Tuesday, February 14, 2017

None of the above

I used to be a big fan of women's magazine quizzes.  You know the type.  They give a scenario like "Your doctor has told you that you need to lose weight.  You..."  A.  Don't even bother to try, because losing weight is impossible  B.  Go on a starvation diet until you have lost the amount he wants  C.  Start eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.   You all know what the right answer is supposed to be, and picking it can give you a good feeling, a feeling of superiority to those people who might pick A or B.

In real life, it isn't always quite as clear.  I kept thinking about that yesterday.  Let me pose the question to you all...

It's the third snow day in a row.  Your twelve year old daughter with low functioning autism is very unhappy.  She has spent much of the day screaming.  She didn't sleep well the night before, and you finally get her to lie down with you on her bed for a possible nap.  As soon as you are lying down, however, she said "Do you want cheese?", which means she wants you to get up and get her cheese from the refrigerator.  You are bone tired, and she is perfectly capable of getting the cheese herself, and you say to her "If you want cheese, you go get it and bring it to me"  She reacts by screaming loudly and kicking you.  You...

A.  Start screaming back at her, telling her you are just about at the end of your rope, and that she needs to stop acting that way, and you are so tired of it all, and....so on.

B.  Overcome your aches and tiredness and get up and go get the cheese, knowing that might be the quickest way to get past this whole bit.

C.  Tell her calmly she can't kick you, and that you are going to walk away to let her cool down, and that when she does, you'll talk about the cheese.

You probably know what the answer is supposed to be.  However, A and B are pretty darn tempting, in the moment, and I may or may not have picked one of those choices yesterday when confronted with this very scenario.  However, I eventually accessed my inner magazine quiz self, and picked C, the "right" answer.  Janey's response?  As soon as I'd gone into the next room to let her cool off, she found a bag of chips, opened it and threw chips all over her bed, crushing the chips as she did so, so the bed was covered with chip crumbs.  I stood my ground and stayed away, figuring that chips can be cleaned up.  So she upped her game.  She ran to the TV and started pounding it with her fists, something she knew I couldn't ignore.

So...what next?  What't the right answer there?  Before you decide, keep in mind that Janey is as tall as I am now, and as strong.  It's not easy for me to physically stop her from doing things like the TV pounding.

The answer is that there isn't a right answer.  It's a "none of the above" type situation.  As happens fairly often in this life we are leading with Janey, we pick the least harmful wrong answer.  What I did was tell her to stop hitting the TV and I'd get the cheese, which I did, and which she ate a bite or two of before resuming her screaming.

I woke during the night last night, my mind racing.  I kept thinking "I'm not equal to this task.  I don't know how to keep going.  This is just impossible"  I finally woke Tony and we talked, and I calmed down, and woke up this morning ready to keep on trying.  I know in my heart I'm doing the best I can, that there really isn't any correct answers for some of the challenges we face as a family.  But boy, could we use some respite, some help, some something. Until then, we'll keep going, because that is always the default answer---just keep going, because there is really no other choice.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Snow Days

We had a fairly good-sized snowstorm yesterday, which resulted in a snow day, and another snow day today to finish the cleanup.  As many of you are all too aware, unexpected days off are not a big favorite of Janey and others like her.  However, the past few days haven't been bad at all.  They have been more...interesting.  

Tony was home yesterday too, as his office was closed.  That was great.  Janey had had a tough week, and I was prepared for a day with lots of screaming and tears, but I don't think I saw either one once yesterday.  She was happy and a little bit manic.  She ate a huge amount, and ran around the house a lot, and danced a ton with Tony.  At one point, she suddenly said "Shut up!" in a loud, jovial voice.  She then proceeded to pace back and forth and say "SHUT UP!" for about an hour.  I'm not sure where she picked that up, but she enjoyed it a huge amount, and so we just went with it.  She asked a lot for car rides, but did well when we told her that just wasn't possible.  I kept having her look out the window, although I don't think she quite got why the blizzard conditions were standing in the way of a car ride.  

