Friday, May 28, 2010

On my way home!

I don't normally travel for work. Like at all. I send people on travel. But me? I just don't travel.

It's not that I really despise business travel. Actually I like it a bit. I like going to a new city, eating good food that isn't available in my small town, shopping at places we don't have (hello Trader Joes, Whole Foods... yes, I grocery shop on travel). I like to be a bit of a tourist and try to usually set aside a bit of time at each destination to see things I wouldn't normally see and to take in the local culture.

But traveling is difficult for a working mom. I miss my kids deperately. I am lucky that I have a very capable husband who supports me in my career. But being a single parent for a week is rough. Not to mention my husband's work schedule - he works four 10 hour days, leaving the house at 5:30 am and returning at 6pm thanks to the nearly hour long commute. Me being gone? It's just hard on the whole family. People tell me that it is good for the kids to rely on others, to rely on daddy. Maybe.

Lately I seem to go to DC every 6 months or so, which is one of my favorite destinations. There is so much to see and do in DC. Over the years I have hit most of the Smithsonian museums, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, Arlington National Cemetary, the Lincoln Memorial and the WWII Memorial. Not to mention hanging out in Georgetown, seeing an opera at the Kennedy Center and mastering the Metro. The Air and Space Museum has the best gift shop. A normal tourist would likely see all these things in a single trip. But when you are factoring in that I am fitting this all in between meetings and most of these sites are only open 8am to 5pm, I have done pretty good with my DC trips. AB is headed to Baltimore for a week of business travel in June. I am very excited for him and am planning his itinerary.

Last week I flew to DC, managed to eat good sushi one night, got up the next morning and headed to the meeting then took the most crowded Metro ride to Union Station (this was my little bit our being a tourist where I wandered Union Station for 30 minutes and bought two little trinkets for the kids). Then I boarded the train to Philadelphia to spend two days with my most favorite client.

That was a whirlwind trip. No real touristy things on that trip. Next time I am in DC the Spy Museum is on my list. My coworker tells me that the gift shop there rivals the one at the Air and Space museum for bringing goodies back for the kids.

I went to Albuquerque this week. I left Monday afternoon and hung out with the work crowd that I haven't hung out with in years. It started stressful for me, but ended okay, save for the miserable presentation I gave at the end. I think my mind had just given up. I don't know how people who travel regularly do it. I truly don't.

My willingness to go to Albuquerque for the entire week was prompted largely by the fact that I have never been to the desert Southwest. I find this odd particularly since I grew up in Colorado. It just isn't that far away from Colorado!

I had a teleconference on Wednesday that I had to sneak out for, this provided a good opportunity for me to duck out for the entire afternoon and fulfill my need to be a tourist for a bit.

I headed down to Old Town Albuquerque and immersed myself in the culture.

Oh and I did a bit of shopping too. I also roasted... After weeks of cool weather back home and cool weather on the east coast, I was completely unprepared for the heat of Albuquerque.

The best food I ate during this trip was a visit to Little Anita's in Old Town. I wasn't terribly hungry, though I needed to get back to the hotel and get some stuff done there. So I grabbed a bowl of green chili and a couple of sopaipillas.

AB asked me if the green chili was better than his. What an unfair question!

AB's green chili is hotter than hell and he smokes the meat he puts in his chili, which imparts a smokey flavor to the chili. It wasn't better, it was just different. I would have called this green chili mild, and I was surprised by the chunks of potatoes. The meat was the standard pork but simmered to shreds. And the sopaipillas... Sopaipillas are the reason I never made it to the cupcakery across the street from my hotel.

I gave my failure of a presentation on Thursday... normally I do well at presentations. This one I faltered. (Tritium Producing Burnable Assembly Rods, Tritium Producing Burnable Assembly Robs... why could I not say this? And why did I have to attempt it over and over?)

I headed to Whole Foods, then a quick trip to Trader Joes. I picked up Meditteranean style munchies for dinner, as well as a half a bottle of wine (and another corkscrew, this one IS going in my luggage for good so I don't have to keep buying them while traveling) also a slice of ultra dense chocolate cake.

