveless Cafe in Nashville, after I spent a week lecturing him on diet. We both passed on the fried chicken, but we did try their famous biscuits. And, they are indeed the most delicious biscuits I have ever eaten in my life. I don't even want to know what the nutritional facts label would look like because the butter content is obviously very, very high. Just, don't ruin it for me.

If you aren't from around here, a little history on the cafe: Lon & Annie Loveless started their restaurant outside Nashville on Hwy 100 back in 1951. After awhile, they built a surrounding 14 room motel which is now an assortment of gift shops. You can buy food stuffs like preserves, country ham, etc. You can buy touristy stuffs like tshirts, keychains, and a variety of merch emblazoned with 'Got Biscuits?' You can even have a wedding reception in a fancy barn they've added out back.



 The Loveless is about a 15 minute drive from downtown Nashville. It is located along a winding country road that takes you into the hills and offers only a peek of the Nashville skyline between the trees. Judging by the signed pictures on the walls, just about every musician from Nashville plus those American Pickers guys have been there. The decor is cute & kitschy. We really enjoyed it.


 Under doctor's orders, Bill couldn't really party like it was 1979 but we did drive down Broadway to see what the crowd was up to. It was the typical Nashville scene...various revelers, lots of honky tonking, an overly intoxicated bachelorette party being loaded into a waiting cab by a Nashville police officer, and somebody robbed the Subway nearby.


 I did run into Elvis again. For some reason, it's a thing that happens to me.


My dad is the stuff legends are made of. I desperately want to sit down with a recorder and write a book about him & his four brothers. They did the 70s & 80s BIG. I have memories of seeing them roll up my aunt's driveway in an assortment of muscle cars, Harley Davidson motorcycles(dad), and even a probably stolen limo. I do not know how I share DNA with this group because I have never had the intestinal fortitude to brave even half of what dad did before he was ever 30.

One story I don't think he would mind me sharing... He and his younger brother, Richard, had been out cruising around town and fighting with a few locals back in the late 70s when they were picked up by law enforcement. At the jail, the arresting officer said he wasn't sure what to charge them with and decided to place a call to the judge to seek his advice. The judge asked to speak to one of them and my uncle took the phone. He told the judge his side of the story and then, "Yes, sir...oh yes, sir, we promise to stay out of trouble." and he hung up the phone. He told the officer the judge said he would let them off with a warning as long as they learned their lesson and would go home. So, the officer said they were free to go. They made it the door as the phone rang and Richard turned to dad and said only, "Run." Which, they did. Apparently, the judge had told Richard he was on his way to throw the book at them. And, that was him calling back to tell the officer to lock them up because he knew what Richard was up to when he said what he said. God bless rotary phones for buying Richard a few extra seconds to lie through his teeth. Anyway, Richard jumped on his motorcycle and made it back to Tennessee but dad got picked back up a few weeks later and spent a weekend in jail.

So many good stories, mostly incriminating. I don't know how he survived it all, but I'm thankful that he did! He's a character, that Bill. I'm lucky to know him.

This Little Light of Mine

Monday, September 11, 2017

...has recently stopped saying 'hashbrows' for eyebrows. But, she still says 'Kamp you' for 'Thank you' and there's no sign of that slowing down. She loves to play dress-up and has recently discovered the joy of clip-on earrings. She asks to get into my jewelry box and goes right for the same ring of my grandmother's that I always asked to play with. She is girly girl and 'I am woman; hear me roar!' all at once. 

Oh, how I love her.

In the Beginning; Part Two

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Whenever his grandparents would ask for Dylan to stay the night, I would come stay with you. It didn't take long to figure out that nothing about our courtship was conventional. We didn't go out to eat or to the movies. Our dates mainly consisted of hanging out at your place while the random visitor dropped in to play video games and smoke a joint or two. Occasionally, we'd head to the college dive bar downtown on the square called Kelly Greens. On some mornings, we would eat oversize bowls of Lucky Charms on your front porch. I just loved being with you. We had such a good time together that I never felt like we were missing out by staying in.

