Saturday, February 21, 2009

One of those days...

Ever have one of those days where you set out to try to see the positives and end up with life tossing all negatives in your face? How and why does that happen?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Writing at Hopeful Parents

I'm pretty excited. I'm now writing for Hopeful Parents, which is a web site dedicated to grass roots support for parents of children with special needs. I'll be in experienced company there. ;)You'll find me there as Jenabur.

Check out Hopeful parents at

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bump, bump...

"Mom! Look! I wote Uncle Timmy a wetter," Meghan blurted out as she shook her head to the left and right trying to force herself to say it the correct way. "I mean I wrote Uncle Timmy a letter. Look! See! See! I made bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump." As she said it, she used her right index finger to draw the letters in the air."

At first, I was a little confused just because I was only half paying attention to her. The dirty dishes were keeping me quite busy. She proudly held up a bright orange of piece of paper with red lower case cursive Ms strung together in several lines across the page.

"What? Um. Oh! Yes, I do see that Meghan, and do you know what?"

"Nut uh."

"I used to do that very same thing. I used to pretend to write in cursive too when I was your age. I think Uncle Timmy will love your letter."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Tim!

Today, my brother, Tim, turned 24 years young. I miss him very much. He is currently stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where his unit, the 82nd Airborne, is preparing for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan later this year.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TIMMY! I love you and miss you.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Dance of Everyday Life

Dinner time arrived, and we made our way into the kitchen. A neatly stacked pile of music CDs from the library on the counter next to the stove caught my attention. Various crayons and pencils were scattered on the table, along with assorted scraps of cut up paper.

"Please clean off the table girls. I'll make you some cheese tacos." As Gracie gathered up her prized drawings and shuffled them into a pile, she tossed them all on top of our art center. Two or three of them fell onto the floor in a cascade as the teetering two month's worth of other artwork toppled under its own weight.

Grace muttered, "Oh geez! This is such a mess."

I replied, "Yes, it is. I think we'd better go through that this weekend, and clean it up."

I pressed the button on the television perched on our counter to turn it on, but news of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan crept into my thoughts. In response, I shut it off again.

"There's no use in listening to this, not with Timmy shipping out this summer," I grumbled. It had been an up and down day, and I was looking to continue to focus on the magic in life.

As I gathered the tortillas and shredded cheese, I thought of the CDs on the counter. Their dull plastic library cases called to me. "Hmmm. I wonder what Charlie picked out." I browsed through the cases, and settled on one. It made me think of my grandfathers. They both enjoyed The Glenn Miller Band. I scanned the inside cover, but only one song had a familiar name. I'm horrible at remembering names of songs.

"Hey Meghan! That's my spot! That's my spot!" Grace shouted.

"Uh, girls! That's my spot now. Please choose a different chair to sit in. What happens when you fight over something?"

Meghan replied, "You get it."

"That's right," I responded.

I returned my attention to the CD in my hand, and pressed the center release button on the case to release the CD. I placed my index finger into the center hole, and carried it to our kitchen CD player. Its silvery shimmer caught the light, and I dropped it into the player.

"Mommy! What's on that CD?"

"Music," I replied dryly but with a smirk. I thought to myself that my mom and dad would have laughed at that response. I remember them both being exasperated with me drilling them with a constant barrage of questions.

As I pressed play, the intro to String of Pearls flowed into the air. I smiled remembering my Grandpa Neil hum the tune. Music has a way of calling deep ceded memories into the forefront of my brain. Grace began to shake her shoulders left and right in beat to the music. Her head bounced along with her body, and her blond bob responded accordingly.

Meghan flopped down off her chair, and twirled in a circle in her sock feet.

"Hey Megs. Come dance with Mama! Come dance with me baby girl. Come!" A wide grin appeared across her face in response, and she skipped over to me. I grabbed her hands, and lifted her light frame up a bit as I placed her feet on top of my toes. We spun to the right, and then to the left. She giggled and showed off a toothy grin as we shook ourselves in beat with the band. Her right foot dug deeply into the top of my left foot, as her left foot slid off my right one. Her uneven core strength still affects her, but it is pretty well hidden to the untrained eye.

"Mama, spin me 'gain! Spin me 'gain!" she shrieked and giggled. Looking down upon her, I flashed back to her nearly lifeless body laying in the isolette, yet her miracle life emanating from within her tiny frame.

