Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Friend Remembered...

Last night we were in bed when the phone rang.  Ryan said, "Just let the machine get it."  I said, "No one calls after 9 unless it's important."  I got out of bed, tripped over Buster (who wasn't laying in his normal spot) and stumbled to my dresser where the phone is.  It was my sister, Jaime.  "Jen, did you hear about Trisha?"  "No."  "She passed away in her sleep."  "WHAT?!? Oh my gosh!"  Jaime and I talked for a few minutes more and then we hung up.  I quickly explained to Ryan who Trisha was (she was at our wedding, but he's not good with names) and then went downstairs to process everything and allow Ryan to sleep.

Trish was 2 or 3 years older than me, so I didn't really get to know her until high school youth group.  Before that, she was always ahead of me in Sunday School and in AWANA.  We would be together for the AWANA olympics, and she was someone we (the younger girls) looked up to then, but we didn't really know her.  Once we got to high school youth group, we got to know her a lot better.  She was one of those people who made being a Christian cool.  She really lived her faith.  Trisha wasn't afraid to stand up for what was right.  She let God's love shine through her, you could tell just by looking at her. 

One of the things I will miss the most about Trish is our late night facebook email conversations.  They started right at the time Ryan and I were fighting against putting a g-tube into Juliana.  I was having difficulty sleeping, and Trisha was as well.  We were never up at the same time, but I always had an encouraging message from her in my inbox on facebook.  She always seemed to know when I needed encouragement.  Sometimes we would just talk about our kids (she has a daughter).

Knowing that she is in Heaven is extremely comforting.  I know that one of the first things Jesus said to her was, "Well done, good and faithful servant".  When I think of Trisha, the lyrics to Sidewalk Prophet's song, Live Like That come to mind.  It embodies who she was and how she lived.

It's just hard to believe that she is gone.

~~ "For such a time as this I was placed upon this earth~~ for a specific purpose~~ at this specific time~~ my past experiences have created who I am today to fulfill that purpose~~ I pray for the wisdom and courage to complete that which has been set before me." ~~Trisha Schuerr Lange

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tripawds Gathering...

I didn't go to church today (but I will download the podcast, I promise, Dennis).  I wanted to go, but there was something I needed to do.  Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from a lady I had met through Tripawds, a community for 3 legged dogs.  There was supposed to be a group of Chicago-land tripawds meeting at the Montrose Dog Beach on Sunday, but due to the Gay Pride Parade, the streets to get to the dog beach were going to be closed.  She was looking for any alternative dog parks in the area to have the meeting.  I had not been planning to go to the meeting at the dog beach, because bringing both dogs and both children (Ryan had a previous commitment at church and it was too late to get a babysitter for the kids when I found out) was a bit overwhelming for me.  As I read through all the emails that went back and forth with the different options, everyone seemed to be starting to despair, as most of the dog parks cost money or you had to buy a one day pass (but you had to buy it the day before and it was too late to purchase it).  I knew of 2 dog parks in my area.  One cost money, and the other was rather small, but it was free.  I offered it as a possible solution, with the thought that it would be shot down since it's kind of out of the way for many people.  To my surprise, it was embraced by everyone and they all agreed to meet at 9 AM on Sunday.  This is when my dilemma began.

Last year, when Chili Dawg became a tripawd, we were never able to make it to any of the group meet ups.  The first one occurred a couple weeks after his amputation and he was still learning to hop-walk, the second one occurred while we were in Arizona, and the third one occurred 3 days before we put Chili Dawg to sleep.  So, why would I want to go to this when I don't even have a tripawd anymore?  When you go through the process of deciding to amputate, no one understands your decision.  These people did.  They were our support system, even though we never met.  We talked to each other through our blogs, messages, and the forum.  When Chili Dawg's cancer returned they were right there with me when I cried, and when we put him to sleep, we received cards from tripawd owners from all over the country.  I wanted to take this opportunity to thank them for being there for me and my family during our journey and I wanted to be able to say it face to face.  So, I made the decision to miss church this morning and meet some of the people who helped us.

At 8:45 this morning, I loaded Juli, Noah, Buster & Finchy into the van, along with a bunch of water & treats and my camera.  We were the first to arrive at the dog park and Noah and Juli were very excited.  The next to arrive were Jan and her husband Rick.  Their tripawd, Tate had crossed the Rainbow Bridge after Chili Dawg, but they brought their 2 dogs, Sam and Zeke.  Susan arrived next with tripawd Holly and her sister Zuzu.  Finally, tripawd Ginger arrived with parents Annie and Brian, who drove up from Pontiac.  I just want to say that even though this was my first time meeting these people face to face, I felt like I had known them for a long time.  Tripawds is a very close knit group and while you don't ever want to be a member of this club, you are glad once you become one.  The support that everyone gives each other is unbelievable, and they welcome you with open arms.