Do you remember the afternoon we got busted by your mama? We were upstairs in your room when suddenly someone was in the hallway alerting you to the fact that your mom had stopped in for a visit. You went, and I procrastinated as long as possible. I don't know why my brain works the way it does, but, for some reason, I tried to make light of us having freshly fornicated by cracking a sacrilegious joke about being left to study the bible on my own. You laughed, but possibly just to expel nervous energy. It was a great example of 'Know Your Audience'...but, it worked out okay.

One weekend, I made plans with some friends to go to a music festival. You made a comment about me not hooking up with anyone there, even though you hadn't really made any effort toward exclusivity. In hindsight, it's kind of your signature move. You prefer to let it ride, until fate forces a choice. Not long after that weekend, you asked to meet Dylan. And, you two were peas in a pod. He called you Bean. You flew to California to see your dad, and when you came back you brought Dylan a little bear dressed in a baseball uniform. He was over the moon about that bear, and you.

Every few years or so, we like to skim through the letters we wrote to each other back then. They are full of the typical new lovers verbiage. Oh, we couldn't wait to see each other, we felt like there was never enough time together, flirty talk, and signing off as 'the future Mrs. LaBelle', or 'your future husband'. So cute, so innocent, so embarrassing.

Almost a year after we met, we were engaged. We got an apartment and planned a small wedding at a bed & breakfast. For the ceremony, we told the pastor that we'd like to say our own vows. But, he forgot that part...which is good because neither one of us had anything prepared. We are opposites in almost every manner, except for when it really counts...like blowing off our vows. Mine would probably have amounted to 'I never thought I'd have children or a husband, but here we are.'...awkward pauses, bad jokes. There's no telling what you would have said, but it probably would have left everyone slightly confused after the ceremony ended. You always list pros & cons in every speech and none of us ever really know which side you're on.
'Wasn't his pledge of eternal love so touching?'
'Wait, what? I thought he backed out, but, like, she was just super cool with it?'

Then we were a family and our beginning transitioned into our middle...which almost crashed and burned into our end, but we circled back around to the beginning somehow, and here we are now. Now is my favorite time ever. We live in a modest house which would easily be a million dollar property in Los Angeles...the kids are both still under our roof, you come home for lunch every day, and life just feels so damn good. We are good. If there ever was a time I wish I could stretch into eternity, it would be now. I mean, just for us, obviously, the world is an actual dumpster fire.

My favorite nickname for you is Jerry because of the movie The Mexican. Art imitates life when it comes to the personalities of the main characters, Jerry & Sam. When my mama saw the movie even she said, 'Well, that is you and Bergen made over.' And, it is true...you are probably not the luckiest fella in the room and I can be...well, uhh, opinionated, passionate, loud...but we love each other enough for this lifetime and maybe even the next. It has never been boring, babe...and that is why I'm still here.

I love you, Jerry. 

In the Beginning; A Letter to My Husband

Monday, September 04, 2017
We first met at a bookstore, which is ironic since you don't like to read. You've read one book that you weren't assigned, Dante's Inferno. I believe you tell me this because you think the complex nature of the book gives you some kind of street cred or literary pass. What I remember from that first encounter are your eyes and how unbelievably kind you seemed. You don't remember me at all. I was just some hugely pregnant chick who wandered into your store. How funny fate can be, no? You were close enough to reach out and touch us both, your future wife and the boy who would call you Dad. But, that scene wasn't even a blip on the great cosmic radar yet.

'Can I help you find something?' you asked. Possibly. But, can you give me a few years? I've got some pretty heavy shit I'm going through at the moment. So, I went home, put 90s grunge in my Discman, and daydreamed about the guy with the eyes. I'm almost positive this is why I think of you instantly when that genre comes on the radio. Like Pavlov's dog and his bells...except it's Nirvana and your face.

You had long since faded from my memory when you clocked into work at Hop's the second time we met, so I didn't even recognize you. I was getting a drink for a table and you came around the partition. By the time you walked away, the counter was covered and it was spilling onto the floor. "He's cute, isn't he?" a coworker asked. "I'm going to marry that boy." I said. But, in truth, I only said 'marry' because what I actually intended to do with you isn't something you just say out loud without knowing the location of your boss. Every day, I would throw ice at you and you would smile. I'd talk to you on my loop through the dish pit. And, I always found spare dishes to have a reason to loop through the dish pit. "Here, sir, let me get you another fork as I see that one touched two different vegetables on your plate."