Janey is usually fast asleep by 7 or 7:30.  She's big on early to bed and early to rise, like her father.  So when she was still awake at 8, we were a bit surprised.  We took turns lying down with her.  She stayed on the bed, playing off and on with her iPad (which we let her take to bed, as it generally doesn't interfere at all with her sleep) and singing and asking for food (which we didn't give her, as she'd had plenty during the day)  I was with her until 10:30.  She was still wide awake.  Tony took over and I slept until 12:30.  I relieved Tony---Janey still wide awake.  I lay down with her and she looked at me with a hugely happy face, just smiling and staring at me.  My eyes kept closing, but when they opened, there she was, watching me.  I last saw her awake at 1:30 am.  At that point, either I didn't wake up again or she finally went to sleep.

We have a few theories about the sleepless night.  She didn't go outside at all, all day, and maybe the lack of daylight did something.  Also, because she couldn't go for a car ride, a few times Tony took her upstairs to where his brother lives, and she had "butter", which is what she calls Nutella.  Chocolate is often the culprit when she doesn't sleep, although lately that is usually only if it's close to bedtime, which it wasn't.  My main theory, though, is just that she was in one of the moods where she's hyper-alert, and sleeping is hard when you are like that.

Today, she was sleepy.  She woke late and then took a nap.  Tony worked a half day.  She was still peppy, but not quite as much as yesterday, and there were a few more tears and screams.

We noticed, both days, something we often see when Janey is home with both of us for a day or two.  Her talking increased.  On days she goes to school, we hear very little talking in the afternoon or evening.  I think she's tired out, and also, perhaps associates talking with schoolwork, and decides to give herself a break at home.  It's fine, but it's nice hearing more talking.

An illustration for "The Ten O'Clock Scholar
Yesterday, when I was attempting to read her a book and she wasn't interested, I quickly before closing the book asked her to point to a few things in the pictures.  With the air of wanting to just make me happy so she could move on, she quickly and with complete ease pointed to three things---an owl, a blackboard and a bell tower.  All of those are words she's never said, to my knowledge, and words that I'd really have no way of knowing she knew.  I've done quick pointing tests with her like that enough to realize she has knowledge of the meanings of many, many words she never uses or lets on she knows.  I wish there was a way she could use these words, to enrich her ability to actually communicate, but I just don't really know how to help her with that.

Today, we were playing a game we often play, where I recite the start of a nursery rhyme and she finishes, or finishes some of it and waits for me to say the next line, and we go back and forth.  I love having an iPhone, because I can quickly grab a video, which I did.  I posted it on the Facebook companion page to this blog, if you are interested.  It's another example of things Janey knows you would not know she knows.  I would say she knows hundreds of nursery rhymes.  Of course, among the ones I started the film is one I don't think she did know ("A ten o'clock scholar"), but that is a rare thing!  If I've read one to her two or three times, it's in her head someplace, memorized.

So---I hope tonight is a better sleeping night.  I hope Janey continues the happier mood for the weekend.  And I certainly hope the storm predicted for Sunday night doesn't happen, so Monday is not another snow day!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Winter

When I was little, I used to feel upset when people would say February was their least favorite month, because my birthday was in February, and it somehow felt like a personal insult.  Well, I'm finally forced to admit I'm not too big on February myself.  I haven't written for a while.  I've been feeling blue, and winter feels long.

I am sure it's not politically correct to say so, that it's one of those things I'm not supposed to admit, but sometimes, the unchanging nature of life with Janey gets to me.  Her progress lately, if there is any, is very, very slow.  Sometimes it halts altogether, or moves backwards for a while.  With typically developing kids, the changes in their interests or hobbies or friends or activities can move at a pace so fast it's hard to keep up with.  With Janey, that isn't the case.  She watches the same videos, over and over and over, that she did five years ago.  She doesn't have friends.  She doesn't partake in any outside the home activities.  Every day feels a lot like the day before. And of course, much of that is on me.  I should somehow make her life more varied.  But I am not sure how.  It's not like there is a huge list of possible classes or lessons or clubs waiting for her to join, or friends calling to get together with her.  She goes to school and she comes home.

As people have said to me often, it's very possible Janey doesn't crave variety in her life the way others might.  She might be very content with things staying the same, and indeed I think that might be the case. But as this winter wears on, I'm feeling---I'm not sure.  Restless.  Worried.

