Take me home…

Every morning at FloydFest there were ukulele lessons for the kids in the Children’s Universe which we were camped right next to.  One morning they sang John Denver’s “Take me home, Country roads” and changed the words to “western Virginia” instead of West Virginia.  At the time the sang was written and when John Denver recorded it, none of the song writers had ever been to the area so they may as well have been singing about Southwest Virginia.

I never thought I would fall in love with a place the way I have fallen in love with that little corner of the world.  It was never my plan to live in the South.  I had been trying to move out west and not having any luck with employment when the job in Roanoke became available and I decided to take it.  Even then it wasn’t my plan to stay long.  I thought maybe it would be a stepping stone to a position out west.  Now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.  Well… I guess I could still see myself living out west.  So it must be the mountains.  I apparently need mountains.  But it’s more than the landscape.  I have grown to love the culture, and community.  I plan to move us back someday (hopefully sooner rather than later) and I’m torn between living in Roanoke (the convenience of a city, but still with a small town feel) or living out in the country where we could have same land.  One of my favorite “I’m bored at work” pastimes is looking up land and farms for sale in Floyd.

I jokingly refer to Annelise and I as Appalachian refugees, so our trips back each summer are more like homecomings than a vacation visit.  This year we were there for just over 10 days.  It’s never long enough.  I’m already trying to manipulate my schedule next summer to be there for a couple of weeks.  We never have time to visit all our old stomping grounds or see all our friends.  So if we missed you this time around, don’t worry we’ll be back.  I’m definitely planning a trip for winter break, and possibly a long weekend in the fall.

We left for Virginia right after I took my exam for my summer class.  Drove straight through and got into Virginia about 2 am.  Annelise was a great little traveler.  We only had to stop once in Ohio for gas, supper and a potty break.  She managed to stay awake until we crossed the Virginia state line.

Measuring to see how much Annelise has grown since last summer…


We spent the first couple of days in Roanoke trying to catch up with our friends.  First thing I did the morning after arriving was to  go for coffee at our favorite coffee place.  I was experiencing a bit of whiplash.  I had been going nonstop since January and I could finally sit still.  As I sat there sipping my coffee chatting with friends I had these waves of panic feeling like I should be doing something.  I wasn’t use to being able to just sit.

Of course our visit coincided with a heat wave.  Triple digits almost everyday.  So we sought relief in the water.  We spent a day at Smith Mountain Lake.  An urban canoe trip on the Roanoke River.  A morning playing in the Elmwood Park fountains.  And several trips to the Johnson-Deel pool (seriously the best kiddie pool in town).

Of course the highlight of our trip was FloydFest.  It’s always hard to write about FloydFest.  It’s something that needs to be experienced.  I hope we can continue making it part of our summer tradition for many more years.  This year the kids were a little more independent which always makes it easier on us parents.  There was a lot of talk this year about them having their own tent.  Annelise slept in it the first night and did fine, but I didn’t.  I kept getting up every few hours and going to check on her to make sure she was covered.  She spent the rest of the nights in my tent but everyday would drag her cot back to the kids tent.  They’d sit in there and talk about whatever preschoolers talk about.

Pictures are always better than words anyways so here’s some of the highlights this year.

Annelise was particularly drawn to stilt walking, juggling, and hooping.  At some point she may join a circus.  I bought her a Chinese Yo Yo which she has enjoyed trying to get to work and we brought home a set of block stilts so she can practice.

Leaving Virginia is always hard.  While we were there it began to feel like we had never left.  As I drove around town it just felt like we’ve always been there and that’s where we belong.  We got a later start than I had planned so we drove straight through the night.  Its been a long time since I’ve had to do that and the first time doing it without the dogs.  I always felt safe stopping for power naps in rest areas when  Izzy was with me.  I made it all the way into Michigan and to about three hours from home before I had to stop. Annelise was once again a great little traveler.  She slept most of the way and woke up at just the right time for me to get gas and a coffee refill.

I had to jump right back into work when I got back.  But I still had several weeks before classes started, so I kept my work hours at a minimum and we had some other adventures.

This trip confirmed in my mind that slowing down and waiting another year before nursing school is the right decision.  Annelise and I seemed to have disconnected.  This trip made me realize how much I missed this past year while I was working out of town and taking classes.  We just weren’t in sync like we use to be.  At times I almost feel like I was  already dealing with a teenager.  Things have been a little better since we’ve been home and we reconnected on a trip we took to Wisconsin the week after we got back from Virginia.  She’s growing up, I want to hold on to these moments as long as I can.

One Year in…

In the year that we’ve been in Michigan, I’ve gained 15 lbs, my hair is going gray and I’ve turned into a coffee drinker. I’ve completely transformed into a frumpy old lady.  I am not at all happy.  I tried really hard to write this post with out coming out and saying how unhappy I am but there’s really no way around it, and I don’t think anyone who’s talked to me in the past year is at all surprised that I’m not exactly loving my life here in Michigan.

I don’t regret coming back to Michigan.  There have been a lot of days when I have questioned that decision because for me life hasn’t gotten better.   But now my lack of sleep and lack of money is due to school and not just trying to support my little family.  The stress I’m experiencing now is temporary.  I didn’t see an end to our difficult situation in Virginia, so its still the right decision but living it day to day is very difficult.

I believe that ultimately I am responsible for my own happiness.  Two little phrases keep popping into my head whenever I try to solve my unhappiness problem.  The first one is “If you don’t like where you are move… you’re not a tree.”  Ah… if only it were that easy.  Returning to Virginia wasn’t in our original plan.  When we packed up the house I gave my piano away, and as John was loading it on the truck he said, “We’ll hold onto it until you come back.”   I felt that was extremely optimistic.  I wasn’t planning to be back.  Our move to Michigan was suppose to be permanent.  But after a month of being in Michigan I decided I belonged in Virginia and all my decisions since have been geared toward getting us back as fast as I can.

I miss my community.  Since I didn’t have much of a social life in Virginia anymore I thought I would be okay moving to Michigan.  I thought it wouldn’t matter if I did nothing in Virginia or if I did nothing in Michigan.  Only after leaving did I realize how much the Roanoke community was a part of my life.  Sure, I never made plans anymore more and I missed a lot of big events since having Annelise, but the community was woven into my life. I didn’t necessarily need to make plans, wherever I went there would be friends.  If I went for coffee in the mornings, I could pretty much guarantee running into someone I knew.  If there was a band playing I wanted to hear, I’d just go and know some of my friends would be there.  I don’t have that here.