I really, really liked you. One day I decided to show you a picture of Dylan. I wasn't ready for you to meet him, as I preferred to keep him out of my dating life, but I didn't want to keep his existence from you. If it was a dealbreaker for you, I'd rather just face that sooner than later. You laughed nervously and asked if he was my nephew. The child with a tiny version of my face? Umm, no. But, it didn't change anything between us. One night, I offered to give you a ride home in my janky '87 Firebird with the 400 big block engine, which you actually liked. As it turned out, you were, ahem, in between houses and living with your mama. So, we made out like teenagers in the parking lot at Heartland Apts. You asked me out, sorta. We made plans to meet at the bar, which I now know meant you and your best friend and maybe even your sister were supposed to meet me at the bar whenever you felt like showing up. After I sat there for hours, I got so mad at you that I left the bar and drove back to your mama's with the intention of telling you off. Lucky for us, I am easily confused by parking lots and so I turned in, did the circle drive in front of the complex's clubhouse and wound up right back out on Wilkinson Trace. Defeated, I just went home. The next time I saw you, you acted like nothing had happened at all, and asked why I didn't show up. I kept my crazy in check and said it must've just been a misunderstanding. This was uncharted territory.

And, then I showed up to work one day and you were...gone. I didn't blame you. Our boss was a complete asshole and I didn't last two weeks without you. I had given you my number, but I didn't have yours. I wasn't going to stalk you at your mama's. Though, I mean, I definitely wanted to. I couldn't believe that those few months of working together was the entirety of our story. I missed you. Weeks passed, and then I started dating a childhood friend I had no business dating. We had been the best of friends, even sharing a locker during junior high. But, he was a solider who needed someone something to do when he'd come in, and I was bored. One night he said we should get serious about each other. By 'serious', I knew him well enough to know that he'd still date whoever he wanted back on base, so I told him it sounded good to me, but that I was still a little hung up on a guy and if he ever called, I'd be gone. I think it was about a month later when you finally called.

"Is Cameron there?" a voice asked.
"Bergen LaBelle, where in the hell have you been?" I answered.

You said you had just moved into a house on campus and was wondering if I could come by soon. No shame in my game, baby, I told you I'd see you sometime the next day. I tied up my loose end right after we hung up. Looking back, I don't remember actually pulling into your driveway, or very many details of that old house on Regents Ave, but I hope I never forget the sight of you leaning your 6'6" frame against the doorway as you looked down at me. My playful fussing about you disappearing and making me miss you was instantly met with a softer, apologetic tone as you pulled me closer to you. I must have lost my bearings because I fully intended to play hard to get to teach you a lesson. Cameron Thomas would wait for no man and you had better remember that, buddy. Oh, but you seemed genuinely sorry. There wasn't enough air in the tiny space between us for me to be sure. I was sure I had been mad at you earlier, but it could have been just another lifetime. Could I stay the night? No. Yes. 

Then you put your lips on mine and every other man in this world blended into a conglomerate of Not You.
Your room back then. This one was in a series of pictures we took with the timer.
 You blushed & laughed when I pounced on you before the timer went off. 
(to be cont'd)

Gemini

Monday, August 28, 2017

This morning, everything is gray and I can't find my computer mouse.

The probability it is in Dylan's room is so high that I don't even bother trying anywhere else. I open his door quietly, though Kindred has Masha & The Bear on blast in the living room. He doesn't even stir, as bedtime was probably so late that it was actually early. Almost immediately, I see the mouse on the dresser, but I linger to get a better look at him. It still seems impossible that he is grown. I search his face for the little boy he was, but instead I just see both his father and mine. They are there in the eyebrows, the cheekbones, the scar above his left eye. I don't even remember how he got that one, but he spent his childhood climbing everything. Pushing boundaries, ever the prankster, those qualities are theirs as well. I wipe a curl back off his forehead and he furrows his brow. Slowly, I back out of his room before I wake him.

