Friday, December 26, 2008

'Tis the Season!

On December 17, Sol and I packed lunch and had it at school with Tala and then Moody. They were both very pleased that we did and it made their day. I'm sorry that Mom and Dad didn't get to do that. It was the plan, but then they left quickly and didn't have time to do it.

December 18th was the Holiday Program at school. The kids were all excited. We got synopsis here and there of what's in the program by them rehearsing at home. What we didn't know is that Moody was doing a monologue, Santa's my Buddy! He did awesome!

And It was the Rigney's annual Christmas caroling party on December 21st. It was nice to see them and see the now familiar crowd again.

We have been visiting friends the last couple of nights. Kind of reconnecting after a long time of almost no contact. It was a nice change, especially of the mood. Today, Nick et. al are arriving from Canada for the weekend. We are all waiting anxiously.

On Monday, the 29th, I start on the second cycle of chemo with radiotherapy. The cycle will last 5 weeks with daily radiotherapy sessions and chemo dispensing through a pump 24 hours a day. The last cycle was awful and took me 2 weeks to recover after the last dose of chemo. They tell me the side effects to this one would be milder, but I keep thinking how could they if it's for 5 weeks! Wish me luck.

The holiday tree is up and lit with some gifts under it. Santa will drop by on New Year's Eve with more gifts. Yeepie!

Best wishes for a merry Christmas and a wonderful 2009!


From Tala's Teacher

From: Mrs. A
To: dregias
Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 11:52:10 AM
Subject: Tala

I just wanted to let you know that Tala seems to be having a hard time with her grandparents leaving. She seemed sad this morning and when I talked to her about it she started crying and said "everyone is leaving me. My house used to be full and now it's not. And Moody has been mean lately." I suggested that she color a picture for her grandparents and mail it to them.

Playing Go Fish!
Not to tell you what to do, but some ideas could be to continue writing to her grandparents, brother and sister, and talk to them on the phone if possible. Also, Tala could have a friend over or go to a friends house some day after school to give her things to look forward to...again, just suggestions.


Monday, December 15, 2008

A Hole in The Family!

Another goodbye before 2009 dawns on us!

Mama and Baba left yesterday, Sunday. They had stayed with us a little over two months. That was very nice of them and a lot to ask for. Their visit was much needed and their help was tremendous. Mama was an angel sent from heaven. She took care of the kids, cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, gave me massages--really took care of me and my family. We all have lots of wonderful memories with them despite the circumstances.

Tala is so sad. "There's a hole in our family," she and Moody keep saying. To me, it felt like the house has ghosts, after we came back from the airport. Oh, it hurts! {sigh}

On a positive note, Sol stayed home today. I went for a blood draw and then we visited The Wellness Community and I did a yoga class there. It was very uplifting and refreshing. I'll be going to more classes.

Now, I'm going to watch some video with my little angel Lalla before her bedtime. Tomorrow is another day...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Email from Tala's Teacher

From: Mrs. A.
To: dregias
Sent: Friday, December 5, 2008 10:12:55 AM
Subject: Tala

Mr. and Mrs. Dregia,

Tala has been expressing sadness about her brother and sister leaving. I suggested she write to them. She brought in a letter and card today for them. I was wondering if it was ok with you if I mailed it. If this is ok, could I please have an address to send the card and letter to?


Mrs. A.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tala Misses Them Two!

Tala misses Anas and Jana a lot, expressing that in notes and paintings. She has a bunch of them taped to the wall in her room and I find them everywhere in the house. I wish they two know how much she loves them!

I started chemo yesterday. I go to the clinic, receive it through the IV in the mediport and come back home. So far, it's the nausea that's bothering me. Well, it's only 2 days now. We plan to take the kids one of those days so they would see it's not a painful thing to have. Tala has been repeating, "I'm sad my Mom has cancer."

Baba has been talking about going back to Libya soon, after Eid. I wanted them to stay till at least mid January. Finally, I reached a compromise with him that they will not leave before the 22nd. This way they will see the Nut Cracker with us, the Holiday Party at school, and the Rigney's Christmas Caroling.