I did succeed in finding a variety of frozen chilis to take home to AB this morning that I packed in my luggage and hope stay frozen for the day of travel. If not, I suppose we will be making green chili this weekend!

My next trip is slated for mid-August to head back and see my favorite Philly client again. AB is hoping that the fact that I have my next travel scheduled isn't indicative of a trend that seems to plague the majority of my coworkers. Nope. I am going back to the no travel mantra. Ok, except for my annual program review with my second favorite client... and maybe for the summons issued to me by favorite client. But other than that? No more business travel!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Venturing back

In a way, it is hard to get back to blogging. I have this huge list of blogs to write about, but I haven't really felt like blogging, I have been overly busy and well, I just haven't been in that frame of mind. I blogged, in large part this last year, for my mom. She loved the safe haven of my blogs and hearing the stories about the kids. I purposely kept the majority of the cancer details out of my blog.

I enjoy blogging. It's cathartic to me. So the best thing to do is dive straight in I suppose. This is going to be an unusual post from me. It's lengthy (that's not unusual, I tend to be wordy, but you can deal or click away). There is love. There is anger. There aren't too many laughs. And not a dang thing funny that my kid's have said. But it is what it is.

My mom passed away after a 14 month battle with a rare type of liver cancer called cholangiocarcinoma. She was the picture of health so recently, nearly vegetarian, a marathon runner, a hard worker. And young. She was only 56. She had done everything right. She was not one of the risk categories for liver cancer. This took us by storm.

She battled hard until she could battle no more. The problem with rare cancers is that the drug companies don't invest resources into making drugs targeted at a disease that only 4000 people in the US get a year. All the chemos she tried were being used "off label". She battled and battled. When she wasn't on chemo, she suffered heartache. She needed to fight.

When I visited her in March her oncologist took her off chemo and very kindly and tenderheartedly suggested Hospice. Only 6 weeks later, on May 10th, the day after Mother's Day, she lost the hard fought battle.

She entered the Hospice ward at a hospital a few days before as they were unable to care for her at home. At that point she was lost in her body. She did not speak, nearly comatose from what I understand, but eventually did start responding a little in her own way and finally saying a few words on Sunday.

On Mother's Day she mustered an "I love you" into the phone. I didn't hear it, though I think I had the phone up to Skadi's ear at the time. My baby heard her grandma tell us she loved us.

My mom passed away quietly that Monday. Her breathing had changed that morning and while holding Rick's hand, she just quit breathing.

It has been a very surreal experience. I flew to Colorado that Tuesday morning, afraid to look at anyone for fear that they might expect me to speak to them. I buried myself in "Breaking Dawn" - the least likely book to remind me of my heartache while I travelled. On Tuesday when Rick picked me up, my guard came down. We cried and talked for three days.

The after.

I have learned through this experience how atypical my mom was. Also how I have apparently inherited this atypical-ness. And why this is atypical and not typical, because I didn't realize beforehand that there is certain expectations that those left surviving are "supposed" to uphold. It appears I have faltered in many of them.

My mom did not want a funeral or burial service. This did not surprise me at all, I remember when I was 13 years old and my grandfather died and how my mom complained and was creeped out by the whole process. Instead, we will give us all a bit of time to mourn and then hold her Life Celebration in Colorado on July 17th.

I have felt through the last year or so a lot of judgement placed on me, my mom and my family by others. There are times where I wish that I wouldn't have even shared what is going on so that *I* don't have to live up to what other people expect in situations like this. So that *I* have not had to explain to others my mom's wishes.

I have often wanted to yell at people. (And I don't normally yell... but anyways.) I have wanted to YELL, "What do YOU believe I should be feeling? Why isn't my path appropriate? Why can't you accept the way MY family is without forcing YOUR expectations on me?" I found that much of the perceived judgement came only from those people who in no way had persevered this magnitude of loss, could in no way have any idea what was going on.