Noah and Juli had a great time running around with the dogs.  Noah kept saying, "I thought you said there were going to be tripawd dogs here, Momma!"  He hadn't noticed that Holly only had 3 legs (she is a rear-amp).  When Ginger arrived he yelled, "She looks just like Chili Dawg!"  He and Juli took turns handing out dog treats to the dogs and petting them.  Finchy and Buster had a good time running around with the younger dogs.  Everyone was impressed that at almost 10 years of age, Finchy could keep up with 16 month old Sam.  We stayed at the dog park for almost 2 hours, and then Finchy got a little grumpy, and Juli had run out of water in her cup and was wilting.  I was sad that our visiting time had to come to an end, but extremely thankful that I got to attend this get together.  For me, it was another step towards healing the paw shaped wound on my heart.

I was able to take some pictures of our morning, when the dogs weren't running around with each other.  It was truly a "sea of dogs" at times!  Juli would get knocked to the ground and the other adults would gasp, while I said "you're alright".  Juli would giggle really hard, get up and say, "more again!"

Tripawd Holly- she recently celebrated her 30 Month Ampuversary!

Finchy with Zuzu behind him

Noah with Finchy, Holly (notice she's a rear amp), Zuzu, & Buster

Zuzu- she would place her front legs on either side of the cooler and sink her face into the water

Tripawd Queen Ginger- she's 12 and going strong

4 month old Zeke

Sam & Buster

All the dogs chilling out in the shade

Tripawd Holly

Tripawd Ginger

Buster had to find his own shade, so Noah went to be with him so he wouldn't be "lonely"

Sweet Ginger

Friday, June 22, 2012

It Doesn't Get Better Than This...

Last week we were driving home from one of Juli's doctor appointments, and the song "Where I Belong" by Building 429 came on (huge fan of theirs, by the way).  Noah started to sing along with them.  It really doesn't get any better than that, when you hear your child singing away to Jesus.  I captured him doing it last night.  It's a little hard to understand, because he wouldn't stop rocking, but what can you do?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Warrior Dash 2012

Yes, it is that time again.  We signed up for the Warrior Dash again.  This year it was me, Ryan, my sister Jaime, her husband Bill, and I conned one of my friends, Laura (the same Laura who used to be Juliana's speech therapist- yes, we became friends). 

Last year, Jaime was "the beast" (that's a compliment for those of you who don't teach high school or hang around high schoolers) who conquered her fear of heights.  This year, Laura was "the beast".  I worked on her for 2 weeks in January to get her to sign up for the Warrior Dash.  She is scared of heights (so I had her read Jaime's blog about last year's Warrior Dash) and didn't think she could do it.  I told her she would be fine.  Then she freaked out about the running.  Seriously.  She made me commit to "running dates" with her on the weekends starting in April to prepare for the dash.  Fortunately, I only had to do a couple of these, because I got injured, then she got injured, and then her son had baseball tournaments.  The only reason I say "fortunately," is because running is NOT my idea of fun (it used to be, before the arthritis).  Now if we were rollerblading or riding bikes, then I would be fine. 

She wasn't able to sign up for the same wave as us, because our wave was full, so she signed up for an earlier wave and I told her she would just jump in ours.  Laura is severely Type A, so going against the rules was also stressing her out.  I explained until I was blue in the face that last year we were able to jump in on an earlier wave and no one caught us.  She still didn't like breaking the rules.  The morning of the race, one of her many texts to me before we got there was "get here please". 