In the conversation my father said that he just now sees the kids as grandchildren. He said, "I didn't have that connection with them in the beginning." I was thinking about that myself. Just like we needed to build that family tie with Anas and Jana, my parents and Mody and Tala needed the time to build and acknowledge their tie. It's a blessing that they have. We have more memories now. We have had so much rich memories this year than any other time. I am thankful for that!


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

This photo is of "sitting" Cornish hens Mama made the other day

Preparations for the Thanksgiving dinner are on "foot and leg". The dinner table is ready, so are most of the side dishes, the tea table and the fireplace. Moody and Tala were very anxious to help this year. It is a very special Thanksgiving!

Lately we've been spending our days cooking, baking Eid goodies, playing Uno, and board games, watching Arabic TV, and having lots of fun. It's been unusually cold for this time of the year that we are trapped at home most of the time.

Mama, bless her heart, never tires! She cooks delicious meals; Tala bestowed on her "The greatest cook on the world" title. She cleans, organizes closets, does laundry, etc. I can't imaging how we could have been without her. And Baba is always entertaining the kids, and engaging with Sol in intelligent conversations that drags us all in.

Dregias Thanksgiving menu:

  • Turkey
  • Peach and mango chutney
  • Gravy
  • Rice with liver, kidney, almonds, raisins and pine nuts
  • Candied yams (made with pomegranate concentrate - a dernawy variation)
  • Green beans casserole
  • Baked potato casserole
  • Cranberry poppyseed salad
  • Pecan chocolate chip cookie pie
  • Pumpkin pie
Guests: Big drum roll'... Safia and Abdelrahim!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bye Bye, Hair!

My hair had been very long lately. It hadn't been that long for more than a decade. I liked it, maybe for the reason that it always brought me compliments. Since I learned about having to have chemotherapy, and because of the high probability that I would lose my hair, I decided to cut it very short before the treatment. I did cut it on Tuesday, November 11, and donated it to Locks of Love.

Tala insisted that she have her hair cut the same day with me. Sweet supportive Tala! We picked the same hair cut. Tala told the hairdresser, "Mom and I are going to be twins with this haircut."

I was scheduled to start chemotherapy today, but because there are many tests involved to be done before and Thanksgiving coming up, it was postponed till December 1. I was kind of disappointed. I wanted to start and be done with it, reveal the unknown of how I will react. But maybe it's for the best--to allow me more time to get over Jana and Anas leaving and build more strength.

The surgical oncologist is confident that he got all the tumor out with the stomach. But the treatment is needed to increase chances of survival and kill any cancer cells that might have been left behind or have traveled in my body. The doctors say that some people fly through therapy as if it's nothing and some would have a horrendous time. I'm hoping to be somewhere in the middle.

The schedule for the therapy would be as follows:
  1. One week of chemo and three weeks rest (1 dose every day for the first week, or 24 hours dispensing from a pump if I'm in the experimental arm of the clinical trial)
  2. Five weeks of radiation with chemo pump followed by four or five weeks rest
  3. One week of chemo and three weeks rest (1 dose every day for the first week, or 24 hours dispensing from a pump if I'm in the experimental arm of the clinical trial)
  4. One week of chemo and three weeks rest (1 dose every day for the first week, or 24 hours dispensing from a pump if I'm in the experimental arm of the clinical trial)

Moody and Tala can't comprehend why I have to take medicine that would make me weak. They keep asking why would the doctor do that to me. We told them what to expect in the coming months and still need to do more talking to help them cope and adjust.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Can't Sleep!

Juju and Tala have become very close and developed a special tie. They shared the same room for those four months. Jana would help Tala with her shower, pick her clothes, tidy her toys and closet, with her homework; and Tala always remembered Juju when she got a treat from dance or other places. Tala drew many pictures of her and Juju and decorated them with hearts, o's and x's. She wrote many care/love notes to Juju. We knew they will miss each other more than the rest of us.

