My journey to shoot for the moon.

Archive for August, 2011

The Oncology Clinic

Chris has an appointment today to see the oncologist.  What that means is that he will leave and drive to the hospital and get his blood drawn.  I will make sure that Michael is up and moving, the dogs are set, and then I will get in my car and drive to the hospital.  The hospital, University of Colorado Hospital, Aurora Campus, is only about 15 miles away.  In the morning, during rush hour, it can take anywhere from 30-75 minutes to get there.  Of course, since it is somewhere we don’t really want to go, the drive is stressful and annoying.  After the blood draw, we will wait to see the oncologist.

The first time we went to the oncology clinic was after Chris got out of the hospital (October, 2009).  It was during a snowstorm.  We called the clinic to make sure that they were seeing patients and they told us that they were.  They also told us that we should get there whenever we could and not to worry about our appointment time.  We asked if they meant we should come then – they said yes.

Beyond driving in the snowstorm, I don’t remember much from the first trip to the oncology clinic.  I think that over the last two years my impressions have all blended together and I just have feelings about it.  I don’t like it.

For one thing, there are sick people there.  Yes, I know that it is the oncology clinic, but some of the people look really sick.  One time there was a man there who must have been having trouble with his liver because he was yellow.  It was pretty scary to see someone who was yellow (the whites of his eyes were yellow).  There are also people who don’t look sick at all and you wonder why they are there.  When I go with Chris it is during the lung cancer clinic, so I know that there are people who have lung cancer, but that isn’t the only clinic being held at that time.  There are people who clearly have breast cancer (the pesto-bismal pink clothing is a dead give-away).  Usually, there aren’t any young people there, unless they are there with someone who has cancer (this is usually obvious by the way that they are “taking care” of the person with cancer).  By young I mean in their 30’s and 40’s.  Children are not allowed.

Then there are the puzzles.  There are puzzles that are partially completed on tables for people to work on.  Who can concentrate on a puzzle when you are sitting in the oncology clinic?  I know that I can’t.  I usually bring magazines because they require concentration for only a few minutes at a time.  Most of the time I don’t remember what I read during the time I was sitting there.

Another thing at the oncology clinic is the wait.  It is typical of any clinic and sometimes you wait forever.  While waiting you can’t help but wonder if they have forgotten you, or if the doctor doesn’t want to see you because they have bad news.  One time Chris and I waited in the waiting room for almost 90 minutes.  Finally, he went to find out what was going on and they realized that they misplaced his chart going from the lab to the clinic (they are next to each other).  My imagination was in over-drive that day.

After you get from the waiting room to the exam room, you wait more (again like a regular doctor’s office).  Since University of Colorado Hospital is a teaching hospital, the doctor, when he finally arrives, usually has a med student with him and he will go over Chris’ history.  Then he examines Chris.  Generally, this consists of listening to Chris’ lungs.  Next, he talks about the scans.  This is the part that Chris and I have been anxiously waiting for.  Nothing else really matters.

Dr. Bunn, the first pulmonary oncologist that treated Chris would take us into another room and show us the scans on the computer.  This was good because we then had some idea of what he was talking about.  But it was bad because we wondered what stuff was on the scans and if it was normal and Dr. Bunn went past it.  It was also bad because we could see the cancer.  Not really, but we could see the areas where the cancer was and that is a scary thing.

The doctor who is treating Chris now doesn’t usually show us the scans.  He will talk about the report that he got from the person who read the PET scan.  He will tell us about the tumor’s activity.  He will tell us what the next step is in the plan and let Chris know if he has any options.  He sometimes uses “big doctor words” and looks at me strangely when I ask what they mean.  It is like he forgets that he is talking to a lay person.  And either he’ll explain it or I’ll end up texting my brother, Jeff, to find out.

That is usually it for our visits to the oncology clinic.  Chris then has to wait for them to get his meds together (since he is on a clinical trial drug, he gets them from the hospital) and he can leave.  He usually drives to work from there and I drive home (or when I was working, to work).

The waiting part is the worst.  The anxiety starts in our home after Chris has had his scan, but before we have seen the doctor at the clinic.  If there is good news from the doctor (and we consider that the cancer staying the same is good news) then the anxiety dissipates.  If there isn’t good news from the doctor, the anxiety builds until the next course of treatment (or doctor’s visits or scans) start.  Then things calm down for a bit until we know what is happening next.  Some days it feels like we are on a roller coaster that we have all grown tired of and want to get off.  Other days, it lurks in the back of our minds and almost fades away.  Finally, there are days when it is unbearable and there is nothing we can do.  And this is for me and the boys.  I can’t imagine how it feels for Chris, but it must be worse for him than it is for us, since he not only has to deal with the emotional aspects, he has to deal with the physical aspects too.

I think though, the worst day, is the day before.  I dread the day before the oncology clinic visit.  I dread it because I know that the next day we will have to go and deal with the cancer.  I know that the odds are against us when it comes to getting good news.  That as we approach the 2 year mark, we are beating the odds (the prognosis for Stage IV Lung Cancer is 6 months to 2 years) and that can’t continue.  That is the really scary part.

