Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Turning can into DID!

The old saying “storm in a tea cup” (or storm in a blue cup) summed up my week.

My anxiousness and speculating on how I would face some challenges last week turned out to be not only unfounded but reminded me life is all about choices and being open to any outcomes…... Mine were more than I could’ve hoped for.

Today, when I sat down at the computer, fingers on keys, ready to write, I unwrapped a candy that I usually munch on while tapping away…..the quote on the wrapper was like a little message from Mum, reminding me that you can do anything or conquer any adversity you put your mind to. (one of her favorite quotes)

Friday, our precious baby girl turned 9!

Dempsey's birthday party

At 7am she rushed into our bedroom to find the bed covered in gifts…I soaked up every single second of watching her rip open her brightly wrapped presents.

And I know birthdays aren’t about material things, but they are if you’re 9! :)

I saved a few quiet moments to reminisce on what was going on in our lives when she was born and on her first birthday….Savannah was still alive, but very ill, and the challenges we faced back then were massive compared to those I face today….but they’re all relative I’ve learned.

Dempsey's 1st birthday with Savannah's bed and medical pump in the photo....how things are different now

It’s hard to believe all that’s happened to our family since Dempsey graced our life… …who’s missing now.

It made me contemplate how far we’ve come on this journey and how IT and Dempsey has taught me every day should be cherished and never taken for granted.

Dempsey even got her first bunch of flowers delivered.....

So many people sent messages for our Demps, I felt such an overwhelming sense of love and support that I couldn’t possibly even try to put it into words.  The time people took to send her a message made me lose sleep…but in a good way.

And then of course my friend Vicki arrived… We haven’t hung out since we were essentially 16 years old. And as the doorbell chimed I raced to answer it, nervous and excited all rolled into one big emotional “HI VICK!”

Vicki was beaming…with a huge smile and open arms and a hug that almost broke a rib!  

Over her shoulder I spotted Bonnie..her 12 year old daughter, wow, she is breath taking. 

I hugged her too…..for just a bit longer than I should’ve and I was....OK.  I was ok about getting to know her and accepting that I'll never know about Savannah, but maybe I'll have the honor of learning from Bonnie.  Even Vicki's hubby Michael and son Alex embraced me...it was a first for all of us.

For the next few hours, Dempsey bonded with Vicki’s kids, taking it in turns to swing the hula hoop and teaching them how to jump noisily on her pogo stick. 

We talked non stop over chilled champagne about the missing years, we laughed with mouthfuls of pizza about growing up - about;

- Converting her lounge room into the 1980 Moscow Olympic stadium and pretending to be Nadia Comaneci….

- Picking out our first bra, which were padded of course!

- Waiting to see who would get their period first, which for some weird reason we name “Fred”

- Going on 3 day shopping trips to the big city with my mum

- Who were the hot boys in high school….and where they are now, and, which ones aren’t bald ;)

- How my mum loved her like a daughter

- And sleep over’s in tents in sheep paddocks and staying up until the sun came up

- And Tarnia.....

- We even talked with tears about Savannah.....

The whole night fed my spirit, to remember with someone who knew my family when I was growing up.  It nourished my soul...and, put a few more laugh lines around our eyes. :)

We tried to get a photo of just the two of us as the kids kicked up leaves and sprinted around our yard playing tag behind us...

Each shot had one of the kids in the background..what a challenge, but a funny one….we laughed until our sides hurt.

And my other worry…Dempsey’s sleep over…well that went perfectly.

She was one of the last kids awake! (just like her mother :))

When I phoned her at 9.30 pm, I could hear the happiness in her voice…. “We’re watching an American Girl movie, and I’m staying up for the midnight snack Mummy!” She said.  And she did, and loved it….she like me, overcoming a new experience on her little journey through life….

I like to think this could be Savannah instead of Bonnie standing gorgeously beside Demps....and I love the message on Bonnie's shirt.

I also know, I can successfully tick off two more challenges I’ve faced on my journey.....   And proudly say, this week, “I turned CAN do into can DID!"

It's all part of the process..... :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Growing through grief and a sleep over!