Last night, Moody and Tala washed up and came downstairs wearing Anas and Juju's pj's. It was so cute and touching.

A long time after they've gone to bed, Tala came downstairs pouty. She started crying "I can't sleep without Jana in the room. I miss her. I need to sleep with someone." She asked to sleep with Moody in his room and we agreed. She went to bed hugging the purple puppy that Juju left behind. ~~sigh~~

9:36 am: I just received message that the kids arrived in Beirut and talked to them on the phone.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Painful Sighs

Just back from the airport. Anas and Jana have left. Their flight was yesterday, November 12, but the Columbus-NY airplane had a mechanical problem and was called off. Now they're gone... and it hurts.

Yesterday, we all went to the airport, including Nicole, the nanny. Sol, me, Moody, Tala, Mama and Baba. Today, it was only me and my parents.

Moody cried so much at the airport yesterday. I didn't think he would. Tala did too after she saw Moody crying. On Sunday, I told Moody that we will miss Anas and Juju, and he said, "I already miss them!" This morning, he was hugging me every few minutes and saying "Please don't cry at the airport today."

Their leaving happened so quickly. October 24, I decided to let them go after learning that I will have to go through six months of chemotherapy and radiation. I thought them leaving is best for everyone, especially since they wanted to go. I wouldn't have sent them if they didn't want to go.

They have spent exactly 4 months and 13 days with us. We are now part of their lives and they are part of our life. They have left. But, they now have rich memories, and family love and connection. Nobody and nothing can ever take that away from them, or us.

I hope they come back soon...


Thursday, November 06, 2008

I Made History!

November 4, 2008 was the second time I cast my vote. The first vote I casted was to Hillary Clinton in the Primaries. I was disappointed that she didn't make the party's nomination. For a long while, I was not sure that I would vote in the elections. I was not sure about Obama, and still so. There's something odd and fake about him. And definitely, I would never vote for a republican.

However, things evolved in the last couple of months that shaped my voting decision.

First, McCain's selection for a running mate. "Hell, no!" Was my reaction. Palin can't be the first woman elected to the White House. She is way under qualified and does not deserve that privilege. If Clinton can't be the first woman elected to the White House, then it ought to be someone of a higher caliber than her. If my vote could make a difference, I wanted it to block Palin from getting into the White House.

Second, Obama's pick of Joe Biden as a running mate was a good one. Biden compliments Obama in areas where he's inexperienced, novice, or lacking. I just hope that Biden gets to play an important role in the new administration. Obama's decision might indicate that he would surround himself with seasoned experts, and he won't be running the country single-handedly--that's what makes a successful president!

My wait in the voting line was exactly 45 minutes--not bad at all. Baba went with Sol and he got to stand with him at the voting machine and co-vote (kind of). He even got one of those I-Voted stickers. We (me, Sol, Mama, Baba) stayed up past midnight watching the results. Moody kept sneaking downstairs asking "Did Obama win?"

I liked McCain's speech. That was the only thing he did well since the start of his campaign. I think his speech was even better than Obama's. Obama's was kind of toned down given the significance of the event. Not that the speech was bad. But that is a historic event; Obama's speech should have been more enthusiastic, unforgettable, and remarkable than that.

Bush should be thrown out of the white house immediately. I am very hopeful for the changes coming up. Change is always good, no matter what direction it takes.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Fall, Favorite Season!



A very special Halloween indeed. The whole family is here including Mom and Dad. Jana and Tala dressed as Egyptian gypsy dancers in the outfits that my parents got them from Egypt. They both looked so cute. I dressed up in a galabaya too and so did Mom. Everybody had a great time, especially Dad.



September 1, Ramadan started.

October 1, we celebrated Eid.

September 24, we found out that I needed surgery on my stomach.

October 5, we put together fall decoration.

October 6, my surgery was scheduled for Wednesday, October 15.

October 8, Mom and Dad had their visa interview at the US embassy in Cairo. Their plan was to come before my surgery.