Those friends of mine who had or are going through similar issues, were the softest, the gentlest and the kindest.

Everyone is different. My mom was a different person. An intensely private person. My mom took huge pride in my sister and me. In me, she was proud of my degree, proud of my work, proud of my kids, proud of where AB and I have positioned ourselves in our lives.

And I will never forget one of the last things she told me in person as I hugged her small frame goodbye for the last time.

"You are where you are supposed to be. You have your family. You need to stay there and take care of my grandbabies. A lifetime is not defined by a moment in time, a moment of passing." She didn't want an audience. My mom never wanted an audience in her entire life. She wanted to go quietly, softly and rest in knowing she had passed her being on in at least five people in the world - myself, my sister, and our kids.

It felt right for me to return to work shortly after my mom's passing. Truly, if her passing had been less expected, not something we prayed to God about to take her softly and to remove her suffering, then I would have needed a lot more time. But my grieving, my getting used to losing her, was something that was spread over a year. I grieved with every setback in her diagnosis, every scan that showed the cancer advancing, every doctor who regretably, could not help her. I grieved. I hoped, but I was also a realist and therefore I grieved.

I embarked upon two weeks of business travel a week after my mom passed. For months I had talked to my mom about this travel. She knew how I loved going to DC and she knew how I looked forward to riding the train to Philadelphia and then spending a few days gawking at big-ass boats like a tourist. She was excited for me to go to one of her favorite places, New Mexico, and to experience the desert Southwest. In those last few months of her life, she raved about sopaipillas and art galleries and her love of New Mexico. Not going on my travel served little purpose. I knew that my mom would have wanted me to go.

During these past three weeks one thing that happened that shocked me, was that "friends" were defined. I bonded with Jen from high school who was losing her sister in law in a similar fashion through cancer, her sister in law died days after my mom did. I bonded with Erin from high school who lost her father and was a tremendous resource. I met my mom's closest friend, Noreen, who was a tremendous sounding board for me during those last few weeks and the person who kept me talking and sharing experiences with me when she lost her sister to cancer.

I hung with one of my coworkers in DC who knew exactly what had happened, had prayed for us, and then didn't let me out of his sight. I had to convince him I could walk across the street to Starbucks by myself (and to the shop next to that to get Advil for that raging headache). He didn't say a word, but the way he looked at me out of the corner of his eye asked me if I was ok every hour or so.

My very close friend Melissa kept it real by e-mailing regularly, asking only occasionally how things were, but all the time realizing that life still goes on and sharing all those little details that friends share about their days.

I cried with Rachel whose father has recently been diagnosed with a rare cancer.

I sobbed under Heather's hand in the bathroom at work when I got that phonecall.

My Philly client took me off to the side after our review and wanted to know how my kids were doing with my mom passing, and when I started talking and kept talking and finally had to tell myself to shut up, she asked me more questions to keep me talking.

I drank beer with my lead engineer and talked NBA finals, never mentioning my mom. His kind e-mail to me days before said it all.

There are others. I can't list the compassion of everyone during these last three weeks. But actions resonated.

Life goes on. I am grieving. I will be grieving for a long time.

But I am not fragile. I will not break. I have two children who, for the most part, haven't felt the impact of the loss and who still need to go to school daily, finish up baseball, still behave like the biggest goofballs alive, and strive to make me smile. I love life. I am dealing with my loss my way and when I am able.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Barbara J. Carbaugh, 56, passed away peacefully on May 10th, 2010 at Pathways Hospice Care Center located in McKee Medical Center, Loveland, Colorado. She lost her 14 month brave and courageous battle against liver cancer. Our loss is great, however, we are comforted to know she is now pain free and in God’s loving hands.

Barbara was born in Casper, Wyoming on August 2nd, 1953. She graduated from Natrona County High School in Casper, then from Casper College with a degree in business administration. She was employed at the Casper YMCA where she was the membership and racquetball director. She moved to Fort Collins, Colorado in 1986 with her future husband, Rick Carbaugh and her two girls.

