Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cancer really SUCKS - PLEASE give blood and get on the BONE MARROW DONOR REGISTRY!

Happy Sunday! After spending a week being pretty darn sick, I'm finally feeling better. I cannot remember the last time that a flu hit me so hard - AND - I had a flu shot this year!!!!!!!! Hmmpphh! (as Cassidy would say)

Today I'd like to tell you about a little girl named Megan who means the world to me. Most of my friends know that I've been involved with ChemoAngels for quite a long time now, about 7 years or so. You can read about ChemoAngels by going to - basically you are paired up with a cancer patient anywhere in the country going through treatment, and you can specify if you prefer to be paired up with a man, woman, or child. You then commit to sending weekly mail in the form of cards and small gifts to that person for the duration of their treatment. I've had more than 10 "buddies" through ChemoAngels over the years, and I've become close with many of them - I still keep in touch with several of their families. Brittany was my first patient, she was about 10 or 11 when I was her Angel and it was her 2nd fight with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)- she's now got her driver's license and her mom is a good friend of mine. Ashley was a teenager when I was her Angel - she's now a young mom with 2 adorable babies of her own, and we also keep in touch. It's a great program that has had a huge positive impact on my life.

A little over a year ago, my friend Chris told me that a guy he works with in Rhode Island had a little girl, 10 years old, named Megan who was recently diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). Chris knew about my volunteer work with ChemoAngels, so he asked the family if they'd like him to share her info with me, and they said sure. One thing I have to say here is that you never know how something you do is going to work out - like I said, I've been doing this for quite a while now and I've "met" hundreds of people (probably closer to THOUSANDS) over the Internet and through ChemoAngels. There are some I've stayed casual friendly with, some I've become very close with, and some who have moved on and I've never heard from again - I had no way to know that I would truly come to love this little girl that I was about to "meet".

I started to "unofficially" angel Megan (she never signed up through ChemoAngels, I just use the same concept!), and she's become a very important part of my life. Megan started her treatment for AML right after Christmas of 2006, and she went into remission within a few months, a good sign. However, by July of 2007, Megan's cancer was back. She needed a bone marrow transplant and luckily, her older sister Chelsea was a perfect match. The transplant was done in September - as the months went by, everything that was "supposed to" happen, seemed to be happening. During all of this, Megan stayed strong and upbeat - she's absolutely amazing. She rarely complains, she keeps a positive attitude, and she works hard to cheer others up around her! She's such a little sweetheart, and it makes me even more angry that she has to go through this.

Megan and I communicate through e-mails now and then, but I mostly send care packages to her every Saturday. I also e-mail her mom Teresa occasionally. At Christmas time, Megan asked her mom is she would drive her to my house to meet me. I was absolutely thrilled and honored, and I couldn't wait to give this child a hug. They drove about an hour to my house, and when they pulled up outside, I felt like a little kid waiting for Santa to come! I ran outside and gave her a big hug, it was so wonderful to get to do that. I was shocked when Teresa got a huge basket out of her car and presented it to me - they had made me a gorgeous Christmas basket complete with a hand-made fleece blanket with kitties all over it (my favorite present!!!), an adorable stuffed reindeer with a beautiful picture of Meg and her sisters inside a Christmas tree ornament that Meg had made (I had sent her the craft kit to make ornaments), a gift certificate to AC Moore (you can tell they know me!), and a bunch of other stuff - I was absolutely floored. Teresa and Meg came in and spent about an hour with me, just sitting at my kitchen table and chatting, it was so awesome. It was the best Christmas gift I ever received in my entire life, and I will never forget it. I'm so thankful to Teresa for bringing Meg to meet me, I can hardly even express it in words.