Anxiety  -1. Distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune
            - 2. Earnest but tense desire; eagerness

Both the above definitions of anxiety describe my feelings this week about upcoming events.  I'm eager and excited however also uneasy of the unknown the next few days will bring.

After experiencing my grief, or complicated grief, the feeling is legitimate.   I’m not a robot that I can program by punching a few buttons to stop the adrenaline from pumping through my veins.....even though I wish I had a metal heart some days....

There are two reasons why this anxiety has reared its ugly head this week;

1.    Dempsey has been invited to her first sleepover at her BFF’s house this Sunday – and of course I have this neurotic feeling of something happening to her…or that she’ll miss me and want to come home at some ungodly hour.(which I doubt) :)

 My rampant imagination of ‘worst case scenarios’ has been churning over and over.  The sense that I won't be in control of her fate to a certain degree.  But I’m sure she’ll be safe and enjoy sitting up late, giggling with her pajama clad BFF until all hours…it’s her mother that won’t be get any sleep I’m sure! :)

2. We have visitors arriving from Australia tomorrow, which I’m soooo excited about.   My BFF from high school, her husband and two children should be here by mid afternoon.  I haven't seen her in over thirteen years..... 

But you see her daughter is the same age as Savannah, 12!   And even though I’m thrilled and eager to meet her daughter, I’m terrified of how I’ll react…whether I’ll burst into tears and embarrass us all, or get to know her to a point of wanting to keep her….or finding out just how unfair it really is that I don’t have my 12 year old with me. I also know I’ll enjoy imagining…..just for a little while…….

One thing I do know is when these feelings hit I go into survival mode. I find coping mechanisms. I do whatever I need to do…and one of those things is D I S T R A C T I O N!!

So Sunday morning, feeling suffocated, I suggested to Peter we journey out for the day to the luxurious South Coast Plaza.

The stores are all high end, extremely up market…like ones that you’d see on Rodeo Drive…and nothing resembling anything in our neighborhood. So it was quite a diversion for the day.

Dempsey and I stood with our noses squashed up to the glass of the famous French jeweler Cartier…and fantasized which diamond sparkled the most….while Peter sat on a nearby bench like a pimp, not showing the slightest bit of interest in purchasing me a diamond! :)

love love love this crystal chandelier...at a mere $8,000 PD said, um "No Dee!" :)

We perused the many home ware stores, with Dempsey whining the whole time with a poker face….”When are we going to the kids stores Mummy? This is soooo boring looking at these lights!”

On level two Dempsey spied this huge bunch of colorful balloons for sale. They provoked a loud “Wow! Look!” from both Dempsey and me…..talk about coloring your world with a smile!

We stopped for lunch at the famous Rainforest CafĂ©, where the life like jungle animals spring to life every five minutes. The elephants raise their trunks and trumpet at the diner’s. And the gorillas pound their chests and scream “Ooo ooo ooo, aaa aaa aaa”….managing to distract my thoughts and ferry me away to a jungle somewhere in South America…all while devouring a delicious juicy hamburger!

After a couple of hours of suspending my stresses, we’d had enough of looking at stores we can only dream about…it was time to head home. We made one last stop at the toy store…which Dempsey sprinted into.

And there inside a glass cabinet I found some old fashioned toys…this robot in particular! I had one just like him when I was a little girl. And it was like there in front of me was a subtle reminder of what I’d been trying to escape…he made me smile!

As I stood looking at this happy piece of metal it hit me that I can’t run away anywhere to avoid these anxious feelings...I have to tackle them head on.  They'll still be there when I’m alone.

But the little robot reminded me that like him, I can function on my own and will.  That by challenging myself to face my fears, growth and strength is generated.   And that growth will empower me to face and work through any future  anxieties my grief creates.

Friday is Dempsey’s birthday which will fill my anxious cup with sunshine….and tomorrow, I’ll hug Vicki’s daughter Bonnie, pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly and let loose my anxieties.  I’ll reminisce and laugh over some old memories with Vicki. 

And on Sunday, Dempsey will create some new memories through the exciting new experience of a sleep over.  But I’ll still miss my good-night kiss!  I wonder if her BFF’s mum will mind if I call around bedtime……:)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Timely reminders to enjoy the little moments....