In the background of all this is the tense feeling political news, the uneasy national mood.  It used to be that the internet provided much of what I needed to keep feeling connected to the outside world.  But lately, it's hard to get online without feeling bombarded with strident differing views of every topic.  I rethink every comment I might have---is this going to set someone off?  I think of myself as mainly apolitical.  What bothers me is not so much any actual players or issues in the political scene, but the tone of the whole debate.  It feels like a "gotcha" kind of game, like an argument that can only be won by being fierce, or angry, or hyper-alert.  And where does that leave someone like Janey?  Where is the caring for those not armed for such a battle?  I had a strange dream the other night, a dream we were somehow at war and Janey had been drafted to fight. I screamed out to whoever was in charge "What kind of world is it when you expect someone like Janey to be part of warfare?"  And that is it.  It feels like there is little place for those who are dependent on others, who can't get out and fight for their rights.

So...we keep on.  We do our best, all of us out there living this life, to give our kids the best life we can.  Janey will come home from school.  I'll ask her about her day, as I have so many hundreds of times.  She won't answer.  I'll try to get her to use the bathroom.  She won't.  I'll end up changing her clothes and her bedding.  She will ask for cheese, for chips, for salami.  I will have them or I won't, she will eat them or she will scream.  She will want a shower, and she will ask to get out of it when she really means she wants the water adjusted.  She will ask to watch Kipper, and then I'll put on the wrong episode and she'll scream.  She will ask for a car ride.  I'll tell her Daddy will be home soon and maybe they will take a ride. I will hug her and tell her I love her.  She will laugh and hug me back, and we will get through another day.  And that is how the years will go on.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hearing myself on a bad day

Yesterday was a Bad Day.  Not the worst day ever, but not a very good day.  I read the news too much, and worried too much, about health care and education and Mary Tyler Moore dying and all else.  I am not political, but it's hard to keep from hearing political decisions and worries and anger unless you are in a remote location with no internet, TV or radio---coincidentally, the location I've been daydreaming about somehow going to.  So long before Janey got home from school, I was not in the best of moods.

Frog and Dog from Word World, feeling like I did yesterday
Janey got off the bus yelling.  It took me a few minutes to figure out what she was yelling.  It was a line from "Word World", one of her favorite shows, over and over---"Who's going to read my book on the radio?"  She was screaming it with the intensity you would usually save for warning people of a fire or flood.  I'm sure it was not easy on the bus driver, aide and other kids on the bus.  She screamed her way in, and I guessed that possibly she wanted to see that episode, and put it on.  She watched it, with not that much screaming, but then it was over and another one came on.  Janey didn't want to see the next one.  Not at all.

Tony says that Janey's screaming often hurts his ears.  I thought this was more of a figure of speech.  Maybe I'm half deaf already, but I hadn't had my ears literally hurt by a scream---until yesterday.  Janey's scream over the wrong show coming on felt like someone was poking an ice pick into my head through my ears.  It was truly ear-piercing.

I tried, and in my mind did a good job with, starting my calming patter with Janey as she screamed.  I said things like I knew she was upset, I wanted her to feel better, the wrong show was over...things like that.  However, I also must have said "I don't like it when you scream"  I know I must have said that, because that is the phrase she started repeating.  At the top of her lungs.  For a long, long fifteen minutes or so.  I hope I didn't really sound like her echoing of me.  If I did, I sounded like, well, someone seriously unhinged.

Finally, she calmed a bit and asked for a snuggle.  I put blankets over us, as she likes, and lay next to her and we sang together a bit.  Things seemed better.  Then---the bed was soaked.

As I pulled the sheets and blankets and everything else off the bed, I must have said "I'm so tired of this"  I didn't mean to.  I meant to...I don't know what I meant to say.  I meant to say whatever it is you are supposed to say to a twelve year old autistic girl who is sometimes toilet trained and sometimes not, and who refused at least three times that afternoon to try to use the toilet.  I don't know exactly what that right thing to say is.  I don't know if anyone does.  But she heard me.  She heard me and started repeating, again in scream mode "I'M SO TIRED OF THIS!"  For half an hour.

When Tony got home, I was pretty much reduced to a quivering, ranting mess.  Often upon his entrance after work, I say "Thanks for coming home".  I mean it.  I know there are men, and women, who would, after the years of coming home to a spouse who is acting like I was acting, would say "to heck with it" and just stop coming home.  Tony is not that man.  I am very lucky.  He took over with Janey and I sat for hours watching dumb shows on TV and trying to empty my mind.

Janey slept well last night, and woke up in what seemed to be a good mood.  I hope school is okay.  Reports are she's been having a tough time there lately too.  Yesterday her teacher said she was singing loudly in the morning, and I could picture it quite well.  I honestly don't know how the other kids in the room can work at all when Janey gets loud.