The next few months went by fairly smoothly for Meg, and I continue to search out new and fun, silly things to send her, all the while believing that her cancer is being beat, that before too long we're going to hear the words that Megan is cancer-free. However, on April 16, just a couple of weeks ago, I got the news that Meg's cancer had returned. I was at work when I read the update on her web page, and I just burst into tears. I was devastated, it's just NOT FAIR - these are the words that I hear so often, that I say so often when it comes to cancer - it's just not fair. The next step is to take T-cells from her sister who donated the marrow and infuse them into Meg's bloodstream, hoping that these cells will recognize the leukemia cells as foreign and kill them. Megan may end up needing another BMT, from a non-related donor.

This is where my plea comes in - if you have not yet, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE go get yourself tested and put on the bone marrow registry list. You can save a child's life. You could save Megan's life. I was tested and put on the list in high school, and I would not hesitate to donate to anyone at all if I was called upon. I cannot imagine knowing that there might be someone out there who would be a match, but that we might not ever know because they didn't get tested. Go to and put in your zip code, or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. You won't be sorry, you just might be a hero to someone some day.

Lastly - please keep Megan in your thoughts and prayers. I don't care what religion you are, say a prayer for my Megan. Say a prayer that she kicks cancer's a** once more and shows that stupid disease who is boss. You don't have to say a prayer that she'll stay strong - this is one tough cookie who will stay strong and keep smiling throughout whatever life throws at her, of this I have absolutely no doubt. And she'll have her Angel sending her lots of happy mail for as long as she wants/needs it - I wish so much that I could do more, I think that's one of the reasons that cancer is so awful, it makes you feel so damn helpless.

Megan, you are in my thoughts and in my heart every single day. If there is ever anything at all that I can do for you, or send you, you know I'd do it in a heartbeat. Never give up hope. I love you, little bumblebee, and I will always be here for you.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My son and Asperger Syndrome

This is my son, Trevor. Trev will be 15 years old in July, he's currently in the 9th grade at the same high school that I graduated from, many years ago (OK, it wasn't really THAT many years ago, at least it doesn't FEEL like it - is 18 years that long? HOLY COW, I'm going to have to go to a TWENTIETH HIGH SCHOOL REUNION in a couple years???)...

OK - I had to go lay down for a minute and recover from realizing how old I am. Now back to Trevor - Trevor is an awesome kid. He has always been a unique mix of being mature for his age, and being immature for his age. For example, he gets along much better with adults than with other kids,and he can hold a very intelligent conversation with just about any adult - but he also still enjoys activities that most teenagers have outgrown, like Legos and building things. Trevor has always had a hard time with his peers, he always seemed to have poor social skills and a hard time developing friendships. When he was in elementary school, he would meet a new friend at school and come home talking about his "best friend John" - I would wonder how someone he just met that day could be his best friend, but he was young and so happy to have a friend, I chalked it up to eagerness.

We had a lot of problems with school from the time Trevor was in the 1st grade in a small town school. It began with speech problems, which he went to speech therapy for. Trevor was picked on a lot for his speech, and later for just about anything, and I was called to the school often for various reasons - Trev would get migraines and need to come home, he would break down crying when someone picked on him and would be inconsolable. By the time we moved back to the city where I was born and raised, Trevor was entering the 6th grade. His grades were always borderline passing, but he scored high on standardized testing (MAT 8's, MCAS, etc.). We had already been to numerous doctors, counselors, psychologists. We had been through IEP's, psychological exams, and tried out a few medications. They thought he might have ADD, ADHD, an emotional or social disorder, or possibly be suffering from clinical depression. We had one psychologist who after several sessions told me that "Trevor is a good kid." How many years of medical school did it take you to come up with that diagnosis, Einstein? Are you kidding me? I KNOW my son is a good kid! What I couldn't figure out was why no other KIDS seemed to know that. As long as I kept Trevor with me and other adults, things were usually fine. Even cookouts and family events would turn sour if there were other kids there. It got to feeling like Trevor was LOOKING for conflict, and it became exhausting dealing with the effects of the drama. I couldn't understand it and it was breaking my heart.