October 11, Mom and Dad received their passports with the US visa, in Cairo.

October 12, Mom and Dad arrived in Columbus, Ohio, That was their first visit to the US and the first time they meet Moody ad Tala.

October 15, I had my surgery.

October 25, I went home from the hospital. Due to my health issues, I decided to send Anas and Jana back to Lebanon. All the family is supportive of that. It's ironic--I was robbed of the kids, when they were young, after divorce. Now that I finally have them after 10 years of trying, I'm robbed of them again. As if it's never meant to be.

A Complete Family

First photo of me and 4 kids together
June 30th: Anas ad Jana arrived in Columbus, Ohio. Their first trip to the US. The automatically became US citizen once they set foot on US soil. The first two months, the whole family went on the scariest roller-coaster ride ever. It took a lot of adjustment from everybody to make it through the storm. The biggest hurdle was getting Anas and Jana used to and accepting of rules, consequences of their actions, and authority of their guardians. We are trying to connect with them at an age where they want to cut loose and gain their independence starting their journey to adulthood. It is not easy!

Their return was open to a certain extent. The Lebanese arm of their family left the decision on the kids' hands. I took it away from them--it's way too big of a decision to leave to a 13- ad 12-year-olds. I decided it is best for them to stay in the US despite objections from the Lebanese faction. The kids are very happy here; they started school and adjusted very well to "the rules" and all. Anas's first school period report card had an A+, C+ (in ESL) and the rest all A's. Jana's had all A's and a B+.

Naturally, they miss their Lebanese home and their family there. But at the same time, they are very happy here. It is a dilemma! They can't have it all and there is a price to pay either way. They still say they want to go back every now and then but accepted my decision.

Tala, sweet Lalla, was the icebreaker all this time. She got along very well with everyone. Her irresistible sweetness just poured over everyone. She had her moments here and there where she "wish Jana goes back to Lebanon; wish Jana is not in my room," etc. But, overall, she is the sweetest that could be.

Sol still surprises me even after almost 10 years of marriage. His patience, support, and understanding is unparalleled, out of this world. We really worked as one and it made a whole lot of difference. Sol, you are the world to me... Love you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ohio been Iked!

On Sunday hurricane Ike blew through here, leaving behind a trail of damage on a pretty wide scale. Ike packed a lot of energy to begin with, but our problem was worsened by the meeting of his southerly "warmth" with a cold front coming in from the west. They decided to wrestle each other in Ohio. Winds reached top speeds of 75 miles per hour (120 km/hr), and they lasted quite a while. There were several deaths in the state, deaths of people that is, but the material damage was quite big. Even yesterday, the day after, there were still some two million people without power in the state, about 500,000 of them in central Ohio alone. Some people will not have electricity restored until next week. Downed trees everywhere, some of them hundreds of years old. In our neighborhood, there were downed trees and ripped off shutters, but not much else. We lost power from about 4 pm till 10 pm, which is two hours on both sides of dusk. That's really prime time in Ramadan. We waited and then had to leave at the last minute, to hunt for food. Of course everyone in town was out on the hunt, and some restaurants were not even open that late on a Sunday. We were lucky because the power came back for us just as we got back home and were starting up some candles.

Yesterday I got to work and found the campus area in worse shape. There are a lot of narrow side streets lined with tall old trees. Narrow streets make for good wind tunnels, much to the demise of those beautiful trees. An ugly death scene, really. Power still out, traffic lights dead, and...

A couple of things I learned: Traffic lights actually speed up traffic not slow it down! That was a flip. Also, if fasting is partly meant to train people to be less dependent on things taken for granted, then electricity should be added to the list. They ought to have programmed/scheduled power outages. It would be like fire drills and tests of the emergency warning systems. Not only individual people, but communities need to be trained. The pictures below are samples of many sent by people to local TV.

OK, how do you define unlucky?

Honey, look what the wind just brought in!

Another unwelcome visitor

Wind power vs. fossil fuel