Friday, October 30, 2009

Serenity's Song

Her name is Serenity and she is 6 years old. She is beautiful, full of life and full of fun. She dresses in her own unique Serenity style, the more colors, the brighter colors the better! She loves play jewelry and brightly colored beads adorning her outfits. She doesn't care what anyone thinks, and she is amazing. She is bright and verbal and when she plays the giggles and screams reverberate throughout the house. She is loving and a snuggler and is a small beautiful gift from god. She is perfect. Her kidney's on the other hand are not.

Serenity is in kidney failure. She has weathered a series of surgeries from the time she was a baby. Surgeries to unblock ureters, place stents, remove stents, place nephrostomy tubes, remove them and replace them again. She had her "pee bags" that were attached to her nephrostomy (kidney) tubes that she refused to hide. She would swing them around and put them in her lap for pictures. All this in her short life and to no avail.

She now waits in MUSC (Medical University of South Carolina) still in pediatric ICU after they placed a shunt in her belly for peritoneal dialysis. She has fought fevers and pain and in between bouts, she tries to be "Serenity". She can for short periods but exhaustion kicks in at an alarming rate.

She is on the transplant list. Her relatives are being tested for a potential match. Her Mom and family members take turns staying with her and trying to keep her spirits up and trying to keep her as comfortable as possible. If no family donor is found, she will wait on the transplant list and eventually go home and do peritoneal dialysis at night until a donor is found.

For those who don't know, this means being hooked up at to a machine all night. This machine will do the job of her kidneys and remove the waste from her blood. She is the size of a 3 year old so no one locally will do regular dialysis on her. It is just too scary on such a small person. This is all just too scary for a 6 year old.

Serenity's mom is a nurse, and pregnant with her second child. A high risk pregnancy to boot. Her Mom is a lot like Serenity. She is beautiful and has the biggest heart of anyone I know. She is young, but so strong and has held up incredibly well through this. This is a parent's worst nightmare come true. To watch this beautiful little soul, your own flesh and blood be tormented is bad enough. But to face the thought of potentially losing her is something that no parent should go through, although so many do.

I pray, and I ask anyone who reads this to pray as well, that a donor is found soon. As long as Serenity is on dialysis she won't be able to go back to 1st grade. The risk of infection, or damaging the shunt in her belly is just too great. How her mom is dealing with all of the expenses of this I don't know. The insurance co-pays are huge, and I know she worries about how she is going to pay for it all. But that has so little importance in the big scheme of things. She keeps her focus where it belongs, on getting her child well.

Serenity has a whole lifetime of things to do and experience. She has to fulfill her job as a big sister in February when the new baby comes. She has to go through adolescence and discover boys and be a rotten sullen teenager. Then she will grow up to be the amazing person I know she is destined to become. I know the beauty of her soul as does anyone who has the good fortune to meet and spend time with her.

Serenity's Song is far from over. I have convinced myself that if I keep repeating this, that my thoughts and words will reach the cosmos and will make it so. And so I do. Serenity's song is far from over. I keep this on my lips, in my head and in my heart. It is her song, with all it's pain and all it's beauty, it is hers. I can't even fathom for that song to not exist and so I am putting this all in writing. It will exist in word for all to see and know. Her name is Serenity and she is 6 years old and full of life, and full of life.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Very Great Love

She came to me on my honeymoon riding on a 2 lb bag of puppy kibble. She looked like a little bear cub, with a big round head and a belly so round and legs so short her belly touched the ground when she stood. She was 5 weeks old. I cried when I saw her. And it took approximately one second of looking in those warm brown trusting eyes to fall madly, deeply and passionately in love. Much to my new husbands discontent, I slept the night on the floor with her cuddled next to me. I wouldn't let her for a second miss her litter mates or her birth mom. We developed a bond so intense, that I knew what she was thinking and how she was feeling and she intuitively read me just as well. I watched her grow from that little round ball of fur into a beautiful muscular adult. She protected me and loved me and was my friend and confidant and companion for the next 11 years. Interestingly enough, although she was a gift from my now ex-husband, she took a dislike to him. The damn dog was smarter then I was. If she didn't like how he was acting she would sit in front of me on my feet and bare her teeth and issue a low throaty growl so intense that the devil himself would have hesitated at that moment. I would laugh myself silly because my husband in pure dismay would cry out to her "I bought you"! You may have bought her I thought, but she is mine, heart and soul. She was my comfort through my divorce and constant companion. She was pure of heart and had a beauty that emanated from her soul and cast a glow around her. I would not take a vacation without her and never in her life did she spend but one night apart from me. My baby was born with genetic joint problems. At 5 years old we did a total right knee replacement. She spent one night in the hospital and I ached for her the whole night. When I picked her up the next morning and she heard my voice she started howling. They had to bring her to me immediately. I never heard her howl before or since. And deep down inside, I knew that nothing, no one, would ever howl for want of me but her. I spent 3 months sleeping on a futon mattress on the floor of the living room while she healed, until she was able to walk upstairs to the bedroom and sleep in our bed. She healed well, but eventually all of her joints began to deteriorate. We treated her pain, and the inflammation and as long as she had quality of life we would stick it out together. She traveled with me and I would lift her 105 lbs into and out of the car not to stress her joints. We continued our rides in the car she loved so much until it became more painful for her then enjoyable. She took her post everyday on the end of the couch hunting golfers from her window. That was her self assigned job and she did it well. There was more then one time when I would see a golfer jump and turn to try and see where the furious barking was coming from and I had to laugh. She was my first kiss in the morning and my last kiss at night. She had her own pillows on the bed and at times would snore like a freight train. But she was my freight train and that sound was music to my ears. Finally, there came a point when we couldn't control her pain. After 11 years together on March 18th, 2009 I made the god awful decision to take her out of her pain. I have never done anything so devastating in my life. I held her while it was done, kissing her the whole time. I laid with her on the floor of the vets office and held her until the the gentleman came to take her for cremation. I don't know if I've ever cried that hard in my life. I cried for weeks and still do when my missing her intensifies and I grieve her loss all over again. Her name was Athena. I miss her every day, and long for her with all my being. When it is my time to go and I am cremated our ashes will be put together as they belong. She can never be replaced, not in my heart and not in my home. She was, my very great love and I offer this up to honor her memory.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