Fast-forward to middle school - what an absolute nightmare. Middle school is hard enough for kids without problems. For kids who have a hard time with social skills and their peers, middle school is downright awful. The two years that Trev spent there were just terrible - I gave him credit for even getting up and going back to that place every day. If I were him, I don't think I could have done it. Every single day was another day of Hell for him. He was constantly hit, pushed, shoved, had things thrown at him. When he'd go to class and sit down, other kids would push their chairs away from him while doing the "ewwww.... Trevor" thing. It was all I could do not to bring my child to learn martial arts and instruct him to whoop every single one of their mean, pathetic, heartless butts. Hell, it was all I could do not to march up there myself and beat the crap out of these brats. What I did instead was beg the school to help - why are kids allowed to behave this way, to treat others like that? I was told that Trevor over-reacted, he needed to learn to ignore the bullies, etc. the school bus was another nightmare, every single day I would hear stories about the kids on the bus being mean to him, tripping him as he walked by, etc. We'd try to talk to the school, who would try to blame Trevor and tell us that they had cameras - but when we asked to see the video from the cameras, suddenly the cameras weren't working that day, or the videos were corrupted, there was nothing to see. So we tried yet another counselor and asked him, "What should Trevor do?" His suggestion - to chuck the middle finger at the kids on the bus who were mean to him as he walked away. BAD IDEA for a kid who is already a target. Let's just say that counselor didn't last long.

In the meantime, I'm reading stories about school shootings and violence and I'm saddened and shocked like the rest of the world every time it happens. Only I have a different perspective - I'm the one wondering what the kid with the gun went through for the past 10 years of his life. Was he picked on relentlessly? Did his parents and/or the school ignore his cries for help when he was younger? Did he learn that no one was going to help him, so he figured out a way to help himself? Were the poor kids he shot just innocent victims who happened to be in his way when he had finally had enough, or were they the kids who did the tormenting, thinking it was just funny to pick on some kid who was different and not realizing that they were ruining a person's LIFE? Don't get me wrong, shootings are not justified no matter what the circumstances - but you have to at least wonder what kind of emotional trauma can cause someone to do that, to give up their future because of how badly their past and present hurt them. I vowed every time I read or heard a similar story that my child would never feel abandoned and alone, and that I would fight for him to be treated fairly, even if I drove the school and their administrators absolutely crazy. And I don't know if it's luck or good parenting, but my kids and I, we talk. My kids tell me things that sometimes make me want to stick my fingers in my ears and go "La-la-la-la-la-la-la" really loud, but I suck it up and I listen and we talk, we figure stuff out together. I love being a mom, and I love my kids more than life itself.

When Trevor was going to high school this past September, we were thrilled when he was chosen in a random lottery to attend a local charter school. Our elation was short-lived - one particular little girl found Trevor to be a target and said some pretty disgusting things to him (let's just say they involved telling Trevor to suck a certain part of anatomy that she most likely does not even possess, being that she is a female), along with comments about his mother, me, who she had never met or even seen. Trevor has learned to put up with quite a bit, but he has never been able to ignore anything to do with his mom - he loves me to pieces and even gets mad at his sister and his nana if he thinks they have done or said something to hurt me. So he was NOT exactly accepting of this particular little cretin's remarks. It became a running argument between the 2 kids, to the point that other kids would encourage Trevor to ignore this girl, and the girls' friends would make comments to Trevor in the hallway when she wasn't even around. The school got involved, and I had a couple of conversations with them during September and October, nothing big. Trevor seemed to be doing pretty well, actually.