I also miss being among like minded individuals.  I’m a non-christian, pro-choice, liberal, feminist.  To almost everyone around me, even my family, I’m the enemy.  While they would probably not consider me an enemy the fact that they are fighting against everything I am fighting for puts us on opposite sides of just about everything.  For the most part we just avoid controversial subjects, but I have some acquaintances and coworkers who aren’t afraid to let me know just how wrong I am; my daughter is against God’s plan, raising her without religion is akin to child abuse, and I’m not going to be an effective nurse because without God I will be incapable of showing compassion (yep, someone actually said that to me).  Since moving to Michigan I’ve spent a lot of time crying in bathrooms.

So I don’t like where I am.  I’m not a tree, I can move.   But I can’t.  This is where I need to be right now.

The other little phrase that keeps popping into my head is “Bloom where you’re planted.”  That’s not so easy either.  In order to bloom here I need to put down some roots, that’s going to make it harder to move.  Ever since I decided that we would go back to Virginia as soon as I finished school, I’ve been in a mad dash to get done.  The week in between winter and spring semester I came to the realization that this mad dash might not be worth it.  I was communicating with my daughter via Facetime because I was working so much.  I missed her.  I missed being a parent.  My parents sort of took that over while I was working and going to school.  It was my mom that was getting her dressed, fixing her meals and putting her to bed at night when I wasn’t there and it felt like I was away more than I was home.  When I was there between shifts and classes I was studying.  She’d curl up in a chair in my room because she wanted to be near me, and that was our life.  I didn’t like it.  So I decided to slow down.

We’ve moved into an apartment.  While I appreciate my parents help, I want to be the one raising my daughter.  I’m not going to GVSU this fall.  I’ll go back to MCC.  I need one class (possibly two if I need to retake Chemistry) to get into their nursing program.  In the spring and summer I’ll take the last two classes I need for the Grand Valley BSN program and then decide whether to go straight for my BSN or get my ADN at MCC first.  That puts us in Michigan at least a year longer than I had planned.

I’m not thrilled about it.  There’s a lot of anxiety.  I feel like by slowing down I’m conceding and now we’ll never leave and I’ll be stuck here forever.  But if I slow things down maybe I’ll find the time to build some sort of life here and then I won’t be so unhappy.  I’ll be closer to bike trails so I can ride more and this winter I can teach Annelise to ski.  Maybe if I get out more I’ll meet more people and build a community here.  I think having our own space and feeling more in control of our lives is going to help (I’m a control freak, have I ever mentioned that?).  I’m not happy about being in an apartment.  I swore she’d always have a house, with a yard and a dog.  You know… all those things we use to have before we moved.  Of course we still have Kikapu, but she’s more of a cat.  Annelise wants a dog that will run with her.

So that’s me at a year into our Michigan adventure; exhausted, stressed out, and unhappy, but attempting to make the best of it.  Annelise on the other hand is doing great.  For the past year she’s had every kid’s dream… to live at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  She’s excited about our new adventure in apartment living.  As we were walking up to the building the other day she said, “Lots of people live here.  They’re our neighbors and some of them will be our friends.”  While her mother is a pessimist, she is an optimist.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the things she’s done this past year…


Asparagus festival, swimming lessons and Dirt Dawgs.



Country Dairy, Lewis’ Farm Market and Floyd Fest.



County Fair, and Pentwater Homecoming.  First trip to the dentist.



The start of school and a trip to the zoo.



More Lewis fun and Halloween.



Baking banana bread with Grandma, and Thanksgiving at Aunt Sara’s.



Grandpa was installed as President of the West Michigan Fire Chiefs and of course Christmas!



Finally some snow and a happy Birthday.



A Valentine’s Date to the Brown Bear and trip to VA to celebrate John Henry’s Birthday.



The last of the snow, the first signs of spring and lots of long days watching Netflix’s while I study.



Bike riding and tree planting.



Mother’s Day, saying good-bye and a garden.

Saying Good-bye to my First Girl

Isolda Vom Lawson

I need to start by apologizing.  I sometimes forget that there are some of you that followed me over from my other blog and we don’t actually know each other in real life so my last post might have been confusing.  We said good-bye to Izzy in May.  She had been sick for awhile and I finally made the decision to let her go.

It was not an easy decision to make and one I had been dreading since before I even brought her room.  I remember a few days after getting the news that she had been born thinking about the life we’d have together and realizing that as a dog she would not out live me and I would have to eventually say good-bye.  The thought depressed me.  She actually lived longer than I expected.  I was told her life expectancy would be somewhere between 10 to 12 years.  She died just two months shy of 13.

She had been sick for awhile, probably longer than I realized.   I began to notice a decline right about the time we moved and initially I blamed it on that.  I thought the stress was having an effect on her and while it probably was I now realize she was probably sick before we moved but I just hadn’t noticed yet.  As soon as we got to Michigan I took her in to a local vet for a check up and to establish a relationship with them.  One of the first obvious indicators that something was wrong was that she was having accidents, not incontinence but she couldn’t hold her bowel movements.  And she had several horrible bouts of diarrhea.  Her digestive system has always been sensitive to change and she can get sick easily so at first I blamed the nervousness of the move.  But it didn’t improve and she began loosing weight.  Before getting sick she weighted around 55 lbs.  She dropped to 38 lbs within a few months of being in Michigan.

Last summer she also developed a tremor in her hind leg.  It grew increasingly worse and I began to notice that sometimes her back legs would drag and she wouldn’t jump anymore.  Her ability to use her hind legs rapidly decreased.  At a vet appointment in December reflex tests suggested significant nervous system damage and an ultrasound found a mass in her bladder.  We could surmise that she had cancer but without further testing we would not know for sure.  I could have taken her to MSU had her put under, opened up, and then put her through chemo. But she was an old dog and I didn’t know how many good years, if any, it would add to her life.  And I didn’t have the finances for that.  I decided to treat the pain, and keep her as comfortable as possible for as long as I could.  We would watch the mass in her bladder because if it grew to the point she couldn’t pass urine she would only have about 24 hours and she would be in a lot of pain.  When we went away in February I was afraid something would happen while I was gone and I wouldn’t be able to get back to her in time.

There were several times between December and May when I thought it was time and I was going to have to make the decision to have her put to sleep only to have her rebound after a couple of days.  Izzy was very stoic so it was hard to tell how much pain she was in.  She would still run to meet me whenever I came home and would gallop through the house because she was excited.  She would still play fetch as long as I was willing to throw the ball.  It was hard to think that she was sick enough for me to be considering putting her down.

But the bad days started to be more frequent.  And the bad days got worse.  There were times when I’d have to carry her up and down the stairs to our bedroom.  She wasn’t able to get up on the bed anymore and so I brought Annelise’s old crib mattress up and put it next to my bed.  On nights I wasn’t home my parents said she would often just stay on the main level and not attempt to go up to my room.  My mom also commented that when I’m not there she would just lay in her bed, that the excitement and galloping through the house was for me.  She was probably in a lot more pain that she was showing.