On Sunday, it was another sweltering day in Southern California.  We were invited to a friend’s house for a swim.

Dempsey is like a little mermaid, she adores the water, splashing and duck diving and pestering everyone around to "Get in!"

We sat in the shade of the cabana and sipped cold beers and devoured a hot hawaiian pizza.  And while enjoying a lazy afternoon, one of my friends pointed out a bird’s nest hanging from a light under the cabana.

The mother bird inside the nest....

We watched in fascination as the mother bird fluttered in above us and dropped morsels of food into the tiny squawking beaks of her babies.

And it reminded me of the cycle of life.

How, like a mother bird, we nurture and protect and nourish our young.  Through guidance and support we help our young ones grow.  We try to foster them into little people who hopefully, when the time comes, and they are old enough to fly away from our nest, they’ll have the tools to cope with life’s challenges.

As a mother, or a parent, that is my sole aim, my purpose in this life….and I realized we are no different than that mother bird, feathers or not! :)
It doesn't seem that long ago that I was spooning mashed veggies into Dempsey's mouth...

And this week I’ve been reminded by a few occurrences that time is rushing by…the kids are growing up, and getting older.  I wish I could pause this lovely time in my life. But I can’t. There is no stopping the clock.

 My sister's 4 beautiful children, Alexander, Fraser, Emerald and Charlotte

Tone’s sister Katie sent me some photos of my sister's four children taken on the weekend. I cried as I studied this gorgeous picture!  They all look so much older, happy and so grown up…..in just the seven months since I’ve seen them!

Time is marching forward and when I saw the photos it was a brutal reminder of that…also, of the many special moments my sister Tarnia has missed out on in their lives.

It doesn’t seem so long ago and they were only babes…..where has that time gone?

Dempsey at 18 months :)

And it feels like yesterday that Dempsey had a fascination with toilets, how, with a dummy stuck in her mouth, she’d shove toys down our toilet bowl if you left the door open…happy memories!

Yes, time is flying. And in less than two weeks she’ll turn 9! I can’t believe I’ll have a 9 year old!

Demps at Party City

On Saturday, I had the privilege of watching her choose goodies for her upcoming party.  And I had to laugh, and cringe as she grabbed a string of green beads with a ‘Sweet 16’ emblem and placed it around her neck. “I can’t wait to buy this mummy!” She said!   Well, I can. :)

I’m in no rush…..yes, the past few days have reminded me to savor the little moments with my daughter, and take lots of mental pictures.

Life isn’t about material things.  It's about enjoying and noticing the little moments, and creating memories…

Like having Dempsey dripping wet from swimming, wrapped up in a warm towel on my lap, smelling like a summer day.....

Or watching the wonder on her face as she noisily jumps up and down on her pogo stick, trying to break her record….

It's silently standing by, seeing her engrossed in the pages of a book, on the floor of Barnes and Noble

Or simply being aware of the wonder on her face and the quietness in her being as I read her a story on the couch at the end of the day.

Last night, as another summer day was drawing to an end, I watched Dempsey in our backyard, smiling, swinging her hips as she finally mastered the hula hoop.

I got goose bumps as I watched in awe...smiling to myself as the hoop went around and around…like the cycle of life.

And while I've had reminders this week that you can't stop time...maybe, just maybe.......the best is yet to come…….


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Comfort in constants on Savannah's birthday

After this week, life again reminded me that underneath the pain, and the dark black cloud there is always a silver lining….a beauty, and a hope that will always shine through and dim the dark moments of a difficult day.

I learnt that my friends and family are a constant…a constant stream of love and support.  And on Savannah’s birthday, even though I was so sad, my family and friends propped me up…like a steel girder does when it supports a building that needs extra help.

Through many special moments on Wednesday and Thursday, along with my tears about Savannah’s special day, each one of them gently helped stick an invisible band aid over my heart. And I realized they are a constant…..they always have been. I haven’t scared them off with all the tragedy in our family….they’re not going anywhere. And I love them for that! They’ll always be a constant in my life…. like the sun that rises and sets every day.