I was just a little older than he is now when I met his father. It took about six months before I learned that life-altering lesson of what happens when a teenager gets lax on birth control. Even though I was crazy about the man, when the test was positive, I knew I had to go back home. Many reasons, many interpretations of the same story, but I believed it was for the best. So, I packed my stuff a couple of weeks later, kissed his father goodbye, and drove the almost 900 miles crying and talking out loud to Dylan.

Nothing was conventional about his arrival. I was induced over a three day period which concluded with about four mega-contractions taking me from a 7 to 10. It was a brutal 20 minutes that brought him earthside. Within minutes of his birth, I was told words like "heart murmur" and "immediate transport to Vanderbilt NICU in Nashville". Those words did not make sense. I hadn't even gotten to really hold him yet, how did I already break him? When the ambulance arrived, they wheeled his incubator in so that I could see him before they left. Wires attached him were hooked to monitors that spoke an indecipherable language of beeps to the professionals. And, suddenly, it was time for him to go. I howled as my Grandma laid her body over mine, possibly grounding me to this mortal plane. My heart, no longer confined to my chest, was on its way south. My mama was going with him, which brought minimal comfort. I wanted to be there with him more than anything I had ever wanted in my life. So much so that early the next morning, I woke up, got out of bed and, once again, started packing my stuff up to be with Dylan. When my nurse said I couldn't leave until the Dr came to check me out, I informed her that he had best to hurry it up because I was still leaving. I didn't even bother with getting my prescriptions filled, which meant that I walked in six inch painful shuffles. But, eventually, I made it to his side. And, we spent our first night together on a couch bed.

In truth, we've grown up together since then. It has been through many trials & tribulations. Thankfully, he just rolls with it. Dylan is a true Gemini. I am a Gemini rising, so it helps that I speak his language. Unfortunately, sometimes that language comes in fiery outbursts. Primarily because he is more me than I am prepared to deal with. I feel for my husband...stubborn, stable Taurus...holding the pillars of the house up as fire(me) & gusts of air(dylan) invite chaos around him. We once had a British neighbor, who has been around the world a few times, and he told us that Dylan would be really going places in this life. He said Dylan had that spark one needs to get out there and really live...a curiosity, a thirst, and a genuine personality. I believe him, wholeheartedly. If we can only get young Gemini to focus his energy. 

Back to present day...life has interrupted me as I attempted to put these thoughts down. So, at this moment, Dylan and Kindred are in the play room. She is building a tower of blocks, but having some engineering difficulties, and he has offered to help her several times. The Goat refuses. I hear him ask softly, "Will you just let me help you?" and she, uhh, well...she just blew a raspberry at him and kicked him out of the room. He paces around a few minutes. "Can I come back in here now?" is immediately met with "NO! You're still in trouble." The entire exchange feels more like a continuance of a time gone by. It will be an interesting relationship to watch, these two.

Though I have been begging him to keep his feet on the ground since he gained upward mobility, he's the wildcard. And, I knew it before we even met. 

Recent Epiphanies

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I have not been feeling well this summer.

It started about mid-June. I suddenly felt slightly dizzy and nauseous all the time. Not pregnant! But, I had gotten both a new phone (Google Pixel, woot woot) and new glasses. So, I'd attempt alternating abstinence from each in hopes of nailing down the culprit. Unfortunately, I suck at that. My new glasses were cute and scratch free. My phone was a new toy, of course I'd play with it. Wash, rinse, repeat. By about mid-July I realized that on some days I could use my phone or wear my glasses with little to no consequence. Some days I did neither, yet wound up feeling terrible. And then...the headaches started. I am very fortunate to never have suffered from recurring headaches. I know this now more than ever. There were days when they got scary painful and my head felt like it was in a vice. So much pressure! Not to mention, anxiety had already taken over my thoughts. I spent about two weeks suffering silently from an unshakable feeling that I was terribly sick and would not be here to raise Kindred. It was the worst, even though I would interrupt the thoughts with "This is anxiety. This is not real." I still felt pretty immobilized by fear.