At the end of April she started to have a hard time moving around.  I was having to carry her up the stairs more frequently.  In the last few days I had put a gate across the stairs so that she wouldn’t attempt to follow me every time I went up or down.  And then one afternoon she fell trying to go up the stairs.  She had lost almost all use of her back legs.  She couldn’t even pull herself up from a sitting position.  In the weeks before this I could tell she was getting very near the end.  I just wasn’t ready to say good-bye yet.  I was at the end of a very stressful semester where I had been too busy to do anything other than work and study.  I wanted more time with her.  I didn’t want to try to squeeze saying good-bye in between class and work.  But the day she fell on the stairs I knew that might be it.  There are two steps that she needs to make in order to get in and out of the house.  Even when she couldn’t make the entire flight of stairs up to the second level she could still take those two steps and now she couldn’t.  I needed to carry her in and out of the house.  Due to her issues with bladder and bowel control she was going out almost every hour (and was having more accidents in the house).  My mother wasn’t going to be able to lift her and I couldn’t always be there.  If she couldn’t get in and out of the house on her own, I knew that it was time.  When I went to bed that night I prayed that in the morning she’d rebound and I could put it off a few more weeks.  But she didn’t and I knew it was time.

I told my parents and Annelise that today would be the day and then called the vet on my way to class.  They scheduled us for the last appointment of the day.  We were some what prepared.  I had already made arrangements with my sister to have her buried on their property and Annelise and I had been having almost nightly talks about what was going to happen to Izzy so this was not a shock or surprise to her.

After I got home from class I spent the rest of the day with Izzy.  Sitting with her when she didn’t have the energy to get up or playing a very labored game of fetch.  I let her eat all the things she had not been allowed to eat before, she looked at me rather suspiciously when I gave her chocolate cake.  And then when it was time my parents and Annelise said their good byes and we headed to the vet.  I made arrangements with them to meet me outside.  I didn’t want to take her into the building because I was afraid it would make her nervous and I didn’t want her to be afraid at the end.

There was a field out behind the building where we played fetch.  Her spirit was so strong right up until the end.  Which I think made it harder for me.  I think she would have continued to fight for as long as I needed her to but it was becoming very obvious that she was in pain.  Adrenaline kept her going for a little while, but the last few times I threw the ball she brought it back using only her front legs to drag her body across the field. She’d drop it in front of me and look up as if to say “throw it again.”  The vet came out and gave her a sedative, then I threw it a few more times while the drug kicked in before we moved to van where I had set up her bed.  I held her while she fell asleep and then the vet came back and gave her the lethal dose.  I held her and could feel as her heart slowed down and then stopped.

During the day my sister, Charity, had gone out and dug a hole at the back of their property.  My dad met me out there and together we buried her.  Then I sat down and drank a beer and said good-bye.  I stayed by her grave until it started to get dark and then I headed home.

A week later Annelise and I painted rocks and took them out to Izzy’s grave with some flowers.  This was Annelise’s first experience with death.  It has been confusing for her.  She knows that Izzy had to leave our family because she was old and sick but she couldn’t understand where she was going or more accurately that she was just going to be gone.  We talked a lot about the “circle of life” (thank you Disney) and how every life has a beginning and an ending.  And that when someone dies they can’t be with us anymore (thank you Bambi and Little Foot).  When I took Annelise to the grave and told her that’s were Izzy was, she looked at me and said, “Are you sure?  Because I don’t hear her barking.”  Trying to explain that Izzy was gone and only her body was buried was a little too much for her to grasp.

We’re all adjusting to life without her.  It was another week after that when I think it really hit Annelise that she was gone.  We had been playing at the Children’s Museum and there was a stuffed dog that reminded her of Izzy.  She didn’t want to leave it behind and became inconsolable as we left.  When I got her into the car in between sobs she said, “I just have so many feelings.”  I told her feeling sad and crying about it was okay.  So she cried the entire way home.  She still lists Izzy among are family members, but will add, “but she’s not with us anymore.”

I think Kikapu is confused, because of course I can’t explain it to her.  For several days I could tell she was looking for Izzy.  Whenever I would take her outside she’d bark and wait for a reply.  She’s gotten more clingy.  She’s started following me around the way Izzy use to.  Nights were hard at first.  She couldn’t figure out where to sleep since she has always slept near Izzy.  She kept trying to get into bed with me, but I wasn’t go to fall for that.  I think she’s adjusting and in her own way attempting to fill in for Izzy.  She’s become a lot more “protective.”  She still won’t actually do anything other than make a lot of noise, but she tries.

I still feel like she should be here.  Malinois are “velcro dogs” they pick their person and stick to them like velcro.  I was her person.  She was never more than a few feet a way from me.  After being together for over a decade I’d grown accustom to moving in such away that I didn’t trip over her when I turned or changed directions.  I find myself still moving in that pattern and then realizing that she’s not there to bump into.  I still expect a nose to push open the bathroom door when I’m trying to pee or push on my elbow as I’m trying to type.  Tonight I noticed one of her tennis balls is still sitting on the patio, just waiting for her to pick it up and come drop it in front of me.  I’m often overwhelmed by a sudden panic thinking I’ve left her somewhere or she’s out there somewhere and needs me.  I’m sure that feeling will go away with time. But for now I miss her.

Our last photo together…


The last picture I took during our last game of fetch…



Some pictures of Izzy over the years…





Remembering Izzy

July 20, 2007…


How time flies. It’s hard to believe that Izzy is four years old today. So I’m taking a break from bike talk to switch to dog talk and share pictures of my baby. I’m also feeling a little guilty. I had to drop her off at the kennel this afternoon. It’s her birthday and I sent her there for the weekend. She doesn’t know it’s her birthday though, and she get treats when she comes home Sunday.

I got Izzy when she was eight weeks old. When I decided to get a dog, I spent about six months researching breeds and trying to decide what kind to get. I was taking it very serious, because it was almost a test for me. I’m selfish, have major commitment issues, and a short attention span. I couldn’t keep plants alive, and had gone through several cats, reptiles, and fish already. I couldn’t seem to keep an animal around for greater than a year. I’d lose interest and find it a new home. I was worried that someday I’d have kids, and then decide I really didn’t want them (I know that sounds horrible, but I was really concerned about it). I decided I’d start with a dog and see how I did.

I decided on a Dutch Shepherd after seeing one as a police dog. I contacted a kennel that had listed a litter of Dutch Shepherd puppies. They had sold all their dutch shepherds, but were expecting a litter of Dutch Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mixed puppies. I gave them a deposit and had first pick of the females.

