Monday, February 25, 2008

We're Not In Italy?

Several years ago Dear Abby printed a letter from a mother whose child was born with Down’s syndrome. Mom said she was often asked what it was like raising a child with a disability and she said it was like planning a trip to Italy—learning the language, reading the brochures, boarding the plane to Italy, then unexpectedly landing in Holland.

Everyone around you is going to Italy and bragging about their special plans, and you mourn the fact that you don’t get to go to Italy too. However, if you spend all your time wishing you were in Italy, you will miss the natural beauty that surrounds you in Holland.

And why do I retell this story? Well, I can identify with that letter from that mom. When I was sixteen I had a VERY clear picture in my mind depicting what my life would look like. I would get married, I would be on stage performing in plays, I would have babies, they would grow up wonderful and perfect, they would get married and have babies, and we would all live happily ever after.

Thankfully, none of my three children were born with any kind of disability and in fact they were all born healthy, beautiful, smart, and strong. However, my life has not turned out the way I planned it. I planned my life’s trip early on and I surrounded myself with many friends with whom I planned to share the journey. Those friends and their families went to Italy without us while my family went to Holland.

My trip wasn’t always pretty. In fact, I’ve been to slums and ugly out of the way hovels. I’ve seen flowers and garbage, green grass and manure, blue skies and stormy darkness. I’ve been to places few of my friends have ever encountered. I have framed snapshots displayed on the many shelves in the many rooms of my memory and if anyone is interested I’ll share the high and low points of my trip so far.

Yeah, it’s sometimes hard to hear everyone around me talk about his or her joyous experiences in Italy. I’ve always wanted to go to Italy. But you know what? I’ve been to secret places they can only imagine. The scariest part of my excursion was when the kids got lost in a strange land. I didn’t think I’d find them and the locals were of no help at all! But in the end, the kids were found and we continue the journey together.

So…we’re not in Italy, but we’re traveling together. And the adventure continues.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Who let who do what?

Yesterday I had a late afternoon meeting with an adorable young woman from my church. She is mature beyond her years and has had much more responsibility thrust upon her than most adults her age - and she handles it beautifully. Anyway, she shared a quick story with me during our time together. We were talking about the judgmental nature of us human beings.

The other day my young friend was at a sports game with her husband. Since his son from a previous marriage was playing, the husband's ex-wife was there as well. At one point a few years ago, we attended the church at which the ex-wife is still involved. During a break in the game my friend was going over her calendar with her husband and she happened to mention the upcoming meeting with me. The ex-wife overheard this, leaned over to my friend and said, "Liz Stoeckel. Isn't she the woman who let her kids take drugs?". My friend said, "Don't talk to me", and that ended that.

Yeah. I "let" my kids take drugs. Doesn't every good mom? Honestly. What possesses people to say such completely ridiculous things? I'll tell you what I am not about to "let" my children do - I am not about to "let" them die and that's why I've stood by them every step of the way as they've fought to survive and recover.

I refuse to LET you beat me down.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

E Ticket Ride

So, one of the perks of having a family member working at Disneyland is getting into the park for free. Of course, Drew quit working there before we got to take advantage of that perk (kids are so selfish ☺ ). Anyway, even though he no longer works at the happiest place on Earth, Drew was still able to score a couple of park-hopper passes and he offered them to Tom and I. The Park Hopper Pass includes admission to Disneyland AND California Adventure. Friday night we headed down to L.A. and 6 ½ bumper-to-bumper hours later we arrived at The Hilton Hotel in Anaheim. Saturday morning we hooked up with Drew and we were excited about spending the entire day at the parks. We’d never been to California Adventure before and since this is my birthday weekend, this was a great gift.

Drew was supposed to meet us at 10:am, but it takes forever and a day to park and shuttle your way to the front gate, so it was closer to 11 by the time he got to us. That’s okay…we had the whole day. We decided to get in line for the Indiana Jones ride and even though the predicted wait time was 50 minutes, we were strapped to the jeep about 40 minutes after getting in line. While waiting in line Tom started feeling dizzy and was suffering from a bad case of vertigo. When the ride was over I realized he was sweating profusely and Drew and I became concerned. I called Tom’s step-mom who is a nurse practitioner, but when she didn’t answer I called Tom’s aunt who’s a nurse. She wanted him to head to the first aid station right away. Tom had a difficult time walking because of the vertigo so he had to hold on to Drew and me and we supported him.