Wednesday was Savannah’s birthday in Australia, and while driving to pick up Dempsey from Summer Camp I noticed this cloud in the sky!  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…the fluffy white clouds had formed what looked like an Angel floating in front of me. I grabbed my iPhone and snapped the photo….I like to believe it was a sign from Savannah! :)

Thursday morning, my neighbor Renee rang my doorbell with a beautiful gift for Savannah’s shelf.  Looking like a fashion model in her charcoal suit and black stilettos, wafting in freshness, she opened her arms to me for my first hug. (PD had left for the day and as usual he didn’t acknowledge Savannah’s birthday....I’m ok with that now).  And as I explained to Renee how much her hug meant, it was like the heavens opened and I couldn’t stop sobbing.  I almost needed a paper bag to breathe into..…but she was a constant….and didn’t stop squeezing me until I let go.

Renee's beautiful gift for Savannah

And like a constant, thoughtful messages and texts started to roll in for our Angel. While they made me cry, they also brought me so much comfort.

Mat, Neen, Emily and Jessie's flowers from Australia for Savannah....

A special family in Australia sent her a bunch of pink roses, surrounded by my favorite…white lilies. They send them every year on her birthday.  Their thoughts, beautiful! The perfume each time I enter our family room is overwhelming…like their love and support…A constant.

Savannah’s balloons are tradition now, so Dempsey and I drove to Von’s Supermarket where Demps chose one of each color for her sister.  And I should’ve known in the stifling heat that it’s impossible to get 12 balloons into a car without losing at least one!

“Sit in your seat Demps so I can get the balloons through the headrest.” I told her.

And like one of those comedy sketches, (that I can laugh about now), as I was trying to shove 12 helium, balloons into the back of a small SUV..and as 4 went in, 3 escaped, bobbing and trying to fly off…2 more in, 3 out…it was a battle I was determined to win.  And in one of those weird, amusing, crazy moments, the bloody silver balloon popped!  Right smack bang in the middle of Dempsey’s dimpled cheek!

Her crying was instant and loud…and it must’ve hurt as its left a huge welt on the side of her cheek.  I put the absurdity of the moment....the funny side of it all in the back of my mind to laugh about later…and comforted Demps who had tears rolling down her face.

When we got home, with a sharpie in her hand, Demps happily drew an animal according to color on each balloon for her sister.

Dempsey's favorite......a blue otter. :)

Then in 105 degree heat we let them go into the hot heavens above and watched them until they were a bunch of tiny dots on the horizon….constant and beautiful and magical as the wind blew them along and up to Savannah.

Ten minutes later was Dempsey’s piano lesson.  And as I sat at the lights to enter the freeway, Dempsey asked from the back seat. “What do you even think Heaven is even like Mummy?”

“Well, I think there’s sunshine everyday....and blue skies....and it’s a place where there is no pain and everyone is happy!” I told her.   And as I turned the volume back up on the radio….drum roll…Savannah’s song was playing..’Landslide!’ Dempsey was more excited than me….”I think that’s Savannah telling us she got our balloons Mummy!” :)

Hearing Savannah’s song, was like a message from our angel…I was so shocked and…….happy.  I dialed Peter and held my cell phone up to the speakers….”Listen PD, Listen!” I yelled with a smile!  It made my day…and even if you don’t believe it, I do. I trust Savannah was sending us a message on her birthday. To believe.  Which is another constant in my life!

Dempsey's home made gift for her sister.

After dinner, Dempsey handed me her gift for Savannah’s shelf. “It’s a pocket rainbow Mummy!”   When I asked her what it does, she said,  “You carry it around in your pocket so you have rainbows everyday!  And like a constant Dempsey managed to remind me that these sad days don’t last…they come and go like the constant ebb and flow of the ocean.

I am lucky to have life preservers in my family and friends who keep me afloat on these difficult days…that will always be a constant…like the magical pink sunset I was privileged to watch on Savannah’s birthday, slowly sink into the horizon.  Offering me up another tomorrow.  Which is always a new day, filled with joys and sadness, hopes and constants that, because of Savannah...I am always reminded how fortunate I am........

From Dempsey...

Happy Birthday Bubby x