I wondered how many more moments like this would be in our future because she was growing up so quickly, but I soaked it all in as the love in my heart for her flashed.

Grace stood up and began to clumsily move herself to the music. I smirked knowing her sensory processing issues prevented her from naturally finding the beat with dance, but it didn't matter. She, too, found herself immersed in the moment, and felt the need to dance. Her miracle self shines from within as well.

I hope we all remember to dance more often. The dance of life is so worth it.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Lost, Stuck, and Scared

Driving along the dark county highway, I squinted at each intersection to make out the name of each road. My post-preeclampsia eyes were failing me at each step, and I was beginning to wonder if I'd missed my turn. With very little sense of direction, I kept driving hoping to find Western Avenue.

An occasional car would pass by in the opposite direction, and I'd squint in the glow of the headlights. Snow covered the ground, but the roads had been clear for days. John Mayer squawked on the radio, and I shut it off to focus closely on where I was.

As I crossed several highways while traveling down Highway Y, my internal alarms began going off. "Hey Jen! Hey Jen! You missed the turn. Turn around! Turn around!" I pulled over and studied the map. I couldn't make heads or tails of where I was though so I drove about a mile further down the road. This took me even further into what appeared to be Wisconsin farm country.

In a decision that would betray me, I pulled to the side of the road. As I guided the van to the shoulder of the road, it appeared to be flat, with an even surface on which to park. Looks were deceiving, though. As I pulled off the road, I heard ice and snow being driven up inside the wheel wells on the right side of my van. I braked to try to guide the van back onto the road, but it lurched to the right as the wheels sunk into what I was soon to find out was about 18 inches of snow and ice.

"Shit!" I grumbled.

"Okay Jen. Stay calm! You can do this. Rock it back and forth," I reassured myself out loud.

I put the car into reverse, and hit the gas. The tires spun in response so I then put the van into drive. The tires spun more, and it sunk further into the snow. I felt myself sighing heavily, and frustration emerging.

As I often do, I walked myself through what I needed to do out loud. "Get out and see what is going on!" Opening the driver-side door, it felt as if I had to lift myself out of the uneven van, which was perched passenger side in the ditch.

When I stepped down, my shoes hit the pavement, but it was ice-covered. Now, I understood why the tires on the left side of the van were spinning. Walking around the front of the car, I squinted in the glare of the headlights. Half-way past the hood of the van, I felt my boots sink into the snow with each step. A sheet of ice on top of the snow pack broke in response to my weight. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

The front right tire was buried, and the snow from the tire spinning had built itself up behind it in a neatly driven mound. I continued my inspection along the side of the car toward the back tire, and found a similar site.

"Take a deep breath Jen! You can do this. You can figure it out."

I glanced up at the sky, and Orion stared back me. "Gosh, that is amazingly beautiful tonight. I wish I wasn't here though. I'm in the middle of nowhere, and I don't know where I am. I only know I am on County Road Y. I need help," I shouted out loud.

"Great, I sound like I'm insane now. Great Jen! Great! Get it together!"

As I grumbled to myself, the headlights of a car approached. For a moment, I hesitated and wondered if I should request help from a stranger, but I felt I had little choice. The car was stuck, so I waved my arms to try to get its attention, but it kept driving.

"Yeah! Thanks a lot! Thanks!" I shouted. Frustration and fear began to emerge within me.

"I need help. I need help. Okay Jen. Try it again. Try to drive out again."

I returned to the van, and tried and tried and tried again. All that I got was the sound of tires spinning, and a van which wouldn't move an inch in response. At this point, more headlights approached. I lifted myself out of the van again to wave my arms again. This car actually sped up to get away from me.

"Fabulous! Fabulous! I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere. I have no idea where I am, and now no one will stop to help. Great! Just great! I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone."

About a 1/2 an hour had passed, and I decided to call for help. I got back into the van to warm up. I was supposed to be attending a jewelery party at my friend, Aileen's home.

"Should I call Aileen? Should I call Charlie?" I dug around in my bag to find the invitation, but couldn't find it to call Aileen so I called Charlie. I shoved my hand into my coat pocket to fish out the phone. I flipped it open, and the displayed glowed. My gloved hand fumbled to dial the numbers, and as I tried to hit the Send button, I missed and hit Cancel instead. Another set of headlights approached in my rear view mirror so I opened the driver's door and waved my arms again. That car kept going too.