I don't know how to conclude this.  I wish I could say I'll try not to say things that aren't positive to Janey, that her repeating of them shows she hears negative messages from me.  But honestly, I don't know if I can be that perfect.  I don't know if anyone could, anyone on earth.  Most of the time, I can truly say I do the best I can, and I'll keep doing that, but some days, it's a lot harder than others, and I am sure that goes for Janey too.  Thanks for listening, my friends.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

When asking politely doesn't work...

Janey woke up in the middle of the night a few nights ago.  It's been happening a little bit more lately, although still not at all as often as it used to.  This awakening, she was quite cheerful, but not at all tired.  Tony and I took turns staying up with her, as we usually do.  When my turn came, I tried to get her back to sleep by putting a whole bunch of blankets over her, which sometimes works.  This time, though, it just made her laugh and laugh.  And then she said "Pillow?"  I was a little surprised, as she isn't big on pillows, but I gathered up some and gave them to her.  She just kept repeating "pillow?" until finally, either she or I or both fell asleep.

The next morning, the first thing she said again was "Pillow?"  And because it was morning, I was awake enough to realize what she meant.  She was looking not for any generic pillow, but for Special Pillow.  

Special Pillow
Special Pillow is actually a pillowcase, put on any pillow.  It's the pillowcase she was given in the hospital when she had the burst appendix.  She became hugely attached to it there.  It didn't leave her side for weeks.  When we came home, she remained attached.  She never sleeps without it.  I wash it when I can, but if I want to make sure she sleeps, it better be around at bedtime.  It's the first and only object she's ever really been attached to.

It's a sign of how sleepy I was in the night that I didn't figure out what the problem was.  Special Pillowcase had fallen off the pillow it was on, and was lost among the blankets.  In the morning, when I finally wised up, I found it quickly, and Janey grabbed it for a big hug.

I've been thinking a lot about this whole incident the last few days.  The unusual part of it was how Janey didn't get a bit upset.  She just asked, repeatedly but without urgency, for the pillow.  It was her mild tone and lack of insistence, I think, that caused her not to break through my tired haze and figure out what she wanted.  

We often tell Janey just to ask for what she wants, not to scream or cry or throw a fit.  We tell her that she doesn't need to yell to get what she wants.  However, maybe she does.  When you don't have a lot of words to use, maybe tone of voice and volume and body language are necessary to get your point across.  Because she asked exactly how we ask her to, in a calm way, I didn't figure out what she meant.

I'm not sure what to make of this revelation. I think the big message for me needs to be to listen very well to her quiet and calm words (although I can't make any middle of the night promises).  Another thought, though, is that I want to try to be more understanding when she does scream.  Most children would have been able to say "I can't find my special pillow, and I can't sleep without it.  Will you help me find it?"  With Janey's mostly single word way of talking, I need to work hard to figure out what she means.  And I need to mentally translate screams into "This is urgent!  Pay attention to me right now!"

I'm not sure why Janey didn't scream about the pillow, but my guess is her desire for it was a lot like a lot of her OCD type arranging.  Often, before watching a video or eating or doing other enjoyable things, Janey arranges her surroundings.  She will turn off my computer monitor, move any laundry baskets to a different location, turn lights on or off, put the remotes on the table at straight angles, empty any half-full mugs of coffee into the sink (and then put the mugs back where they were, not in the sink!) and, depending on the day and her mood, a variety of other rituals.  She never gets upset doing these things.  She treats them like a job that has to be done---she does them in a businesslike and efficient way.  I think the pillow being with her feels like the monitor needing to be off---something to be checked off on a list.  Unlike with my OCD and I think most people's OCD, she doesn't seem to feel upset about needing to perform the rituals. So the pillow not being in place was more just something she needed to note and fix, not something terribly upsetting.

It's amazing to me sometimes how complex Janey can be.  I re-learn every day how much is going on in her mind, how much she can tell me if I learn how to listen.  I'll keep trying, Janey!  Thanks for being patient with me, sometimes!

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Imaginary Conversation

Lately, I've been imagining a conversation a lot.  It's a conversation with someone who has just had a child diagnosed with autism.  In my mind, the child is a girl, like Janey, and is about Janey's age when she was diagnosed, just over three.  It's not too hard to figure out I'm probably really imagining a conversation I would have liked to have had with someone myself, but either way, I've been giving it a lot of thought.