Jaime doesn't like this picture because she thinks she looks like a giant
Once the other 4 of us arrived and got checked in, we found that we were early enough to jump in at the tail end of the 9:30 wave.  Laura had no choice but to join us in our breaking of the rules.  I was happy to be at the back of the pack, because crowds of tightly packed people freak me out ever since my brain injury.  The downside to being at the back, was that at the first few obstacles, we got stuck waiting in line because there hadn't been enough running to space the pack out.  It worked out though.  Laura conquered her fear of heights 3 times.  Once she got out of line to go around an obstacle (Ryan was supposed to block her from that, but he didn't do his job so I stayed behind her the rest of the time to prevent that from happening again), and the other 2 times we just encouraged her through it.
Jaime, Laura, and I
My favorite part of the dash was the water slide into the muddy pool.  It came at the right time.  We were all hot and sweaty, and the water was COLD!  Somehow, Ryan emerged from the muddy pool barely covered in mud, while the rest of us were covered.  I don't know how he does it!  Seriously!
I look cleaner in this picture
The other part of the dash that I enjoyed was being with my sister.  Growing up, my mom always told us that it was important to be nice to each other and love each other.  When we were younger, we didn't always understand what she meant.  Once we got to high school, we started to figure it out, but once it was time for college, we really realized how important we are to each other.  Case in point: during the dash, my hip started to bother me (stupid early onset arthritis!).  Jaime slowed down and kept asking me if I needed to walk (Laura asked as well- not to make it sound like she didn't).  Then, at the end of the dash, after we jumped over the fire, we had to crawl through the muddy water pit.  Bill had given Jaime her Epi pen back just before we got to the pit (he had shorts with pockets, and was afraid he would lose it in the mud pit).  Jaime was "securing" her Epi pen elsewhere, and so I waited for her.  I didn't even think about it, that's how we were raised- you wait for each other.  Everyone else was ahead of us and focused on finishing.  Jaime and I got in the pit together and exited it together (unfortunately, the Epi pen was still lost in the mud pit, but on a good note, Jaime didn't need to use it), because that's what sisters do, or at least that's what Jaime and I do.
My best friend and I
As for my hip... growing up we had this gorgeous german shepherd mix named Bear.  Towards his later years, his hips went bad and he would lay in the hallway with his hips shoved up against the wall.  I always wondered why he would want to put additional pressure on his hips.  I noticed that again with Chili Dawg after his amputation- he would lay on his amputation scar on the hot patio, and then when the cancer came back in his hips, he would also press his hips up against the wall.  I'm noticing it now with Finchy.  Why am I telling you all of this?  Well, that night, my hip began to hurt and I couldn't sleep.  I found that the only way I could get relief was if I laid on that hip (it surprisingly feels good to do that!).  Only then was I able to drift off to sleep, only to be woken up when I rolled off of it and the pain raced back.  Last year, my hip only ached for 2 days after the dash.  This year, my hip hasn't stopped hurting, so I have to make a decision when registration for Warrior Dash 2013 rolls around: is the pain worth it?  This year, I would say yes.  My friend Laura was able to overcome her fear of heights and did something that was WAY out of her comfort zone, and I was able to have an awesome time with my husband, sister, and brother-in-law.
We are a fine looking bunch, aren't we?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hanging Out With The Zarbocks...

My first year teaching, I had a special group of kids.  They were my first group of kids that I taught "all by myself".  It was a little scary, because there's no one else to blame if you screw up.  To top it off, I was teaching Chemistry, my nemisis.  We got through that first year together.  Sure there were bumps in the road, but bonds were formed, and Chemistry was no longer my nemisis.  In fact when I was offered the chance to teach Biology (my original true love), I turned it down. 

That year, I had several students that I formed special bonds to, and still keep in touch with today.  One of those students was a young man named Sean.  He was kind of a goofy young man, but he always had a smile on his face and I looked forward to his period every single day.  He and another student came up with the "Mahlberg, Mahlberg" chant that followed me down the hallways some days.  He never had me for any other class besides Chemistry, but he always visited me each year.  When he graduated in 2004, I cried a little bit to say goodbye to my first class of students.

Several years later, I received an email from Sean's mom.  Sean's sister, Brittany, had had a tough freshman year and was discouraged with science.  Sean told his mom to request me.  Brittany's counselor put her in my Chemistry class, and another year with the Zarbock's began.  Brittany and I clicked in a different way than Sean and I did, and we also formed a bond.  After she finished Chemistry, she also continued to visit me every year and this year, she also made me cry first with something she had written in a paper for a class, and then a second time in her farewell article in the school paper.

Why am I writing all of this?  Well, last week, I got an email on facebook from Mrs. Zarbock.  Sean was in town (he's in the Navy) and she wanted to know if I was available to get together with them.  As things worked out, Noah decided he wanted to spend a few days at Grandma and Grandpa's house, so it was just Juliana and me during the day.  Sean was going to take his daughters to Build-a-Bear at the mall, so we agreed to meet up there.

I was very excited.  I hadn't seen Sean in 8 years (creeping on pictures on facebook doesn't count).  He looked exactly the same as he did in high school, except taller, and he gave me a big hug.  His daughters are beautiful little girls and he is such a good father to them.  I am so proud of the man he has turned out to be.

All of us went into Build-a-Bear together.  Things were going well... until they turned on the stuffing machine.  Juli couldn't handle the sounds of that, so after a quick explanation to the Zarbocks, she and I left the store and amused ourselves on the escalator and with a carousel ride (which she also freaked out on, so we sat on a bench on the carousel).

Afterwards we all sat down and ate lunch together and caught up with life.  It was really nice.  Then, we rode the escalators some more- all the girls were interested in them, and then stopped by the fountain to watch the "water show", and then we stopped in the Disney store.  I wasn't sure how Juli would be in there, since it was past her naptime, but as soon as she saw the princess stuff, her eyes opened wide and she was under their spell the whole time we were in there.  I let her pick out a t-shirt since they were having a sale, and she had to show it to everyone on the way out.

Then it came time to say good-bye.  My least favorite time.  I gave hugs to everyone and thanked them for letting us be a part of their family for the day.  Juli and I had a wonderful day hanging out with the Zarbocks.  They are truly one of my favorite families.