"I wish somebody would stop. I just want to know where I am. I want to know."

I climbed back inside the van, and pulled my mitten off my right hand. My thumb dialed Charlie again, and as I pressed the numbers, tears began to fall. Frustration had won. I was in a full-on panic, and extremely embarrassed at my misfortune. I didn't want to tell Charlie what had happened, and by the time he answered, I let the fear loose on him. It is difficult for me to remember what I said exactly. Fear was winning, and I could tell he was just trying to figure out where I was and why I was bawling on the phone.

"Jen, there is a shovel in the back of the van. Get it and try to dig yourself out. You'll need to try to find some gravel to use for traction. Get the shovel Jen!"

"Charlie, I need help and I'm scared. It is stuck. It is very stuck!"

"Jen, you will need to use the shovel. Try that, and then call me back. I can't come get you right now. I have the girls. I'll have to find someone to watch them. Try digging it out. Try that!"

I climbed toward the back of the van, and hung over the back seat to grab the shovel on the floor. I got out of the van, and started digging while Charlie talked to me. I shifted the phone to my left hand, and began digging out the front right tire. The snow was very heavy, and the red kid shovel was wimpy in my opinion. I chopped through the ice layer to dig toward the tires. Tears kept flowing down my cheeks, and my nose was running heavily.

"How are you shoveling with me on the phone, Jen? How are you doing that? Hang up and call me back after you dig it out and try again. Also, figure out where you are. Flag down a car to find out where you are!" Charlie drilled a hysterical me.

I hung up in response, and in frustration.

"My hands are freezing."

I looked down and noticed I hadn't put my mittens back on. So, I trudged back through the packed snow to the van to grab them. I also zipped up my down jacket and put my hood up. I wiped my eyes and nose, and figured I'd better help myself because it was only me out there in the dark.

"Come on Jen! Get it together!" As I said that, I noticed the party invitation on the floor of the van.

"There it is! I can call Aileen to tell her why I'm late." I dialed her number, and Aileen's cheerful voice answered.

"Hi Aileen. It is Jen. I'm sorry but I'm not going to be able to make it to your party. I'm stuck on the side of the road in a ditch, and honestly, I have no idea where I am. I'm sorry to interrupt you during the party, but I wanted you to know why I'm not there yet."

"Jen, are you okay?" she inquired.

"Yes. Yes. I'm fine. I called Charlie. He is coming to help, I think. I need to figure out where I am though. He'll find me somewhere on Highway Y. I think I'm past where you are. I missed my turn on Western Avenue."

"Okay Jen. Are you sure you don't need help?"

"No Ai. Charlie will come to get me. Here comes another car. I'm going to go so I can try to flag it down. Bye." I hung up, and jumped out again to wave my arms like a wild woman on the side of the road. I certainly was a sight to be seen with running nose, rosy frozen cheeks and nose, and tear stained eyes. As predicted in my mind, that car kept on going too.

I sighed in response, and grabbed the shovel again. I returned to the side of the van, and completely dug out both stuck tires in about 10 minutes. As my toes grew colder and colder inside my leather, not built for snow boots, another car passed. I waved my arms wildly again, but got another dismissal. I climbed back into the van for what felt like the umpteenth time, and turned it back on. Heat flowed into my face, and I slipped the car into Reverse, and hit the gas. The tires spun and spun and spun some more. I switched back to Drive. After a few minutes, I tried gear 1 and gear 2 to no avail.

Tears slid down my cheeks again, as I knew I'd have to call Charlie back.

"I'm still stuck."

"You are on county road Y, right?" Charlie asked.

"Yes. I know that, but I don't know a cross street to tell you where I am."

Char began to walk through the online map of country road Y. He named all of the intersections, but I was confused, frustrated, and down right hysterical. I couldn't think straight anymore. I just wanted help. I needed help inside the deepest recesses of me.

"OK. I'll come get you, but I need to get Lauren to watch the girls. When I arrange that, I'll call you back. Keep digging and trying Jen. Keep trying to get someone to tell you where you are so that I can find you. I can't help you if I can't find you."

"Okay. Bye."