Towards the end of October, Jeremy and I were called to the school, where we were confronted, in a giant meeting room, with the school principal, assistant principal, superintendent, a couple teachers and the school's psychologist. Apparently, Trevor had been told that the school psychologist was a safe person for him to talk to, and that he could go to her when he needed to vent. When you give Trev an opening like that, he takes full advantage of it - he NEEDS a safe person to be able to vent to during the day when things happen to him - things that might seem little to others, but are a big deal to him. So he did that, and she turned around and used everything he told her in confidence against him. I was mortified - Trevor and I had a discussion the previous summer about using journals to vent your feelings. Trevor had a group of kids in the neighborhood who delighted in tormenting him, they'd make snide comments out their windows when he rode his bike by their house, they'd make videos of themselves making fake bombs and posting them on You Tube while saying "we're going to throw this at Trevor's house" etc. So Trevor had said to me, "that's a good idea, I can keep a journal of all those kids names and the things they do to me." Now I know my son, and he's thinking "PROOF! This will be proof of the mean things they do to me" - because he's just the type of kid that ALWAYS ends up getting blamed or looking guilty, even when he is not (and trust me, he's a good kid but he's not an ANGEL, let's be realistic!). I immediately said "Trev, a list of kids' names is NOT a good idea" and I explained the Columbine shootings to him and how a list can look bad, and people get the wrong impression. I encouraged him to use a journal more to write out his feelings, how he felt when kids said and did those things to him. Well, this school psychologist apparently mentioned journal-writing to Trevor, so he repeated our conversation to her. She took this as a threat and put it in writing that "Trevor has talked about making a list of kids who he doesn't like, and that his mother told him that a list would not be smart because of things like Columbine. Trevor said he doesn't need a list, he knows the kids' names and has the list in his head." They told us at that time that we could either withdraw Trevor from the school or they would expel him. They actually suggested that I should hospitalize or institutionalize my son. I sat there with my jaw dropped open, barely able to speak. THIS was the school that we expected to make a positive difference in Trevor's life?

I was beside myself and had no choice but to withdraw Trev from the school and enroll him back up at the local high school. The first day there, I was walking down the halls with him and a teacher when I heard kids walking by saying "Oh, look, there's Trevor" in that tone of voice that you just know doesn't mean "oh good, there's Trevor" but more like "Woo hoo there's Trevor, can't wait to see him when no teachers are around." I instantly stopped in the hallway, and Trevor turned to me and said "Mom, don't worry about it, just keep walking, it's no big deal." I don't think I have EVER been more proud of my son than I was at that moment. I was this close (put your finger and thumb about 1/2 inch apart) from running down the hall and taking that kid and putting him right over my knee for the ass-whooping of his life-time. Ironically, Trevor saved that kid's behind right then and there. Funny how things work out like that, isn't it?

So we got Trevor signed up at his new school and he was put into a class called STEP, which was for kids with "emotional and behavioral disorders" - mainly because he could not get through a day in the "regular" classes without either having an emotional outburst (crying or yelling at another child, usually for doing something annoying but not really MEAN or violent, something like throwing a pencil at his back), and he was kind of just getting by. He joined the Air Force ROTC program, which he LOVES and has absolutely thrived in from day one. I was a bit surprised, mostly because of the rules and how strict it is, I wasn't sure if Trevor would clash with his instructors, military people. He has very strong opinions on everything from religion to politics, and he's not afraid to share those opinions with ANYONE. LOL But he fit right in to this group, something that Trev has a hard time doing (fitting in), and what I learned later on brought it all back full circle to make perfect sense (keep reading).

During all of this, I am still searching for something to help explain my son to me. I just don't "get" him sometimes, and it's frustrating and depressing. My sister mentions to me one day that the summer before, she worked at a summer camp and there was a kid there who reminded her a lot of Trevor, and that he had something called Asperger's Syndrome. I looked it up on the Internet and I almost fell off of my chair. I couldn't BELIEVE it - they were describing my child! Asperger's is on the autism spectrum, so I immediately started making phone calls to different autism agencies in and around my area (Worcester, MA) and eventually I connected with the AANE, the Asperger's Association of New England. I was put in touch with a psychiatrist who specializes in Asperger's, and after one visit with him, Trevor had a diagnosis of what is actually called Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), which is also on the autism spectrum, very similar to Asperger's.