Barbara began working for Inhausen Research Institute in Fort Collins and learned the pre-clinical bio-medical research business. She managed the business for many years and purchased the company in January 2007, renaming it High Quality Research. She welcomed the new duties including marketing and quickly added new clients from Colorado as well as national and international companies. Her honesty and integrity created a positive business and personnel relationship with her clients. Over 25 years she has researched many products which may help other cancer patience. She was an active member in many bio-medical and research communities. She sold the company to her general manager of many years on April 30th, 2010. She and her survivors take great pride knowing she spent these years helping mankind.

She loved life and had many diverse interests and hobbies, but none more important to her than her great love for her husband, daughters, grandchildren, family and friends. She spent several years as a skilled racquetball player and teacher before her passion turned to running. She ran the Bolder Boulder for many years, then always seeking a greater challenge started running half and full marathons. She completed nine marathons including qualifying for and completing the 100th running of the Boston Marathon. She was an avid hiker, baker, traveler and loved to read.

She is survived by her husband Richard "Rick" Carbaugh of Windsor, Colorado; daughters Dr. April Carman and husband Hans of Richland, Washington; Angela Allie and husband Joel of Denver, Colorado; mother Shirley Jeanne Walker formerly of Casper Wyoming and presently residing in Denver Colorado; brothers David Walker of Denver, Dr. Michael Walker and wife Laurie of Sitka Alaska, and Robert Walker of Casper, Wyoming; grandchildren Nick and Celeste Allie and Leif and Skadi Carman. Preceded in the passing of her father Eugene Lemuel Walker.
All of her family wish to express our deep love and appreciation to all of the caring, talented and compassionate medical staffs of Front Range Cancer Center and Dr. Robert Marschke, Poudre Valley Hospital, Medical Center of the Rockies Radiology Department and Pathway Hospice and Care Center.
The world is a better place because of what you do and how you do it! Bless you all.
Barbara will be missed and loved forever and never, never forgotten. A celebration of her life will be held at a later date.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Skadi Speak

Skadi: "I have a mini to go put in my mini bank!"

Alternative: "I have moneys to go put in my mini bank!"

Translation: "I have a penny (or any single coin) to go put in my piggy bank!"

Mini = single coin.
Mini Bank = where you put your coins one at a time.
Money = Plural of mini
Piggy = Just the shape of the mini bank


One of my favorites recently:

Leif: "Hey Skadi, do you like Green Eggs and Ham?"

Skadi: (Stuffing cereal in her mouth.) "No, Go fish."


Every once in awhile I get bored of Dora. We read Dora books every.single.night.

Every night.

I beg and beg for one of the many, many other books in her bookshelf and she says no. Only Dora.

So sometimes I make things up.

Like: "Hello Skadi, I am Swiper would you like a cookie?" Instead of "Swiper, no swiping!"

So I was a bit surprised when she responded quickly without missing a beat and a completely straight face - I go for the giggles, I want giggles. But I got a straight face and a simple response:

"Hi Swiper, yes, I would like a cookie, a caramel cookie!"


I had a stomach ache and was laying on the couch.

Skadi took my temperature (with her doctor's kit), listened to my heart and stomach with her stethoscope.

"Here," she said, "I get you a blanket."

She covers me up.

"Ok now," she continues, "Push the baby out."

AB's head whipped around quite fast! My jaw dropped open.

When I inquired at school no one had any ideas. I loved though that Ms. S admitted it was her, that she was the one expecting (a widow in her mid-50's with boys my age). They did tell me that one of Skadi's "friends" (term used loosely - she has a lot of conflicts with this one little girl) has been telling everyone her mommy is going to have a baby, though no one thinks it true.


And wrap up with a Leif one.

Leif has been a bit emotional lately.

Ok, so he has been a lot emotional lately.