Izzy was the only female in the litter. That was probably a good thing, because I also have a very difficult time making decisions. She was mine. A couple of weeks before I got her I received an email from the kennel telling me how she was growing and what she was like. They said she was bold, and was already starting to dominate the males in the litter. I began to wonder if bold was a nice way of saying I had a naughty dog. I guess she tested really well, and I think they were disappointed that she wasn’t going to be trained as a police dog. Her brothers were going to be trained and sold as police dogs.

Her full name is Isolda Vom Lawson. She’s named after the Irish Legend that Wagner based his Opera “Tristan & Isolde” on. (I have one dog named after an Opera and one named after a bike, I’m very diverse). Her official name needed to begin with an “I” because she was part of the “I” litter. It worked out perfect because I had already picked her name before I contacted them. I almost changed it to Isabel, because they flew her out of North Carolina right before Hurricane Isabel hit. I was afraid they wouldn’t get her out in time and I’d have to wait to get her. She arrived in Detroit 12 hours after leaving North Carolina. They flew her to Texas first and then to Michigan. I think she was very traumatized. When I finally got her and pulled her out of her crate, she started howling and wanted nothing to do with me. I felt horrible. I thought, “What have I done, I’ve made a mistake, I have a dog that hates me.” She continued to howl almost the entire way back to Grand Rapids. She finally calmed down when I let her sit on the seat next me instead of in the crate.

These are some pictures from her first night. She was so tiny.

Bold was a nice way of saying naughty. Izzy has been very challenging to say the least. After initially hating me, she now has severe separation anxiety whenever she’s away from me. She’s had some behavior issues. Two years ago I resorted to consulting an Animal Behaviorist (Doggy Psychologist). She’s very smart, and the behaviorist said that she had done a good job of training me. I had to make some changes, and she went on a hunger strike for a week. But I eventually won, and over the past couple of years she’s been doing a lot better, especially this past year. I think she’s finally growing up and slowing down a little, making her easier to control.


Here are some more pictures I dug up:

She had her own couch. She destroyed it and I had to put it on the curb this past winter. She went crazy when the garbage truck took it. I had to laugh.

She loves being in the woods. When she was a puppy she fell in a creek and for a long time hated water, I had to bribe her the first time she went in. Now she loves it.

All grown up. She looks all Belgian Malinois. The only thing she got from her Dutch Shepherd mother was her size. She’s a little on the small size for a Belgian Malinois, only about 50 lbs.


Hanging out with her little sister. I got Kikapu (named after my first mountain bike), on the advice of the doggy psychologist. Having a second dog has helped with some of Izzy’s anxiety. 

This is a picture from a camping trip last fall. Kikapu hated it. Izzy loved it, although she panicked whenever I tried to leave the campsite without her. She’s a little over protective, which has come in handy. I don’t worry about anyone coming through my front door. One night a strange guy knocked on my door in the middle of the night. I let Izzy slip through to the screen door and he quickly decided he had the wrong house.



April, 11, 2011…

I is for…


Did you really think I’d have anything else to say about I.

I’ve written about Izzy before and if you want to know how she came to be with me you can find it here.

I was trying to find pictures of her as a puppy that I haven’t used before.  I got her before I had a digital camera.  So I scanned a couple of pages from her puppy book.  Yes, my dogs have puppy books much like baby books.

I have a special bond with Izzy.  I think every one who is a dog person has a special bond with their first dog.  Izzy has taught me a lot.  If you remember I got Izzy because I thought I needed practice in case I might want kids someday.  Well I’ve managed to keep her alive for almost 8 years, although she did require therapy at one point.
We’ve come a long way together.  From the beginning when getting her to do anything was a struggle, until now when all I have to do is give her a command and she does it.  I remember when she was about a year old trying to give her a bath and really struggling.  She was not going to let me groom her.  She fought and I cried and wondered if she was just going to have to be smelly her entire life because I couldn’t get her under control to bathe her.  Now all I have to do is say Izzy it’s time for a bath, go get in the tub and she does it.  She doesn’t particularly like it but she does it, and she’ll stand in there until I tell her she can get out.
Meal times use to be a power struggle and she once went a week without eating just to avoid submitting to me.  In the beginning I wondered if I would ever be able to leave the house for more than 2 hours, and then I wondered if I would ever be able to leave the house and come home without everything being destroyed.  I’ve lost track of everything she’s destroyed but the short list is, 2 TV remotes, a heart rate monitor, one pair of cycling shoes, a pair of glasses, a cell phone, several books, CDs and DVDs, and too many bike shorts to even try to count.  I remember coming home to find she had eaten the chamois out of my favorite shorts.  I locked myself in the bedroom and cried.  Granted I left them where she could get them.  I was just so frustrated and really didn’t think I would ever be able to leave the house without first Izzy proofing it.  Thankfully those days are behind us.  I don’t even think twice about putting things up anymore.  She knows what’s hers and what’s mine.
She’s my first girl.  I know there will be others.  There’s already Kikapu.  But I’m sure there will be more dogs in my life.  One day after she was born, but before she was with me I was thinking about her and was so excited that I was getting her when it dawned on me that one day I would lose her.  Barring some great misfortune I will out live her.  I was instantly saddened.  I’ve thought about that a lot lately.  We have less years together ahead of us than are behind us.  She’s slowing down.  I can see it in her play.  She wears out faster, takes longer to recover and spends more time sleeping.  I sometimes feel guilty because when she was this insane overly hyper puppy all I wished for was for her to get old and slow down.
She’s still my girl.  She still hikes and rides with me.  She still loves to play fetch.  It’s her favorite thing in the world.  I’ve been taking more time to cuddle with her, although she hasn’t been much of a cuddler since she was a puppy, that’s sort of been Kikapu’s job.  But every now and then she’ll push Kikpu out of the way, sit down next to me and put her head in my lap.  She’s such a sweet girl.


July 20, 2011…

My First Girl

Eight years ago tonight I got the email that Izzy was born. Her full name is Isolda Vom Lawson, but she goes by Izzy. 

Here’s a picture of Izzy less than 24 hours old…

And a more recent picture…

If you’re curious about how Izzy joined our little family I wrote a blog post about it on her fourth birthday which I realized today was half her lifetime ago. You can find it here.

If you’ve read either of my blogs it’s pretty obvious that my dogs are more than just pets.  When I decided to add a little two legged member to the family I knew that my relationship with them would change, and it actually brought a little bit of sadness especially as I thought of Izzy.  She’s my girl.  We’ve been through a lot together.  She’s been my protector, comforter and best friend.  She’s also broken me in and prepared me for motherhood. 