This was in December of 2007, and things have happened very quickly since then. I have learned WHY Trevor is the way he is, and I am learning to help him with the things he has problems with. Trevor himself has grown up a lot this year, and him and I have both learned to laugh at things that frustrated us both before - one of the ways that PDD-NOS affects Trevor is rigidity and strict rule-following for everyone, so if he notices that things are not "fair" (in his eyes or perception), then he cannot move on. He focuses on that and can't get over it. In school, it usually happens like this - a child walks by and hits Trevor on the back with his hand. Trevor tells someone (a teacher) and the person tells him to ignore it. Trevor cannot ignore it, and can't concentrate on anything else. When the same kid walks by 2 hours later, Trevor will hit HIM on the back, and then get in trouble. That's it, at that point they have lost him for the entire day - now he's done nothing for 2 hours because he's been waiting for that kid to walk by so he could "get back at him" since the teacher didn't help or do anything about it. Once he feels he got even, and HE gets in trouble, he becomes a basket-case, not understanding why he is in trouble for doing the same thing that the kid did to him to begin with and that kid did NOT get in trouble. This is a very much watered-down version for this blog, but this has been our LIVES for over 10 years now. Taken directly from the AANE website, here is a list of some of the things that people with Asperger Syndrome usually experience (I have italicized and bolded the ones I see in Trev):
  • Difficulty knowing what to say or how to behave in social situations. Many have a tendency to say the “wrong thing.” They may appear awkward or rude, and unintentionally upset others.
  • Trouble with “theory of mind,” that is, trouble perceiving the intentions or emotions of other people, due to a tendency to ignore or misinterpret such cues as facial expression, body language, and vocal intonation.
  • Slower than average auditory, visual, or intellectual processing, which can contribute to difficulties keeping up in a range of social settings—a class, a soccer game, a party.
  • Challenges with “executive functioning,” that is, organizing, initiating, analyzing, prioritizing, and completing tasks.
  • A tendency to focus on the details of a given situation and miss the big picture.
  • Intense, narrow, time-consuming personal interest(s) — sometimes eccentric in nature — that may result in social isolation, or interfere with the completion of everyday tasks. (On the other hand, some interests can lead to social connection and even careers. For example, there are children and adults with an encyclopedic knowledge of vacuum cleaners.)
  • Inflexibility and resistance to change. Change may trigger anxiety, while familiar objects, settings, and routines offer reassurance. One result is difficulty transitioning from one activity to another: from one class to another, from work time to lunch, from talking to listening. Moving to a new school, new town, or new social role can be an enormous challenge.
  • Feeling somehow different and disconnected from the rest of the world and not “fitting in”—sometimes called “wrong planet” syndrome.
  • Extreme sensitivity—or relative insensitivity—to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or textures. Many people outgrow these sensory issues at least to some extent as they mature.
  • Vulnerability to stress, sometimes escalating to psychological or emotional problems including low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Now that you've read those things, can you imagine going through 7 years of elementary school and 2 years of middle school with all of those issues, and no one helping you work on them, but telling you to ignore everything that bothers you and to "get over it." This is Trevor, he cannot change who he is - yelling at him for being the way he is can be compared to yelling at a blind person for not being able to see. Telling Trevor that he has to change is like telling a tall person that they must shrink, they cannot go through life that tall. It's ridiculous to expect that, and I cannot even put into words what relief I felt to FINALLY have a diagnosis that made sense, that FIT. NOW we could start helping Trevor to deal with the issues and figure out ways to make life (school, to start with) a little easier for him. He was moved into a program at school called COAST, for kids on the autism spectrum, a few weeks ago, and he has been doing pretty well so far. He was needing an ibuprofen and an anti-anxiety pill every single day before school previously - he has not asked for either since he was moved to this program.