The happiest place on Earth employees the happiest nurses on Earth and everyone agreed Tom should rest for a bit. Since Tom had had a few bouts of vertigo over the past several weeks, I had packed some medicine for the trip, but it was (of course) back at the hotel. Drew and I decided to walk back to the Hilton to get the medicine and get it back to Tom. Drew thought he knew a shortcut back to the hotel….he was wrong. What should have been a 15 minute walk turned into a 30 or 40 minute tour of all things Disney.

After getting the medicine back to Tom, Drew and I checked out a filmed historical retrospect of Disneyland starring Steve Martin and Donald Duck. We then checked out the 3D show, “Honey, I Shrunk The Audience”. Both movies were way fun! When we went back to First Aid to check on Tom we found that during the 2-½ hours he’d been resting his symptoms had not subsided and his blood pressure was higher. So, after getting a hold of and conferring with Tom’s step-mom, dad, and the happy nurses, all agreed Tom should be transported by ambulance to the hospital. Well, it’s always fun to ride something new at Disneyland and Tom had never ridden in an ambulance before ☺

I rode shotgun in the ambulance and chatted with the young paramedic about his job and his mishaps as a child. He apparently dropped a brick on his own head and set himself on fire when he was about 3. We hung out in the hallway of the emergency room (two paramedics, myself, and Tom who was strapped to the gurney) for a thankfully short time and then went into triage. It was determined that Tom should undergo a few tests to rule out heart attack or stroke.

After being visited by several more happy nurses and a doctor or two the worse case scenarios were ruled out, so I went to find Drew. Since only one of us at a time were allowed in the emergency room, Drew went in and I hung out in the waiting room. About 20 minutes later Drew came out to tell me they had a diagnosis. Basically, Tom had a blockage in his inner ear that had broken free and was causing an upset in the balance of fluids – which was causing the vertigo. The high blood pressure is still of some concern so Tom will have to keep an eye on that. Since Tom was okay, Drew went to work across the street at Virgin Records and I went back in to await his release.

About this time, victims from a car accident were bought into the trauma room and the staff left us to deal with the more pressing problems. Tom was eventually released and we made our way out to the waiting room to find that it was now dark outside. Disney has a system down and they handled everything beautifully. They sent a car for us, and within 20 minutes of Tom’s release we were being driven by Disney security back to the park – with instructions to stay OFF the rides. So…we grabbed something to eat (we were both starving), spent an hour walking around California Adventure (we had to at least see it) where we were treated to an interview with “Crush” the Turtle.

We were only in California Adventure for about an hour before the park closed and then we walked back over to Disneyland in time to watch the fireworks. Since we figured most of the guests were on Main Street watching the fireworks we would try to get on the revamped Submarine ride – now featuring “Finding Nemo” (that seemed like a tame enough ride for Tom). Well, the line to get on the ride was bout 6 miles long! So, we got on “Pirates of The Caribbean” which has been updated and now includes lines from the movies and several life-like and very creepy Johnny Depp likenesses!

Tom was exhausted at this point as the medicine he had been given was doin’ it’s thing. So, we walked back to the Hilton. All in all it was an ‘E’ ticket day ☺

By the way…Disney gave us three passes to use at Disneyland another time. Yay! So, we won’t be able to get into California Adventure for free next time around, but we’ll definitely get back to the main park sometime before 2008 ends.

Friday, February 1, 2008

22 1/2 years later

My 23-year-old son spoke with his bio-dad last week. Despite my hope that the past 22 1/2 years had changed him, I suspect there is little difference. He admitted to a 22-year addiction to cocaine - that can't be good for the body or brain! He says he's been clean and sober since 2004.

Well, the door has been opened. We'll see...