Paw Prints On My Heart

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Over the last 36 hours I’ve experienced pain like never before – and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. Our family lost Safari at 4:02am on September 20, 2013 after 16.5 years of ecstatic joy, unlimited play and unconditional love. She was a golden retriever/basset pound puppy – a surprise gift from my husband right after we moved into our first home. She loved every human being and learned to love children even more after we had Griffin and Morgan in 2004-2005.

Dogs are so emotionally responsive – the major reason I am and always will be a dog lover. When I was sick at home laying on the couch, she was at my feet. When I left for work in the morning, she always knew I’d return and would wait patiently in the sun room in front of the big palladium window keeping a watchful eye. And when I was on the deck grilling, she would hang out waiting for a taste test. She was consistent, resilient and ever-faithful. She loved to relax in the sunshine on the screen porch at our lake house. She was always super quick to scoop up any type of food that dropped to the floor – except for lettuce. My heart aches beyond expression.

But I will also describe to you a few key experiences within the past week that are key indications she was saying good-bye and it was time for her to cross over the Rainbow Bridge. These realizations are helping me heal and I hope maybe they do the same for others.

Dog-Gone Daisies

Every year, my perennial daisy bush blooms in late spring and again in late summer. For some reason, this year, we had no white daisies in March and April. The bush itself was full, green and lush. Just no blooms. My husband and I often commented how odd that was. Then, 3 days ago, last week before Safari passed, I saw the first speckle of white in a bud about to burst open. And don’t you know by Friday morning, 4 hours after her passing, I counted 10 full daisies shining in the early morning sunrise. It was a sign. Those were a gift from Safari and a present I could share with my children. I sent each of them to school with a daisy on their binder to remind them how special Safari will always be…even when she is no longer with us.

Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad

I’m a Catholic school girl and remain to this day a very spiritual, faith-inspired person. On Thursday, September 19th I re-tweeted this: “@Scripture_Truth: This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. -Psalm 118:24”. I added the comment to this re-tweet that I say this every day. This verse has always resonated with me. I loved singing that hymn every Wednesday morning in school mass. It reminds me that every day is a gift. That same September 19th morning, I mentioned this verse to my kids in the car, who attend a wonderful Christian school, and how much it meant to me during my school years. At lunch, I went back to school for a gem-mining science exploration project with my daughter. While in the classroom, I randomly glanced up over our minerals, rocks and gems to see a huge wall banner decorated with rainbow butterflies. Inscribed in the middle was Psalm 118:24. I was rejoicing. I was glad. And now I will always remember that Safari spoke those words to me several times that week. Priceless.

A Safari Sleep Over

My kids are ages 8 and 9. Reading is a very big part of their studies as they no longer learn to read, they read to learn. We are required to spend at least 15 minutes a night reading and we love doing it. On Tuesday, September 17th, Morgan was reading to me on her bed and Safari softly sauntered in. She stood in the middle of the floor, intensely looked Morgan straight in the eye for about 45 seconds – enough time for Morgan to notice. Morgan said, “Mom, look at Safari. She’s listening to my story.” You see, about a year and half ago, Safari lost her hearing. But Morgan was right, Safari was there focusing, listening and hanging on every word that child had to say. Noting this, I got up to get her dog bed from beside my bed where she ALWAYS slept and bring it into Morgan’s room. Safari immediately curled up and in minutes, was snoring softly in a satisfied sleep. It was her first and ONLY sleep over with Morgan. How special.

Star Light, Star Bright

At dusk, on Friday, September 20th, 15 hours after her passing, our family gathered in the cul-de-sac at our home for a heart-felt balloon launch with love notes to Safari. We quivered and tearfully read our messages to one another while the crickets chirped in the silent late summer evening. On the count of 1-2-3, we released four helium balloons into the sunset and stared into the sky watching them rise up into the heavens –  one step closer to the dog we will always love. About 90 minutes later, I’m on the phone recounting the day to my parents with respect and reverence. I look up outside that same big palladium window where she always sat to see a huge, single bright star in the sky. At first, I actually thought it was an airplane landing since we sit right in the flight path of the local airport. But this light was not moving or blinking. It was incredibly bright and staring me straight in the face. It was a symbol. A message stolen in time speaking to me that Safari had made it to the other side with confirmation that she received the balloons with our messages.

Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

I will never be the same without Safari. But I wouldn’t give up one glorious memory, one crazy day mess or one precious moment I spent with her. Safari made permanent paw prints on my heart, with several obvious clues that even loss produces miracles.

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Kids Are Like That Sometimes

It’s been a bit hectic getting back into our routines after Christmas break. Alarm clocks. Schedules. Homework. Being on time. Choosing outfits. Figuring out dinner.

But I’ve made a conscious decision to be more intentional with my family – especially at the end of the day before rushing into evening routines. So yesterday I park the car, take a deep breath in the garage to clear my head, come inside, set my stuff down and see the kids snuggled in front of the fireplace.