Trevor has been hooked up with a WONDERFUL counselor who we see every other week, and who has really helped me to understand Trevor better. I have learned not get mad at things that Trevor cannot help. He was always a kid with a heart of gold, I didn't understand why certain things would make him mad - like the way the bus stops were not spaced evenly (I'm not kidding you) or why it would bother him to see kids running when they were supposed to be walking - I used to get frustrated with him and argue with him, "Trevor, why do you CARE what they do?" He was constantly threatening to sue every single person, company, or city that did something he didn't agree with (including the school). Now, when these conversations begin and I can see Trev getting worked up about some non-issue like evenly spaced bus stops, I make light of it without making fun of HIM - I'll say "Should we hire a lawyer?" and he'll giggle - or I'll say "WELL! When you grow up, you can make it your mission in life to be sure that all bus stops are evenly spaced!" and he will look at me like I'm crazy and start laughing, and then we laugh together, which is the best thing in the world.

Now I feel 100 times more qualified to talk about what is best for Trevor with the school, with my family, with friends. It's challenging and it's something that we will have to deal with for the rest of his life, and something that we'll have to teach him to deal with once he's an adult. I hope that we can help him learn to overcome some of the challenges of Asperger's, but I also wouldn't want to change Trevor even if we could. Asperger's makes him ..... well, it makes him TREVOR. The only real regret I have is that we didn't figure this out sooner. I wish we had this diagnosis back when he was 4 or 5 and we could have begun school knowing these things and maybe life would have been easier for him- but at the same time, I do believe that everything happens for a reason, even if that reason isn't apparent for a long time. But who wouldn't wish that life could have been easier for, and kinder to, their child? I think the hardest part now is getting people to be accepting and understanding, and to change their reactions to the things he says and does, especially my family. My first instinct is to just shield him from life, to keep him home with me where I know he's safe and loved and understood. But I know that in the long run, that would be the worst thing to do. He needs to learn social skills, which both the school and the therapist are working on, he needs to learn to deal with conflict appropriately, even within the family, and I have to accept that there is going to come a day when he will be on his own, as much as that thought terrifies me now. I wish so much that I could keep him safe, protect him, for the rest of his life. But I'm confident that I'm doing what I can NOW to teach him to do exactly that, and I guess ultimately that is the job that parents have, anyway, isn't it? Whether our kids grow up without any issues or have lots of them, eventually they all do grow up and live their own lives.

There is so much more that I can say about Trevor, but this post is already ridiculously long - however, I want to end it on a positive note. Asperger's is not all about the "bad stuff", there are a lot of positive aspects that Asperger's brings out, too - his ability to interact fabulously with adults (it's kids and his peers that he has a hard time with), his intelligence (he's really smart), his focus on completing a task that he's interested in (building incredible Lego creations), etc. The last thing is his determination - I am in awe of his determination and his willingness to plod on regardless of the circumstances. I am extremely proud of this kid and I would not change a thing about him.

April is Autism Awareness Month - my hope by posting this blog is that you'll think twice before making assumptions, in any given situation. For most of Trevor's life, people "assumed" that he was a cry-baby, that he was acting out for attention, that he was jealous of his near-perfect sister (in his eyes, anyway) - I am even guilty of assuming a lot of those things for a very long time. I now feel that I am Trevor's best advocate and I fully intend to play this role as long as he needs me to, with whoever he needs me to!

Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm an odds-breaker

OK so background info first: I've had this awful headache/sinusy/congested thing all weekend, I think it's probably allergies. It's terrible, though, I cannot sleep and after 3 nights of that, LOOK OUT WORLD. Jenn needs her sleep. So I was miserable today. I took some allergy medication that made me all dopey, and my husband said to me, around 2:30 p.m., "why don't you go lie down and take a nap?" Well, listen, I don't just take NAPS, and I don't think anyone has ever in my life offered me a nap (at least not since the age of 4 or so) - so, like anyone who is not a complete dolt would do, I jumped at the chance! I went and took a nap. While I was napping, Jeremy took Cassidy to see her grandparents so they could give her the birthday card they had for her. Trevor was outside playing with his new friends (that's an update for another entry - Trevor - FRIENDS - OMG) - I woke up around 4:10 and meandered downstairs leisurely in my pj pants, T-shirt and my Old Navy sweatshirt that I cannot live without.