A couple of weeks ago, after waking up to a slight fullness in my left ear, I made an appointment with my practitioner. We tested hormone levels, ran a full blood panel work up, and discovered that I was running a fever. Aha! So, it must be some type of infection. Mentally, I began my descent from the top of Worry Mountain. It was low-grade, 100.3. She asked if I was feeling worse than I had been recently, but I wasn't. My head had started pounding in the waiting room, but that had become typical. She checked my left ear and saw no infection. I started climbing back up the mountain. She looked in my right ear and saw a little more fluid, so perhaps fluid is trapped in my left inner ear. We agreed to meet again, same time, same place in a week. After that, pending test results, we would talk MRI as sudden onset headaches can signify some trouble, she said. I confessed to having googled. She was very kind and told me that we all do it.

Once I got home, I began researching inner ear infections. Turns out, they are very different from what we are used to feeling when we have classic middle ear infections symptoms. With the inner ear it is more common to feel dizziness, headaches, anxiety, and fullness in ear without pain. And, it can last for a couple of months! I remembered that in early June, I had a bad summer cold. It was a couple weeks later that the dizziness started. I felt so much relief in that moment. Fluid from the cold was probably trapped in my inner ear. I started taking colloidal silver and Vitamin C. I was taking my temperature regularly to pinpoint if headache meant fever, and indeed it did. For the three days leading up to the appointment, I felt much better. But, on appointment day as I drove to the office, my head began to pound and fever registered 100.4. I told her about the summer cold I'd remembered. She went over my test results and that nothing had stood out as being terribly wrong. Her feeling was that a viral inner ear infection had gone bacterial. So, I'm on an antibiotic & Zyrtec as the colloidal silver was just not strong enough. I am feeling much better and only one headache has sidelined me since I started meds. Hopefully, all symptoms will subside soon. If not, we may have to get in there and drain the fluid, but I will still take that as getting off the hook easy. Score one for western medicine!

My epiphany lies in coming back home to how all we really have is the present moment. The anxiety was terrible, except that it served as a reminder of how precious time with my children is. How nothing else really mattered but them. I was reminded of how much I love my life and the people, the books, the scenery, the seasons, the songs that I am blessed by. My phone made me dizzier, so I didn't pick it up as often. There is no question that I was less distracted because of that. I was determined to go out and do things even though I felt bad, which made me appreciate how good I've had it in this healthy body I was gifted at birth. I haven't been able to do yoga in a really long time because going upside down would make the room spin around me, so that has been a bummer. But, I have still been able to get out and do other things I loved. Like, celebrating my son's girlfriend's birthday with the BEST CHAI TEA I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. Feeling bad, and fearing worse, really made me prioritize my life. I stopped getting on Facebook regularly. I was reminded to love and take care of this body I am in. As I have felt better over the past week, I started falling back into bad habits...politics on Facebook, eating the devil's delicious lemon sugar cookies, etc. But, the eclipse yesterday reminded me to stay mindful of my energy. We are all living through weird, trying, disheartening times...but, we are still living! Can we wake up in the morning and smile about that? Really tune into our senses as the day goes on and joyfully experience the sensation of being alive!?! This is my renewed intention...

Eclipse

Monday, August 21, 2017

Well, I must say... It lived up to the hype. 
The eclipse was a certainly a sight to behold, wasn't it?
As the sun and moon held their holy meeting in the sky, I could not help but feel like the small, ephemeral being I am. We know so very little about life, as humans. Our entire momentary existence is spent on a speck of stardust in an infinite Universe. As we go about our lives, governed by so many forces unseen, we lose sight of that. So, for me, peeking out into the heavens brought a little insight. 


Since we are nearby the point of greatest eclipse, Hopkinsville, we enjoyed over two minutes of darkness. It wasn't really a blackout, more like dusk popping in at midday. Discombobulated insects kicked up their nighttime symphony and the temperature dropped noticeably. When it was safe for all of us to look up, I believe our minds were blown. 

It was a magical experience and I'm grateful humanity had a moment to stop and marvel at something collectively. 

Yoga

Sunday, August 20, 2017
Coming Soon!