Before I get the first word out, my son says, “Hi Mommy! Did you have a good day at work?” Funny, that’s the same question I was going to ask him about school. It instantly brought a smile to my face to realize that there are moments like these where I feel like my children care more than I do. Or that they are reading my mind and staying one step ahead. Or that they are teaching me a lesson for a change.

I kinda like when that happens.

intentional

Puzzling Therapy

It started about a month ago. I sat down at the kitchen table with my kids on a lazy Saturday afternoon and pulled out the 100 – 300 – 500 piece options we had in our Disney multi-pack puzzle box. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

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A heap of pieces or mind-boggling quality time?

The kids were sporadic in their participation. Finding all the flat edges. Grouping like-puzzle pieces together. Sorting by color. Trying to imagine the finished product to mirror the box cover. Then they got bored and found something else to do…leaving mom to ‘clean up the mess’. Typical, eh?

So I finished the Mickey Mouse Soccer Star puzzle and moved onto to finish up Pixie Dust and Princesses. And when it was all said and done, I actually enjoyed myself in the process. Here’s what I gained:

  1. A true sense of accomplishment
  2. Quiet time to myself
  3. Ability to let my mind wander
  4. Creative inspiration
  5. A peaceful, uninterrupted mind game with myself and the jagged edges

It wasn’t until I found myself Christmas shopping a few weeks later that I realized how much I enjoyed puzzle therapy and wanted to share it with others. So, when my sister-in-law asked what to get my son, I recommended a puzzle. When I stood and watched my daughter achieve her first ever experience on ice skates in Rockefeller Center, I bought the puzzle to match as a stocking stuffer. And I could not resist a challenging gift from the lakeside cottages series titled “Rest Stop” for my husband…1,000 pieces and all.

And the rest is history. My husband and I enjoyed the 4-day long weekend anticipating the New Year with several hours together at the puzzle table. It was a challenge. A distraction. An escape. An opportunity to sit side by side. A chance to contemplate how the sky, flying geese, lakefront, landscaping and stone cottage was ever going to come together. Hours flew by. Pieces started falling into place. We’d stand up to stretch our backs and legs. Occasionally we’d make sure the kids and the dog had food and water. 🙂

And then the moment of truth arrived…we had 8 pieces left. And we could not wait to tell the kids it’s time to finish our work of art! We agreed both of them could simultaneously put the last 2 pieces into place. We cheered ourselves in victory and celebrated our accomplishment at 4:44 pm on New Year’s Day.

Puzzles are an addiction, but also a type of therapy at the same time. It was well worth the hours put in and I cannot wait to see what puzzling mind game comes next! And I do believe that I’ve started a New Year’s tradition for the Grom family.

Cheers to 2013!

Simplify. Simple As That.

It’s only after I had some quality time off to myself that I realized how cluttered and difficult life can be. With 12 more days off in my 28-day between-job hiatus, I’ve been thinking about how my routines, purchasing habits and tasks can be tweaked ever-so-slightly in an effort to simply simplify. Here are 9 recent discoveries.

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Word to the wise.

  1. Super shiny tinted lip gloss. It used to be full-blown lip liner, lipstick and a top coat of gloss. But why? A super shiny tinted lip gloss in a tube creates less mess in the purse/make-up bag and is a 3-in-1 no brainer.
  2. Dishwasher gel packs. No more messy, flip-top gel detergent. I explained them to my kids using the solid versus liquid science analogy and they got excited to help me do the dishes. WOW!
  3. No iron. No dry clean. No hand wash. No explanation necessary. Shop smart.
  4. Few or no throw pillows. There are days I just want to fall into bed without any more hassles. But I always have to clear away throw pillows first – which are only there for decoration anyway.
  5. Electric candle warmer. A good friend bought me one last year and when I think about it, I use it. NOW I’M SOLD!! No wicks, no smoke, no flame, less danger. Plus, constant scent management.
  6. Indoor griddle/grill combo. Perfect for our 2nd home out on the lake where space is tight but we always have time for great food and good friends.
  7. Organized linen closet. Roll the towels. Sheets inside pillow cases. Baskets for the little stuff. All thanks to Pinterest!
  8. Try the magic eraser first. Not sure how, but 99.8% of the time, this wizard of a product can get the job done – including ink pen on a sweatshirt.
  9. 12 uses for Vicks VapoRub. One jar can do all this? Can’t wait to try this on mosquitos and headaches.

 

Providing a Sense of Independence

Although this is not typical of my Navy Brat attitude thoughts, this is something that I shared with Greenville, SC diabetics and caregivers in preparation for a 3-year diabetes awareness campaign in our community. Definitely worth sharing with friends in other places!

I’m taking a moment to give any of you associated with juvenile diabetes an insight into the ADA Camp Independence for kids ages 6-12. http://main.diabetes.org/site/Calendar/1834271383?view=Detail&id=4382. Emily Wilson flawlessly coordinates the entire event and her comments/recap of this year’s camp are noted below. Thanks to Lori Church for the opportunity to share our story. Greenville is very fortunate to have this event in our area – it’s definitely something worth looking into.