Our relationship has changed.  Prior to getting her everything I read about her breed said that you should have experience with owning dogs before getting one, this breed is not meant for first time dog owners.  I thought I could handle it.  We barely survived puppyhood.  I remember once when she was just over a year old locking myself in the bedroom and crying while she sat outside the door whining.  She destroyed everything (that day it was a new pair of cycling shorts), she wouldn’t do anything I told her, she tried to attack anyone who came near us, and going to the dog park was out because she beat up all the other dogs.  It took a lot of patience, and a lot of training, but now she is a wonderful obedient dog.  I never imagined we’d get to the point we’re at now.

A couple of months ago I was giving her a bath, something that use to be an extremely traumatic experience and would typically have me in tears and now is as simple as Izzy go get in the tub it’s time for a bath (and she really will do it), while I was rinsing her off she slipped and feel down.  It reminded me of something that would happen to an “old” person.  I suddenly realized not only is she not a puppy anymore, she’s not even a young dog, she’s considered a senior.

Her life expectancy is only 10 – 12 years.  Today she turned 8.  While that thought made me sad it also made me realize something else, my child will not remember her.  By the time my baby is old enough to form long term memories, Izzy will be gone.  There will be pictures and stories, but to my child Izzy will be the dog my mom had before I was born.  It makes me sad that s/he will not have a relationship with the dog that basically prepared me for them.

There will be other dogs.  When Izzy turns 10 I’ll get another Dutch Shepherd/Belgian Malinois.  I will probably always have a “Bigdog.”  But there will never be another Izzy.  Right now I focus on the time I get to spend with her, enjoying every hike, every cuddle on the couch.  I know in several months things will change drastically.  I’m excited for her to meet the baby, she’s always loved kids and been good with them.  I’ll cherish the time they get to spend together.  And when she’s gone I’ll make sure my child knows how special she was and how she helped turn me into a mama.

August 25, 2014…


How long do you look for something that is lost?

Does the length of time indicate how much you care?  As in you look for things you care about longer than those you don’t.  Or does the likelihood of finding it dictate the length of the search as in you’ll look longer for something you’ll likely find because the odds are eventually you will and you don’t spend much time looking for something that you’re unlikely to find because its wasted effort, like the needle in the hay stack?

But what if what’s lost is unlikely to be found but of great value?  Is the search worth it even if its futile?

I began mulling this over about a month ago when we lost the thing that is most dear to Annelise, her Boo.  She has a security blanket she calls “Boo.”  The term “Boo” evolved from blue blanket and there is an entire story that goes with the “Boos” there is more than one (they’re not all blue) and they each have their purpose.  But this was the special, go everywhere with her Boo.  Because I made Boo, I was somewhat prepared for it with a back up Boo waiting in the wings.

It was one of my days off and I needed to go grocery shopping but I also wanted it to be a fun day for Annelise.  We made a plan to go to the park in the morning followed by the grocery store and then home for a late lunch and nap.  We had fun at the park.  She played.  I carried Boo and her water bottle.  We drove to the grocery store and on our way across the parking lot Annelise pointed out the “Baby store” which is what she calls Once Upon a Child. (Probably because of all the baby equipment out in front of the store).  It’s in the same shopping plaza and she wanted to go in so we did.  We looked through some of the clothes, then the shoes and finally the books, games and puzzles.  Then we left and walked down the sidewalk to the grocery store.  As I picked her up to set her in the cart I noticed she didn’t have Boo.  I checked my purse, sometimes she hands Boo to me to put in my bag/purse if she wants to use her hands.  It wasn’t there.  We immediately went back to OUAC and searched all the areas we had been in.  I asked at the counter if it had been turned in but we had no luck we didn’t find it.  I left my number and a description and they said they would call if they found it.  They asked if I was sure she lost it there and I said “Yes, she walked in with it.”  Because she always had it with her.  If she doesn’t as soon as I buckle her seat beat she asks for it (I’ve had to return to the house on several occasions or risk tears by leaving it behind).  Her car seat and bed are the two places she won’t be without her blanket.

We continued with our day.  I tried to explain as gently as I could that Boo was lost and that “new Boo” (the term for the back up Boo) would be her Boo now.  But as we drove home and had lunch I began to wonder how certain I was that she had walked in the store with it.  Had we left it at the park?  I had been carrying it with the water bottle and the water bottle had made it back to the van. 

It nagged at me.  So I packed her up and drove back to the park.  I didn’t tell her why because she seemed to be taking the loss of Boo fairly well.  I looked around and didn’t find it so we returned home.

I checked in with the store the next day and they still hadn’t found it.  Annelise settled in with new Boo, occasionally commenting that old Boo was lost, but I was having a difficult time letting it go.  I just had this nagging feeling that I hadn’t done enough to find it. I should have gone through every rack of clothing not just the areas we had been in.   I should have returned to the park immediately after noticing it was missing instead of finishing our shopping.  I should have gone through the trash bins at the park.  

I felt heartbroken that this item that was so special was just gone and that we had stopped looking.  Annelise has moved on.  She’s stopped call new Boo “new.”  It’s just Boo now.  There’s another new Boo waiting in the wings in case something happens to this Boo.  Annelise watched me knit it and would occasionally comment on old Boo being lost.

One am Sunday night/Monday morning I again found myself contemplating the time we dedicate to searching for something.  I was slowly driving my van up and down the street as the search for my missing dog stretched into its third hour.  The same street I had already been down several times.  First on foot then by bike and now by car.  I had been down every street in the area several times with no sign of Izzy.

She’s gone missing before.  Last time she was gone for 12 hours.  That time I had found her the way you find anything, via the Internet.  I put a plea on Facebook, it got shared and someone noticed a dog loose that could possibly be her.  I got a call but wasn’t too hopeful because it was a ways from our house, but headed in that direction anyway.  As I neared the area there she was trotting down the road cakes in mud and extremely exhausted.

You’d think that since she’d been lost and found before, I’d feel confident that she’d again find her way home.  But I wasn’t.  I remembered a statistic I had read when she was lost the first time about how only 20% of animals are found. Can you really get lucky twice? (I have since learned that statistic is misleading, only 20% of animals in shelters are reunited with their owners.  That statistic for all lost animals being found is somewhere between 60% and 70%).  

And while this disappearance started the same as the last, going after a rabbit when I let her out for the last time before bed, this situation was also very different.  She was five years older.  She was now a senior dog.  I didn’t know if she could take it physically.  I didn’t know how far she would have to travel back after she realized she had gone too far.  And would she even be able to find her way back?  We were on vacation.  We’d been at my parents for almost two weeks.  We’d taken daily walks through the neighborhood but would she know how to find her way back?  Would her instinct to get home cause her to try to head for Virginia?