" This is my simple religion: There is no need for temples, there is no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is the temple; the philosophy is loving kindness and compassion." --The XIVth Dalai Lama

It is the simple and clear wisdom of this and the many other teachings that keeps me rooted in the Buddhist religion and philosophies. I have the utmost respect for any person's choice of religion. I have the utmost respect for anyone who clearly lives the basic tenets of their religion. The intent of religion in it's simplest form is to provide a moral guide and a compass for day to day life. If that is the outcome of that practice then we have success. What I see way to often, is so very many practitioners who make a grand presentation of their religion and the amount of time they spend in church or temple and in bible study, yet they show none of those teachings in their day to day life or behaviors. Truth, morality, compassion and basic human decency rarely make a showing.

More wars, deaths and outright hatred have been rooted in religion. It is the exclusionary piece that is a problem, as well as the fanaticism that all too often comes with it. Any truth, followed to an extreme becomes a fallacy and the follower a fanatic. If you don't accept (take your pick) Jesus, Allah, etc. as your savior then you are not going to heaven. You are evil, a heretic. Well, to be blunt here, if your god would exclude any human being, regardless of how good, moral and compassionate a human being they are, because they don't follow one particular religious edict, then quite frankly, that's not a god I want anything to do with.

I can't count the number of times I have been told, "well I am going to heaven". The implication of course is that I (Alicia) am not. I am okay with that. I am okay with living my life with as much decency as I can muster. I am okay with trying, although I fail countless times, to live compassionately, kindly, truthfully and with simple moral decency. I am not in need of saving, conversion or proselytizing. Nor, do I feel the need to to save, convert or proselytize to anyone else. It would be nice though, to have mutual respect and acceptance. It would be nice though, to see more people truly live the tenets of their religion, not just attend church, post a fish on their car, and feel they are guaranteed one all expense paid trip to heaven in the afterlife.

There are people I meet who do practice their religious teachings in day to day life. They are few and far between, but they do exist out there. They have internalized the teachings and are wonderful proponents not of a particular religion, but of how human beings who study the word, any word, should live. That my friends, is religious success. And that my friends is my simple point here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I have to take a moment here to espouse about coffee. It is a love affair I am not necessarily proud of. When the alarm clock goes off in the morning I smack the snooze button as if it has been of great offense. After a few moments, the first thoughts of the morning rush in. The thoughts are not of my children, beautiful and thank the good lord above blissfully still sleeping. My thoughts are not of work, or bills or my chores for the day. My thoughts are of coffee. Hot, fresh, aromatic, welcoming, soothing, delicious and best yet, responsible for the reawakening of my sluggish brain cells. For a liquid to have such amazing powers elevates it to almost saint like status. I for one would like to nominate coffee for sainthood. No offense intended, but we all have our heroes.

My history with coffee is long and not altogether pretty. As a child I used to prepare it for my mother while she slept. Instant nescafe, sweet and low and skim milk, not to mention the singular cockroach that made it's way into the kettle once overnight. I was 5, and thought a lump of nescafe wasn't melting in the cup. It wasn't the coffee that helped to awaken my Mom that morning. It was the scream when she realized what she was mixing. I was 5, what the heck did I know.

Growing up I drank the instant swill as well, with sweet and low and all. As I got older and discovered brewed coffee a whole new world opened up for me. My love for this manna from heaven grew as did my tastes. No more little pink packets or skim milk for me. Organic sugar and organic half and half became the recipe for much happiness.

It was from there that I discovered the variety of coffee options and another whole new world opened up. My confession here, is that on weekends, I skip the organic sugar and add Hershey's syrup instead. It makes a mocha coffee that makes my tongue dance for joy. It also makes damn sure that I am up on the weekends wayyyyyy before the kids for peace and quiet and coffee to die for.

I know the intensity of this relationship may not be healthy. I am aware of the extreme dependence factor. I don't care. I am going to keep and savor my dirty little secret. Hey, at least I didn't say I would trade one of my kids in for a good cup of coffee. Although...there are times... OK, I won't go there. Anyway, my cup is empty and therefore this entry is done!