Everything bugs him, you can't look at him sideways. His feelings get hurt very easily. Most of all, he seems terrified of not having me around. I think this is common at this age, but it is also a bit more prominent with my mom's health. This absolutely breaks my heart.

The other night he was hugging me, "Mommy, even when you are a grandma, I don't want you to move out of this house and leave me, ever ever. I want you to stay with me always."

This is of course, contrary to him telling me the other day he was getting married and moving to "her" house. When I said I would miss him terribly he agreed to split the nights between "her" house and ours. One night at "her" house, one night at our house.

Well at least he is honest... I know what I am watching for in another 22 years!

Privacy? What's that?

We seem to have a bit of an issue in our house.


A lack of modesty.

I keep hearing that just one day the kids will want their door closed, they will close the door when they use the restroom and they won't run around naked. I ask Leif if he closes the door to the bathroom at school knowing that it is up to each kid, "sometimes", he tells me, "when someone tells me to."

Typical, oblivious little Leif.

My son is going on 5.5 and it hasn't happened. He desires no privacy.

It isn't like AB and I are hippy parents. Our parents weren't nudists, we weren't raised in the buff.

You may have noticed pictures of my daughter in the blog... she starts out the day in one outfit, changes a few times to suit her mood and then finally mid-afternoon has had it with clothes and runs around in her panties... if we are lucky and can convince her to keep those on.

I leave our bedroom and bathroom door open on weekday mornings since while the kids sleep, I work out and then shower. They come in when they wake up and tell me they are up (me in various states of dress or undress), then they crawl in the bed and watch whatever happens to be on the little TV. I don't lock my door. My son sees me nude, but it's no big deal to him. Will it be at some point? Or will it just become a big deal to me?

Leif is better about keeping his clothes on than his sister, but he is often seen carrying his clothes to a particular place in the house to get dressed - to be near whoever.

Our friends' daughter (age 6) spent the night a few weeks ago while her parents went to a nice wine and food dinner. At one point she told Leif, "I need some privacy". And Leif wasn't joking when he said, "what's that?"

She had her pajamas on when Leif walks in naked, carrying his pajamas to get dressed near everyone else.

Giggles erupted!

I quickly directed him back to his room to get dressed. Oblivious-ness set in again, "I just want to get dressed where I can talk!"

See Leif and Skadi also still bathe together at 5.5 and 3. We have tried for the last six or so months to split them up. We have tried alternating bath nights, we have tried consecutive baths, we have put them in different bathrooms. Somehow they migrate together. If it is Skadi's bath night, then she is begging Leif to get in and play mermaids with her and he is all too willing. If it is Leif's bath night then we are physically restraining Skadi and locking her out so that she doesn't get in with him.

Which is less healthy?

Within a day or so we give up these attempts and let them go back to their baths together where they play and laugh and blow bubbles and see who can float the longest.

I am waiting for that day that Leif requests privacy... though right now I am thinking Skadi might reach that milestone first, given history.

Then again, maybe not, and maybe we are just hippy nudist parents.

(Oh goodness, wonder who is going to be directed to my blog now with keyword searches...)

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Institute of Pie

I am a fan of pie.

You have to be to be in my family. Though stopping there doesn't really suffice. Because everyone likes pie, right? Of course they do. But coming from my lineage makes one an automatic pie connesiur and there exists a gene in the Perchert - maybe even all the way back on the Turnquist line that once properly activated also makes you an excellent baker of pies.

My great grandmother had it. My mom had it. I worried it skipped a generation, until mine was properly activated. My grandmother never activated hers and on the rare occasion she was forced to make a pie (after my mom moved away), she did the absolute unthinkable and bought refrigerated crust. My hipster mid-20 something year old cousin in Portland? She makes a mean pie too - I have seen the evidence on Facebook.

My daughter is getting the proper inaugeration as well.

She is being raised right, her gene will be activated.

Or maybe it already is.

"Mommy, look I have the flour on my nipples!"

I actually make pie with my clothes on... it helps with this problem.