Another car approached but this time slowed down. I jumped out of the van to get the driver's attention. He rolled down the window, and I asked for his assistance in telling me where I was.

"Are you okay?" he calmly inquired.

"Yes, I am. Thank you for asking. I'm fine. My van is stuck. Can you tell me where I am on County Road Y? This is Y, right?"

"Oh yes. This is Y. You are North of 33 about three miles on Y. Let me take a look." He got out of his car and headed to the van.

My phone rang a few seconds later again, and I noticed it was a new phone number on the display. I wondered who it was.

"Hello, this is Jen."

"Hi Jen. This is Anne."

"Hi Anne."

"Where are you stuck? I want to come so you aren't alone. Where are you?"

"I'm on County Road Y, really no where near Aileen's house. A man just told me that I'm North of 33 about 3 miles on Highway Y."

"Okay. I'll be there in a little while. I don't want you to be alone. I'm coming."

"Thanks Anne. Bye."

All at once, two people wanted to help me. I guess my pleas for help had been answered. :)

"Do you have a shovel?" the man patiently inquired as he got out of his white station wagon. As he emerged he stood about 5 feet, seven inches tall, but had broad, wide shoulders. He appeared to be close to 50, and glasses adorned his wide face.

"Oh yes. Here it is. What would you recommend I need to do?"

"Let me help you, ma'am. I'll shovel it out, and you drive it out when I give you the high sign. Okay?"

"Okay. Thanks so much for stopping. A lot of cars have ignored me in the last hour or so."

"You've been out here that long already. Yikes." He grabbed the child-sized shovel and rapidly dug the snow. He was much more efficient than me. ;)

"Okay ma'am, put it in reverse, and hit the gas hard. Give it her all. Okay?"

"Alright. Here goes."

The tire spun and spun as he pushed and pushed from the hood of the car. I sighed in response.

"Put it in Park!" he instructed. As he said that, he walked to he back of his station wagon and grabbed a large stained quilt. He hauled it toward my van, and placed it down in the snow near the front right tire.

"Okay, now try it again. Go in reverse and I'll push."

I put it in reverse, and the car moved a few inches. I smiled in response, and he looked at me through the windshield and said, "Keep going, ma'am. Keep going!" The van got stuck again, but he readjusted the blanket again. I could see he didn't trust my ability to give the right amount of gas at the perfect time. His face revealed it all. I giggled to myself and thought:

"Yeah that's right. I've no idea what I'm doing. I've never gotten stuck before. I'm an uneducated idiot when it comes to this stuff. Thank God for you here...helping me...when you don't have to help at all."

"Ma'am, can I try to drive it out? I think I can get it out for you."

"Sure, it is worth a try. I've tried everything I can think of already." As I got out of the van, I grabbed my purse and phone. (Cuz I still was leery of the stranger who was really a blessing.) I figured he might steal the van, but I'd still have my phone and wallet with me. I knew this was insanity and frustration freaking me out, but it was who I was in that moment. I was scared, cold, and needed desperate help in the middle of nowheresville without a clue to where I was.

The man with no name rocked the van back and forth for a few more minutes, and it suddenly lurched forward. He drove about 25 feet forward back onto dry pavement, and stepped out.

"Oh my God! Thank you so much. Thank you! I don't know your name, but thank you. Thank you! I'm Jen."

I reached out my mitten clad hand to shake his, and he replied, "I'm Bruce. I'm glad I could help you. Have a safe trip home. Don't forget to call your husband and tell him that you're out now. Goodnight."

I pretty much hovered my way back into the van and its warmth. I began to shiver from the cold and the adrenaline. I needed help, and somebody finally helped me. Thank God for the kindness of strangers. Thank you Bruce. I'll probably never see you again, but thank you!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Finding Joy in Their Beauty

My Worlds Collide

What do you get when you cross an Alpha-1 MZ gene carrier/hypertensive momma with a developing baby who has ZZ Alpha-1?


Some amazing research is going on at Yale by Dr. Irina Buhimschi. She has identified that misfolded Alpha-1 protein shows up in the urine of preeclampsia-bound expectant mothers.

I've found 2 articles so far:

Key To Pre-eclampsia May Be Found In Misfolded Proteins In Urine

Preeclampsia May Stem From Malformed Proteins
Yale researchers say discovery could lead to earlier diagnosis, treatment