As soon as she took off and I realizes that simply calling to her wouldn’t bring her back, I returned to the house to dress (I was already for bed) and start a search.  When I realized she’d gone beyond our block I went back for my bike.  I rode in a grid pattern street by street calling to her.  A police officer and another late night biker joined in, but the officer went off duty and the cyclist went home, so offer a couple of hours it was just me.

I literally rode every street in town (it is a small town) at least once.  What lay beyond the town was open fields.  About 1 am I returned to my parents house and then headed out again in my van.  I was losing hope at this point.  I had called her name up and down every street and she hadn’t come.  I worried she was beyond the city trotting through on of the fields trying to find something familiar. Or worse that she had been struck by a car on one of the roads leading out of town.  I knew that if she was able she would try to find her way back, but would it be to my parents house or would she attempt the trek home?  And what if she wasn’t able?  What if she had been found and take in and the person didn’t want to call because it was late?  What if she had lost her collar?  What if she was injured?  What if someone had grabbed her and hurt her (I had just read a story in the local paper about someone being arrested for killing a dog)?  There were so many what ifs?  

I’d already cried, prayed and begged.  When I returned to my parents to get my keys to switch from the bike to the van I slipped into Annelise’s room and because she seems to have a special connection to the Universe, when I kissed her forehead and saw her eyelids flutter I told her to tell the Universe that we needed Izzy to come home.

As I retraced my grid search in the van I wondered what I would tell Annelise in the morning.  How would I break the news that Izzy was lost?  I started to make plans for what I would do in the morning.  I would again turn to Facebook but my reach wouldn’t be as great, I only had a few friends in town but hopefully they would share it.  I’d check with the shelters.  I’d make posters.  I scanned my phone to see if I had a usable picture.  I hoped someone would find her and call the numbers on her tags.  I was thankful that many, many years ago I had thought to include my parents’ number on her tag.  And if her collar was lost I hoped that she would be taken somewhere where her chip would be scanned.

By 1:30 I was running out of city streets.  

The last time she was lost something else happened.

I’d stopped looking.

I’d searched the neighborhood and when I hadn’t found her I reasoned that if she could come back she would have.  Someone must have taken her in.  I returned home, took enough Ambien to knock myself out and slept with the door open in case she wandered back.  In the morning I placed a Craigslist ad, called animal control, hung signs and posted to Facebook.  But she hadn’t been taken in.  She had been out all night.  I never forgave myself.

So this time I would keep looking.  When I ran out of streets I’d venture a little further out increase my search area.  I’d drive around all night.  Not because I thought I would find her but because she deserved to be looked for.  

I had two more streets to go when I turned a corner and saw an animal about a block up.  I tried not to get my hopes up.  I had run into numerous stray cats and one dog that looked like he might be lost, but wouldn’t let me get close enough to read his collar.  But as I got behind her I saw that it was my girl.  The lights scared her and she ran.  I jumped out of the van and yelled to her.  She stopped but didn’t come to me.  I realized that the lights were probably washing me out.  I got back in the van, turned off the lights, opened the sided door and slowly rolled up to her.  As soon as she recognized me (or the van) she jumped in and we headed home.

I seriously hope that is the last time I ever have to look for Izzy. I didn’t allow her to be off leash the rest of our trip.  If she keeps her disappearance interval at once every 5.5 years we should be good.  She’s 11.  Her life expectancy is 10 – 12.  She’s in her twilight years.  While I was riding around looking for her I decided she would spend all those years with me.  There has been some thoughts and discussions in the past about rehoming the dogs, especially Izzy.  My life would be easier without her.  She limits where we can live so I pay higher than normal rent.  Vacationing is hard, simply going away for a day is hard.  And she sheds, all over my house.

While she scares off the occasional random stranger in the night, for the most part I don’t need her anymore.  When put that way it sounds very harsh.  But my purpose in getting a dog and the need that was meet by her are no longer there.  She did her job and now she deserves to spend the rest of her life in comfort with the only family she knows.  While I was looking for her I also realized I need those years with her.  I need to know how her story ends and to be with her when it does.  If I had not found her the not knowing would haunt me.

Thankfully I don’t have to explain to Annelise that Izzy is lost.  Another Izzy wouldn’t be as easy to knit as a new Boo.  After the search, I slipped back into Annelise’s room gave her another kiss and thanked her for telling the Universe that we still need Izzy.  She woke up the next morning, helped me get Izzy and Kikapu’s breakfast like she does and never knew it could have been a very different type of morning.

Annelise with her Boo…

and her Izzy.

Waiting for Mother’s Day

In addition to Mother’s Day. The month of May always holds a lot of “mommy” milestones for me. It was on Cinco de Mayo after a lot of margaritas that I decided to stop thinking and actually do something about becoming a parent. Annelise was conceived in May and I found out I was going to be a mom in May. So the month of May brings a lot of somewhat nostalgic thoughts about becoming a Mother.

One of the first things I did after decided to pursue motherhood was to start blogging about it. I’ve always used writing as a way to process my thoughts and was already blogging about cycling, so it just made sense to start another, much more anonymous, blog about my journey to motherhood. Through that blog I was able to connect with other women who were also pursuing motherhood while single.

It’s been six years since I started that blog. Over the years I’ve connected with many SMC bloggers, but there have been a core group of us that have continued to stay connected. We’ve seen each other through a lot. From wishing and hoping to trying and succeeding. The positive pregnancy tests, the negative pregnancy tests, losses, and adoptions. We’ve also seen each other through life beyond the pursuit of motherhood, through relationship struggles, job losses, illness, death of loved ones and big moves. The majority of us are now parenting, some to more than one. We don’t blog as much if at all. We’re busy raising our babies. Over the years we’ve revealed our real life identities and are now connecting in other ways.

Today I’d like to focus on one of my blogging friends, Kristina. She’s been with us through all of our success but motherhood has still alluded her. That is not an easy position to be in, watching your circle move on to parenting while you’re still waiting. Our conversations have become more about the struggles of parenting than about the struggles of conceiving. It would be easy to feel out of place and withdraw but she has hung in with us and always with a positive attitude, fully supporting us in our parenting struggles.

Kristina has been pursuing motherhood for over a decade. Both on her own and with a partner. Most recently she is once again trying on her own after having to choose between a relationship that didn’t have parenting in its future and her desire to become a mother. And I can tell you finding yourself in that situation is special kind of hell. But once you’re on the other side of that you know that becoming a mother is something you have to do.

Kristina has chosen to use donor embryos to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother. She is working with California Concepts, which is a donor embryo program that provides three attempts to become pregnant with healthy embryos.  They are donated by people who used IVF to create their families but have remaining embryos after their family is complete.  It’s essentially adoption from conception.