In my imagined scenario, I've invited the mother (it could be a father, too, but it's a mother in my head) to my house, along with their newly diagnosed daughter.  I'm including her because I want to have a place they both can go that is judgement-free, where there has to be no worries about behavior, and because I know it can be hard to get out of the house alone, and I want this mother to be able to come over.  I make us both some coffee, and we sit down, keeping an eye on the little one, putting on a video if she likes that.  Then I start telling her the four big things I want her to know.

The first is that there is nobody, nobody at all, who knows how this will all work out, who knows what her daughter will achieve or not achieve.  I'll tell her that I know she is feeling scared and also feeling hurried, like she needs to get started THIS MINUTE with some kind of therapy, and that there is no shortage of people giving her their particular ideas what will help.  But I want her to know that I feel most kids are going to be what they are going to be.  It's not that love and caring and attention and help are not important---they are, and they let the child reach the full potential of what they are meant to be.  But nobody knows what that potential is.  As a friend said on my Facebook group page recently, there are kids who start out not talking who wind up in graduate school, and there are kids who are very mildly affected who never progress at all, or even regress.  And in both these groups, there are parents who care and love and are dedicated to their child, but in both groups, there are parents who tried everything and parents who took a more measured approach.  There is no one right way, and there is no route to any one outcome.

With that in mind, I'll say something else I feel is very, very important.  I'll tell the mother to enjoy her daughter.  I'll tell her to delight in her, to have fun with her, to get a kick out of her.  Sometimes, because we are taught to see the autism as something to be fixed, cured, changed, we feel like if we delight in a behavior that might be part of the autism, we are somehow not with the program, we are not being single-minded in our quest to fix this all.  And that is just wrong.  We need to be able to feel joy in what our child is right now.  Laugh along with them as they echolalia their way through a video, enjoy their latest obsession along with them, play with them at the level they are at.  Janey is twelve, and she still loves baby games sometimes---peekaboo, patty cake, "where are you?" when clothes cover her eyes.  And I love playing them with her.  There's nothing wrong with that.  There is nothing wrong and everything right with feeling proud of your child, feeling joy in who she is.

Then I'll talk about the harder parts of it all.  Not to jinx them or scare them, but I'll tell the mother that there will be some very, very tough times.  There will be nights so long it's impossible to think there will be a morning associated with them.  There will be calls from school that shock and chill you.  There will be moments of despair, of feeling that if we can get through the next ten minutes, it will be a miracle.  There will be anger at those who don't get it.  There will be resentment of friends with kids for whom everything seems to come easily and they don't even seem to appreciate it.  There will be tiredness, tiredness so extreme there should be a separate word for it.  There will be frustration, and horrible cleaning jobs, and days that feature absolutely nothing but one strategy to get by after another, until finally the day ends.    I will tell them that during all these times, they will feel extremely alone.  They will think that no-one else in the world has lived this life.  They will look sometimes to the internet for help, and find only cheery, bright stories of progress.  They will look for advice and find that of "experts" who have never been awake all night with a screaming child who can't tell you what is wrong.  And I will tell that mother she is NOT alone.  I will tell her many, many of us have lived this life.  We might not talk about it or write about it much, for many different reasons, but we are there.  I will tell the mother when she feels completely alone, imagine a circle of mothers like herself, the middle of the night autism mothers, all raising a cup of coffee to her.

The last thing I will tell her is the thing most like a directive, like a command.  I will tell her that if her child is physically sick, she MUST insist on the same medical care any other child would get.  I will tell her about a night Janey had a high fever and was shaking enough so it seemed like a seizure, a night we called an ambulance and took her to the ER, a night that the doctor there didn't want to "upset" her, and so did a brief and useless exam, and never once touched her belly, the belly where an appendix most likely had already burst.  I will tell her how it took three days for that burst appendix to be found, leaving her with complication after complication.  I will tell her we could have lost Janey's life because someone didn't want to "upset" her---or in another way of looking at it, didn't want to bother with a screaming and hard to deal with autistic child.  I will tell her that she must tell all doctors that if there is anything they would examine on a typical child, they must exam it on Janey, and we will restrain her if necessary.  We would rather have her upset than lose her.