My husband Greg and I are the super proud parents of Type 1 pumper/sensor Griffin, age 6 and Type 3 princess Morgan, age 5. Shortly after Griffin’s diagnosis on February 15, 2008, we made the decision to not be sorry, but to be hopeful…to not be fearful, but to be knowledgeable…and to not hold back, but to let Griffin be all that he can be. So the research began; and it still continues today.

It wasn’t long into our search for support groups, resource libraries, educators, website tools and such that we discovered Camp Independence. We took Griffin when he was 5 for an hour-long visit to the 2009 event at Camp Buckhead on Paris Mountain. He immediately saw glucose monitors, pumps, OmniPods and kids who were ‘like him’ playing in the pond, jumping in the air castle, learning about healthy eating choices and having a ball in a completely diabetes friendly environment. As it brought tears to my eyes, it brought a song to Griffin’s heart – this was something he couldn’t wait to do when he turned 6! So we waited 12 months.

June 28- July 1, 2010 couldn’t come soon enough! In May, we told Griffin he could bring anyone he wanted to Camp Independence as a way to show him this camp is all about his choices not ours. His best friend, (and the girl he wants to marry, so he tells us 🙂 Type 3 Sidney, was chosen without hesitation. Then, when Griffin learned it was at Furman University this year, he was ecstatic. This was way more than High School Musical – he was going to be in college!

Day 1 drop off was way harder for me than it was for Griffin and Sidney. This was definitely an extremely bittersweet moment – since it’s all about independence, right? They instantly forgot who I was and the fact that I was there as they entered an energetic conference room filled with 35+ kids, camp counselors, educators and medical assistants. So they were whisked away to create a name tag, write their name on their new water bottle, find a seat around the huge circle of tables and begin an art project. I drove off of the glamorous Furman campus knowing this was one of the best decisions Greg and I had ever made to enable Griffin on the path to diabetes self-management.

They had (2) swim days. They ate on campus and learned that pizza and burgers are a choice, but chicken, salads or pasta portions are a better choice. They got cool, free stuff. They walked a lot – so Griffin says. They laughed about everything. They brought home diabetes information for mom and dad. They checked BGs without someone asking ‘what are doing?’. At home, Griffin showed true interest in doing things himself or without hesitation if we asked him to do it. All his friends and counselors signed his t-shirt on the last day. And we heard for weeks following the camp, how many more days until we can go again? Priceless!

It all sounds so simple, but the short-term impact is profound and the long-term implications are yet to be discovered. If your Type 1 is age 6-12 by June 2011, you really need to ask more about this, consider it, pray that your child will be excited about it and then DO IT. You will note in Emily’s recap there is room for more and a need for medical staff – just another way you can get involved and support diabetic independence at a very early age!

Have a great weekend!
Mary Ellen

—– Forwarded Message —-
From: Emily Wilson

To: Mary Ellen Grom

Sent: Fri, July 9, 2010 12:57:52 PM
Subject: Re: Greenville Camp Independence

Hi Mary Ellen,

The things that we really tried to work on at camp this year were regular blood glucose testing and make nutritious and balanced food choices. Every day at lunch, the campers were accompanied by nutrition interns who helped them pick lunch. This was a challenge because the Furman dining hall has pizza, cheeseburgers, and ice cream just to name a few not-so-healthy choices. So, we really encouraged the kids to choose some vegetables in every meal. They also sometimes had to choose whether to, say, have a 2nd bowl of spaghetti or desert (which was sugar free). So, we tried to work with them on really thinking about what they were putting in their bodies and making good decisions.

We also are very regular about blood sugar testing. So, we had them check when they arrived every morning, before lunch, before afternoon snack, and before they left every day. Then, if we were doing something that was a high activity level (like swimming) we would have them check before and after that. Then, of course if anyone feels low we check right then. We do this for a couple of reasons: 1. to keep them safe at camp and 2. to get them in the habit of regularly checking. All of our kids are pretty good about this in their lives anyway, but it’s always good to think about other factors that could contribute to high or low blood sugars and do some preventative testing for that.

I think that camp this year went really well. It was a definitely adjustment being at Furman, but I think everyone really liked it. We had about the same number of kids who’ve been coming in the past years, but this year we had more kids with diabetes than before. I would love to see our camper numbers get back to about 50. One area where we struggle a little is getting the proper amount of medical staff in. So, if you know of any nurses, MDs, or PAs in the area who might be interested in attending, please pass along my contact information.

The kids really seemed to like most of our activities and participated really well in those. There are some activities that we’ll probably adjust for next year (no kids yoga and more swim time). Furman has a lot to offer us as a host camp, so I think we will keep Camp Independence there and continue to explore all of the activities that they offer.

Emily Wilson
Associate Manager, Programs
Central North Carolina
American Diabetes Association