The program cost $12,000 for all three attempts, which if you’re familiar with the cost of IVF is a bargain, but still a lot of money. This is why I’m sharing her story with you. She has set up a fund raising account to raise half of the money needed for this program. Infertility can be very costly and many procedures are not covered by insurance. Often people are shamed into not seeking financially help because of the idea that if you can’t afford to get pregnant you can’t afford to have them. But seriously if you had to pay several thousand dollars every time you even tried to get pregnant how many kids would you have? I went into debt having Annelise. We want Kristina to be able to start her family without a lot of debt so I’m sharing her story in the hopes that you might consider making a donation to help meet her goal.  Give up your coffee for a week and donate the money to her.  You’ll sleep better without all that caffeine and when next Mother’s Day rolls around you’ll know that you helped fulfill  someones dream and made that day very special for them.

Help Kristina reach her Dream of Motherhood.

waiting for mothers day



Back to School (Mommy Edition)

Ever since I did Annelise’s back to school post I’ve wanted to post a little bit about what its like to go back to school.  Now that I’m almost through with my second semester I guess it’s time to share my insights.

To catch you up on what I’m doing…  I’m working toward a Nursing degree.  I did a lot of contemplating about whether to go straight for a BSN through a second degree program or going to a community college and become an RN, start working and then work on my BSN.  I decided to go the route of BSN because if I get into the program I’ll be done sooner than if I did the community college RN route.  The biggest draw back to that is that the program is competitive and I may not get in and if I do I’ll need to go full time for a little over a year, which will be more difficult and also more expensive (GVSU vs Community College).

I was initially leaning toward the longer, less expensive approach of community college.  But last summer after I got back from Floyd Fest I decided the best thing for me to do was get done as fast as I could and get back to Virginia.  That is our long term plan; as soon as I graduate to move back to Roanoke.  The fastest route to making that happen is the GVSU BSN program. So that’s what I’m doing.

In order to apply to the GVSU program I need to complete six classes, one of which has a prerequisite.  So that’s seven classes.  They take applications every January, the program starts in May and runs for 15 months.  I wasn’t going to make it in time to apply this past January, but if I do two classes each semester and one in the summer (and pass them all) I’ll be able to apply next January.

They only admit 40 people and about 90 apply, so I realize there is a good chance I need a plan B.  I’m working through that.  My options are to wait a year maybe retake a class for a higher grade, continue at the community college and go the long route, or find another second degree program (Jefferson College has one and would be a good option if I could afford it, I’m actually planning on applying there in case GVSU falls through and somehow I can come up with the money to move back to VA and study there).

But we are thinking positive thoughts and proceeding as if I’m going to get in.

I was very anxious and slightly overwhelmed about starting classes last fall.  I’ve had two previous experiences with college.  The first was the tradition right out of high school go off to college, never mind that I had no idea what I was going to do with my life or what direction I needed to go in. I had a lot of fun getting the college experience but I dropped out after three years.  A decade later I went back and did a degree completion program, graduating in 2003.  I did much better the second time around.

This time I didn’t know what to expect.  I was attending a community college.  When I did the degree completion program it was tailored to working adults.  Now I was sitting in class with kids that had just graduated from high school or who were in some cases still in high school (seriously, one of my A&P lab partners is a 17 year old high school student).

I worried a lot about my age.  Was I too old to do this?  Would I even be able to learn anything?  What if this old dog can’t learn new tricks?  Was I making a fool of myself?  Would the professors take me serious?  Would I fit in with the other students?  There have been a few awkward moments, like realizing that I may have gone to high school with some of my classmate’s parents.  But overall my age has not been as much of an issue for anyone other than myself.

Technology has changed a lot since my previous college experiences.  I love telling my current classmates that during my first college experience the internet wasn’t even around.  It wasn’t until my Junior year that we had the capability to send an email between colleges.  Now so much is done online.  You are ruled by this thing called “Blackboard.”  In the beginning I was extremely anxious. I thought I would never be able to keep up and that the technology alone would overwhelm me.  I also experienced sticker shock when buying supplies.  I had figured the cost of classes into my budget and had figured a couple of hundred of dollars for books.  The books for my Anatomy and Physiology class alone cost about $700.  And you can’t buy used because you need a code to access online material.  That was almost enough for me to say, “Nope, can’t afford this.”

I’ve found the biggest difference in school then versus now is me and my approach to it.  Had I taken school this seriously the first time around, it might have been my only time around.  I don’t remember working this hard before, and I guess my grades show that.  I was a C (sometimes a B) student back then.  Last semester I got an A and an A- and  I currently have As in the classes I’m taking this semester.  I wasn’t even aware I was capable of getting As until I got an A- on my first test and then an A on the second.  And I guess that set the standard for me because now when I get a B I’m disappointed.

I think taking it serious is an advantage to being a “non-traditional” student.  I’m not here for the experience.  It’s all about the education.  Some of the other advantages to being an older students is that staying home and studying on a Friday or Saturday night is no big deal.  I don’t have a social life and I really don’t care.   But there are some drawbacks to being an older student; the main one being that while I don’t have a social life I have a regular one with a job and kid and adult type of responsibilities.  When a big test is coming up I just can’t shut out everything else to focus on it.  I still need to go to work and I still need to take care of my daughter.  The upside to that is I’m better prepared.  I know I can’t pull an all night before an exam like I could when I was 20, so I plan to study in small chunks in the days and weeks leading up to a big test.  Another downside I’ve discovered is that I don’t have a network of other students to study with and get information from.  Last semester I overheard a couple of students doing a postmortem on an exam and one of the students said, “Oh I aced that part, my roommate took the exam on Monday so I knew what it covered.”  I also don’t know other students that have previously taken that class.  A lot of notes and assignments have been passed around, but I don’t have that network.

As an older student.  I learn differently.  Brain development peaks at 25 and then starts to decline at 30.  So I guess technically I have less to work with than I did the first time around.  I’m a little slower to catch on to things and often have to go over something several times before it starts to make sense.  Thankfully most of my classes have had an online version so I have access to all the lectures.  I listen to each lecture at least three times.  I’ve had the biggest problem with labs.  They’re typically faster paced, the teacher will go over what we need to do and then we do it.  I don’t have the time to sit with it, review it and make sure I understand what I’m doing.  Most days I feel extremely overwhelmed.  And I’m always the last student to finish and leave the lab.  Thankfully I’ve been fortunate enough to have very patient and understanding lab partners.

For the most part I’ve enjoyed being back in school.  I like having something to work toward and I enjoy learning new things.  The hardest part has been trying to balance parenting, school and work.  Sometimes I feel like school is getting more than its fair share.  And its hard because right now I don’t feel like I can settle for doing less.   I don’t know what I’m going to be up against when I apply to the BSN program.  I’d hate to miss it because my grades were just slightly lower than another students.  I need them to be as high as possible, and that requires a lot of study time.  For the first time in her life I feel like what’s best for Annelise is not driving my decisions.