Then, after that intense talk, after in my mind we are both crying, and that has upset her little girl, and I have apologized for that, and we have laughed together at how much coffee we have had, and she is ready to go, I'll hug her and wish her all the best.  I will tell her that her daughter is amazing, because I am sure her daughter will be amazing.  And as they leave, I will cry to myself a little more, thinking of all they are going to discover together.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

When Janey was diagnosed

When reading accounts of parenting children with autism, the moment that the family receives the autism diagnosis is almost always written about in detail.  I was reading a few such accounts lately, and it struck me that, although Janey being diagnosed was certainly a fairly major point in the timeline of our lives, I don't remember it as being quite as stark a blow, as frozen in time a moment as often seems to be the case.  I didn't remember the date until going back to the first entry of this blog---it was Saturday, December 8th, 2007.  Janey was three years and almost four months old.

I started thinking tonight about that time, and it became clear to me quickly why it seems a bit of a blur in memory.  It was a horrible time, in many ways---I can say Janey's diagnosis was one of the least troubling parts of the months around that time.  The month before, in November, I had been put on a jury of a murder trial, an incredibly sad murder of a four year old boy.  It lasted three weeks, putting a huge strain on everyone emotionally and logistically.  Janey had started 3 year old preschool in September, half a day, at the school the boys had both gone to, as a regular, non-special-ed student.  So someone had to get her in the middle of the day at school.  Tony missed a lot of work.

While I was on the jury, in the middle of the testimony phase, my sister's fiancee died suddenly.  He had been recovering from heart surgery related to Marfan's Syndrome, and it looked like all was going to be okay.  Getting the call that he had died---I can't even think about it, ever, without crying. The sadness I felt for my sister, and the incredible frustration that I couldn't even go to the funeral, couldn't be there for her as I wished I could without disrupting a huge trial----it is with me still.

Other factions were stressing us strongly during this time.  A very close friend from childhood was going through a family crisis that I won't get into except to say it was the worst family crisis you can possibly imagine outside of a death.  The boys were in 5th and 7th grade, both having a somewhat tough year.  Tony's office was on the verge of closing, and he was looking for a new job within his organization.  And in the background, always, there was the creeping realization that something was happening with Janey, something terrifying.

Janey, about a year after diagnosis
I wish I could remember more about the year Janey was two.  If I had known it was the last year she would talk easily, the last year I'd have a conversation with her, the last year she'd seem truly happy---well, I can't write much about that.  I just wish I'd recorded every minute of that year.  Then again, maybe it's good I didn't.  I have never been able to watch the few videos we do have.

The August before Janey started preschool, we took our three week cross country driving trip.  I've written about that before.  I had started noticing some signs of withdrawal, of odd behaviors, in Janey that June, but it was during the trip she seemed to slip further away.  The day she started school, I asked the special ed teacher in the room (her school was an inclusion school, with a regular and a special ed teacher in each room) to let me know if he had concerns about her.  It was, of course, during the middle of the trial, on an afternoon we had off, so I was able to get her at school, that he told me he did have concerns---quite major concerns.

And so---we got on the fast track to have her seen at a clinic.  She was evaluated (after I filled out realms of paper and did lots of phone interviews) by a developmental psychiatrist and a developmental pediatrician.  And that was the day, that Saturday, that they told us she was autistic.  We got a formal report later on, but by that point, they didn't need a lot of time to see what was pretty obvious, so they told us the same day they saw her.

I don't remember the rest of that day.  I don't remember crying, although I'm sure I did.  I don't remember what we did after the visit.  I don't remember much.  Maybe that is why I started the blog, three days later, to start recording what was happening, to not let it slip away like the first three years of her life seem to have in my mind.

In some ways, maybe it was good that her diagnosis came in the middle of such a stressful time.  Maybe it let us not focus on it.  But I think it also didn't let it quite sink in.  For a variety of reasons, I don't think I truly believed it.  I think I thought we'd have some tough years, sure, but I think there was a part of me that felt it all was a mistake, that I'd play along but not really buy into it all.  Maybe that was my way of coping.

I'm going to write soon about what I wish those early days after her diagnosis had been like, and what I'd do if I knew someone going through early days like that.  But for now I will stop, because I want to come back to the here and now.  I'm glad many years have passed from that time, and our lives are calmer.  I'm glad I will never have to relive 2007.  I'm glad to be here, in 2017, living today's life.  Very glad.