I sit on the couch, see Trevor outside with the boys on the trampoline (TREVOR - FRIENDS!!!! :) OMG!) and I relax with a new book I just bought (Weird Massachusetts, it's really cool and full of stories of TRUE weird things in Massachusetts! It's by Jeff Belanger). Trevor comes into the house and says "Mom? Are you burning a fire in the fireplace?" I say "Boy, it's 80 degrees out (YES!) - why would I be burning a fire?" He says "I don't know, but I see smoke coming out of the house." Me, thinking Trevor is hallucinating, "Trev, there's no smoke." Trevor goes back out, and I go check the furnace, just to be safe. Everything looks fine. I sit back down, and Trevor runs into the house yelling "MOM! The side of the house is on fire!" I go outside and sure enough, the side of my house IS ON FIRE!!!!! HOLY SH*T! I grab the phone and call 911 while Trevor and his new friends grab our garden hose and turn it on and start putting the fire out. The fire seems to be coming from a box on the porch, and it's burned it's way up from the porch to the top floor, my bedroom window. I can see flames. I tell the 911 operator that my house is on fire, and he asks for my address. I can barely even function once the phone call was over - I called Jeremy and told him to come home, our house was on fire. The boys were all outside. I was worried that my laundry wasn't put away and what would the firefighters think? LOL

Two cops pull up, and I show them the damage and that I think the boys got it out, but that I was worried the fire might have gotten into the walls or something. The fire trucks got here and got out their axes and stuff, and I was definitely nervous, but I still hadn't cried yet. Jeremy got here at the same time as the fire trucks. They didn't even have to do anything, they just ripped the siding off the house where it was burning to check underneath, but everything was fine and the fire was completely out. They called our landlord for us, and then Jeremy also called her to make sure she knew that it wasn't "bad" - it could have been so much worse.

Here's what the fire dept. said happened - there was a small cardboard box on the porch that Jeremy dumps ashes into. He dumped ashes into it last night from a charcoal grill fire from at least 2-3 days ago. They apparently either smoldered
continuously for 2-3 days OR last night when we cooked, an ember might have blown into it - it was a total FREAK thing. The box was up against the corner of the porch, the corner that meets the house. It burned the corner of the porch, the railings, the side of the house in a thick line all the way up to the bedroom windows on the 2nd floor.

So I finally burst into tears when it was over, and I kept thinking about the "what if's?" - what if I had worked today, I wouldn't have even been home yet when this happened. Trevor most likely would have been home alone, in his room watching TV. What if I didn't wake up? What if I had kept sleeping this afternoon? What if this had happened Saturday night when Jeremy and I went out, and Trevor stayed home alone? I am feeling VERY thankful right now.

The other part that was really weird was that I couldn't THINK. That's not me, and I have to blame the allergy meds in some part. I honestly couldn't think - like all I could think was "the kids are not in there" - that was ALL I cared about. You know, you read stories about fires and stuff, and I would always say "I'd grab my journal, I'd grab the kids' baby books" etc. I didn't grab anything, I couldn't think what in the world to grab. I was so glad no one was in the house, I just couldn't think about anything other than that.

I think I must have a guardian angel. I think our whole family does, actually. When I was 23 years old, and Trevor was a baby, I had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy that almost killed me. Ectopic pregnancies are the leading cause of death for women in their first trimester. It's rare to have an ectopic pregnancy (19.7 out of 1000 pregnancies), but even rarer for one to rupture. I lost a fallopian tube and the doctors thought I might have a hard time getting pregnant again. 3 months later, I was pregnant with Cassidy. Cassidy, who ended up having a rare type of birthmark that COULD cause cancer and Neurocutaneous Melanosis (a heart-breaking, fatal disease), but that DID NOT!