Of course she’s still the most important thing and ultimately my going back to school is what is best for both of us but I feel like I’m making compromises I wouldn’t have made before.  It would be better for her if I were home more and if while I was home I was more present.  It would also probably  be better for her if I was more involved in her school, but I put in the bare minimum effort and really hope her school is teaching her what she needs to know for Kindergarten.   She’s been allowed to watch way more TV than she ever has before.  Most weekends I need to put in several hours of studying, so she sits in my room watching Netflix while I study.  I hate that we’re not out doing some of the thing we use to do.  I try to tell myself this is just temporary, but I’m afraid I’m starting a habit that will be hard to break later.

This past week she was sick.  She woke up from her nap one day with a fever, and I was suppose to be leaving her with a sitter to go take a test.  In the past I would have done whatever I needed to do to take care of her.  But instead of doing what was best for her, that is staying home, having her rest and providing liquids, I gave her some drugs and left her with her cousin.  She did fine, but I keep wondering how sick would she have had to been in order for me to skip my test and stay with her.  And the fact that I’m not sure where that line is makes me feel horrible.

Balancing work and school has also been difficult.  I don’t have a typical college student job where the boss is somewhat understanding and expecting to have to work around class schedules and exams.  I have a real job.  And is not just a job it was a career up until about a year ago.  People go to college to get my job.  During my first college experience I worked at the school in the library.  There was a certain level of understanding that school work was suppose to come first.  Not so much now.  Thankfully I do have very understanding managers that are willing to work with me on scheduling around my classes.  But I’m sure in their minds my job still needs to come first, this going to school thing is just something on the side.  I’ve been late for work more times than I care to count because of class.  I eventually just started ducking out early.  One day I had an exam that got started about 15 minutes late.  The professor was nice enough to give us a full hour and a half (what should have been the length of the class) to finish but unfortunately for me I had to go to work.  I couldn’t stay that extra 15 minutes.  I ended up not being able to complete everything on it.  I still got a decent grade but it was very frustrating to know I could have done better if I hadn’t had to rush off to work.  I’ve also cut back on work hours at times when I need to focus on classes (one of the perks to being per Diem).  It’s wonderful that I could do that, but then I have to figure out how I’m going to pay the bills.

And as far as “Me time,”  and taking care of myself, that simply doesn’t happen anymore.  While I tell myself that it’s important to eat right,  get enough sleep and get an adequate amount of exercise.  It doesn’t happen.  I’ve consumed too much fast food running between work and school, stayed up way too late studying, and haven’t been on my bike since mid February.  The things that use to ground me and keep me focused, cycling and yoga, have gotten lost along the way.  Right now I would say there is no balance to my life.

This past semester was very difficult.  I knew going in it would be rough.  I had 12 contact hours, six of lecture and six of lab.  When I added up the number of hours I spent in class and lab, the number of hours I study (using the 3 hours out for every one in rule), my work hours, and my commuting hours I had less than 35 hours a week to do “life,” you know eat, sleep, spend time with my child.  Thankfully I could get a little overlap with studying and work, but overall there was very little free time this semester.  I am seriously behind on all my Netflix and Hulu shows.  It has been very hard on Annelise, too.  I feel like I’ve been gone more than usual and when I am here I’m studying and she’s curled up in the chair watching Netflix.

One night last week while she was sick she woke up screaming, “I want my Mom” “Where’s my Mom” “What is she doing?”  It broke my heart that she wasn’t expecting me to be there.  And then a few nights later while at work I got a call from my parents at 2 am because she was up crying due to an earache.  I could hear her sobbing and I tried to talk to her on the phone, but it killed me to be so far away.  I tried to remind myself that that was the reason I was back in school, so that I could eventually get off nights and be there when she needs me.  But at the moment I wanted to scratch the entire plan and go back to the way it was before.  At least when we had been in Roanoke I was only 5 minutes away.  I could take a break run home, comfort her, give her some medicine, and tuck her back in before heading back to work.  Here I was over an hour away and all I could do was have my parents give her some Tylenol and call me back if it got worse.

I’ve only got two weeks left before my “hell semester” is done.  The next three semesters should be much easier, or at least less time consuming.  After that I’ll be in the Nursing program (if I get in) and the plan will be to cut my work hours and rely a little on student loans.  So hopefully this last semester was the worst of it.


A couple of weekends ago Annelise and I made a quick trip to Virginia.  When our trip at Christmas got cancelled I tentatively thought about going over my Spring break but didn’t put a lot of thought into it.  I didn’t want to get my hopes up.  I know Annelise and my breaks would be at different times so if we went over my break she’d miss school.  I also knew Izzy probably wouldn’t be any healthier and I wasn’t sure about leaving her for an extended period of time.  I also had made the decision to move out of my parents house at some point (hopefully this summer) and felt I should use the time off school to pick up some extra shifts because money’s about to get real tight.  But as Spring break crept closer I noticed that it fell over the weekend of John Henry’s Birthday (Annelise’s BFF).  I decided to make plans to go for the weekend (so that I could still get a full week of work in) but tried not to get too excited about it until right before we left.

We left on a Thursday night, got into Virginia Friday evening and were pulling back out by Monday afternoon.  So it was a quick trip but so worth it.  Annelise was so happy to spend time with John Henry.   And it felt good to go to the places I enjoy and see my friends.  It was just what I needed to get out of my Michigan winter funk and remind me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Our time in the frozen tundra won’t last forever and while things in Roanoke are changing it and our friends will still be there when we get back.  It also helped solidify my long term goals and plans for school.  We didn’t get to see everyone we would have liked and there were many more things I would have liked to do while I was there but hopefully after this semester is over we’ll be able to go back for a longer stay.

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Hitting the road.  We drove about 5 hours before stopping in Ohio for the night.
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It was 2 am and Annelise was too excited to sleep.
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Saturday morning we met Beth, John, John Henry and Buck at Sweet Donkey.
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Then John took all the kids to Lowe’s and the Mama’s got to drink coffee in peace.
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They made monster trucks.
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Annelise was so proud of her truck.


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Sunday we celebrated John Henry’s Birthday…
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…and enjoyed the beautiful weather!
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Another stop at Sweet Donkey Monday morning.
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Lunch with Whitney and then we were back on the road.
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Monday night we stayed in Ohio.  We got to the hotel early enough for Annelise to swim in the pool.
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…and this is what we came back to.  It was 70 degrees when we left Roanoke, it was 18 when we got to Michigan.