One more story for tonight - when Trevor was born, my auntie Judy (who I adored) knitted him a yellow baby afghan. She passed away a few months after he was born, and I was devastated. One night shortly after she passed, Jeremy and I were watching TV on the couch after tucking Trevor into his crib. He was only a few months old, and I had a baby monitor in his room. We all sleep with fans on in this house, you know the whole white noise thing, and I could hear the noise of the fan running. As I sat there, I felt this presence in my head (I am not kidding you) telling me to go check the baby. I can remember almost arguing with this voice in my head (doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo, say it in a spooky voice) and saying "I just tucked him in 15 minutes ago, what trouble can a 7/8-month-old get into?" Well, I suddenly felt a PUSH in my head. It was the weirdest feeling I've ever experienced, and it yelled at me while pushing to "GO CHECK THAT BABY!" I ran upstairs, with Jeremy left behind probably wondering what the heck was going on, and I walked into Trevor's bedroom to find my hair-dryer ON inside his crib with him. Guess what was the only thing between his precious baby skin and that hot hair-dryer? Auntie Judy's blanket. BRRRR - did you just get the chills? I get them every stinkin' time I tell or write that story. There is NO DOUBT in my mind who our guardian angel was on that day, I assure you. So you're wondering why I had a hair-dryer in my baby's room, right? LOL Jeremy worked nights at the time, and our bathroom and bedrooms were all upstairs. So I would shower and blow-dry my hair in Trevor's room. Well, this particular day I decided to vacuum (yup, I do it every now and then), and I picked the hair-dryer up off the floor and "hooked" it onto the side of Trevor's crib. He must have been standing in the crib before he fell asleep and pulled it into his crib and it turned on.

I'm not done with my stories about breaking odds, though. Call them miracles, call it God, call it a guardian angel, call it luck - I have had my share, and I am THANKFUL and hope that whoever or whatever it is that is watching out for me doesn't fall asleep on the job. I apparently need a LOT of watching over.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Intro to StampinAngelJenn - welcome to my blog!

OK so I just had to jump on this blogging train! I mean, really, I cannot stand to be left out. So here I am!

A little bit about me - the name is Jenn and I have 2 passions in life, ChemoAngels and rubber stamping - hence the nickname/blogger title - StampinAngelJenn. My other passions are writing and reading, Stephen King to be specific, but I didn't think StampinWritinReadinStephenKingAngelJenn was a very good nickname, so I compromised with myself and went with what this blog would be about, and what my Splitcoaststampers name happens to already be (see links).

My husband is Jeremy, he's a union Iron Worker, Local 7. We have 2 fantastic kids - our son Trevor will be 15 this Summer. Trevor has Asperger's, which is a high-functioning form of autism, to be very brief. He's an awesome kid, with a heart of gold. He's involved in the Air Force Junior ROTC program at his high school, which he loves. I think this boy will end up in the Air Force some day, hopefully as an officer. He is dying to fly a plane, and my husband has his pilot's license, so someday.... Then there's the "baby" - that's Cassidy, our beautiful daughter, she's going to be 13 years old in 2 days (that's her and I in this picture on Easter 2008). Cassidy is an honors student in middle school, and she is such a great kid. I'm extremely proud of how hard she works in school and what a good person she is. I don't know how I went from being a mom to 2 young kids to being a mom of 2 teenagers! It's a different world, and I love it despite it's challenges. I love that I'm close with my kids and truly helping form the adults they are becoming. I love being a mom more than anything else in the world!

So besides ChemoAngels, stamping, writing and reading, I actually work full-time, too! I am the Billing & Collections Manager at a small private local college, and I love my job. I normally spend my weekdays working, cooking, and cleaning (HA! - anyone who knows me, just keep your comments to yourself, OK? hee hee) - and then on weekends, I go crazy with paper and ink! I love to make cards, that's my favorite thing to create. I enjoy scrapbooking, but I am very bad at keeping up with it. Every time I intend to do some scrapbooking, I end up making 20-30 new cards. LOL

So here's my plan - I want to keep you entertained AND keep you wanting to come back for more! I will be posting random stories and artwork, as well as pictures and updates on my life. I hope you find this an enjoyable place to come and hang out. Peace!