I will update my blog later today (Wednesday, August 31, 2011) or tomorrow.

David Turns 13

Yesterday David entered the world of the teenager. It seems like such as short time ago, he was a baby! And I am not old enough to have a teenager!!!

My wish for my handsome, amazing and talented son is that his teenage years are mostly happy and anguish-free.  He is such a good kid and he is on his way to becoming a wonderful man.   Being a teenager is tough and I wouldn’t relive those years. I hope that he doesn’t feel that way when he looks back (upon having his own teenager).

Happy Birthday David.  I love you.  May all your wishes come true.

Hamsters

At some point, the boys, when we were still in Illinois, decided that they wanted hamsters.  We had Alex and Kirby, but they wanted something else.  We tried fish at one time, but no one wanted to be responsible for cleaning the fish bowl and the fish died.  And when Chris and I lived together, before we got married, we had a ferret.  Ferrets are smelly animals.  Alex loved the ferret and was very upset with us when we gave it away (long before David was born).

Personally, I am not an animal person.  I love dogs but that is it.  I don’t care for cats.  My mom had birds when I was growing up and I don’t like birds.  Snakes, turtles, frogs, crabs, rabbits, gerbils, guinea pigs, mice, rats, hamsters, ferrets and other small animals are not my idea of a pet.  I don’t like them and will admit that I am a bit afraid of them.  Dogs, I like dogs, dogs are good pets.  Nothing else cuts it in my opinion.

But the boys wanted hamsters.  Chris and I discussed it and decided that we would get them hamsters.  Chris was supposed to help them keep the cage clean until they were old enough to do it themselves.  So off we went to buy hamsters.  I got additional tubes and stuff for their cage from freecycle and ebay.  Chris would help the kids clean the cage and I would attach the tubes and stuff in funky designs.  I didn’t mind that part.

The large hamster cage.

But, then Chris moved to Colorado and I was left with the hamsters.  That meant that I had to help the boys clean the cage.  I really don’t care for hamsters.  And, they bite.  Hard.  But the boys wanted their hamsters and so I helped them keep the cage clean.

When it came time for the rest of us to move to Colorado, Chris flew to Illinois so he could drive with us.  We had a mini-van and in it we had Chris and I, the two boys, the two dogs and the two hamsters.  What a trip!

The hamsters seemed to adjust to Colorado.  They seemed contented.  I was content because Chris was back to helping the boys clean the cage and I didn’t have to deal with it.  And then, one day, the hamster cage door was found open (we think we know who left it open – and it wasn’t my boys) and one hamster was missing.  The other hamster was dead.  In one fell swoop, we had no hamsters.

Honestly, I was sorry about the missing hamster and thought that we didn’t take very good care of him, if he was allowed out of his cage unsupervised.  And who knows what happened to him.  Did a dog eat him?  Did he make it outside?  Who knows?  I can tell you that I have cleaned the boys’ room from top to bottom and have not seen the hamster.

The small hamster cage.

We cleaned out the cage and put all the pieces in storage.  I think that the kids when with Chris over to Uncle Mike’s house to bury the hamster, but I am not sure.  And we were blissfully hamster free for a while.

Last year, they started talking about getting hamsters again.  I was against it, but they would not be dissuaded and they really didn’t ask for anything else for Christmas.  So how was I to say no?

I would have liked to, really.  But the boys worked on cleaning their room (although it didn’t stay that way) and they really, really wanted them.  So they got new hamsters.

The new hamsters did not want anything to do with being held.  They would bite.  They would draw blood.  It wasn’t much fun (and I don’t like hamsters to begin with).  Chris would have trouble breathing and would break out whenever he was around them – cleaning the cage or holding them (if they would let him).  The boys don’t feel comfortable cleaning out the cage by themselves.  So that means that I get to sit in there whenever they have to do it (and it doesn’t get done as often as it should).

While we bought both hamsters from the same litter, and they were in the same cage at the pet store, they don’t like each other.  They fight.  A lot.  And one hamster was looking pretty beat up.  So we put them in different cages so they can’t interact.

The one beat up hamster is looking a bit better since we did that, although he doesn’t look as healthy as the other hamster.  His eyes are not as big and protruding and his face seems less round.  Is this a difference in hamster genetics?  Or the result of being bullied and picked on?  I have no clue.  But the two hamsters do not look a like at all.  They also aren’t happy posing for pictures – they move around and don’t look at the camera.  They don’t respond to your voice like a dog would.

The hamsters are much quieter now that they are in separate cages.  Did you know that hamsters squeal?  Since they are supposed to be nocturnal, it is usually in the middle of the night.  And they get quite loud when they are fighting.

I’d like to say that when these hamsters are no more, we will be done with hamsters.  I’m not certain that will be the case.  As far as pets go, hamsters are fairly cheap.  They don’t need walking or shots or much besides food, water, and a cage cleaning every now and again.  So, most of my pet arguments aren’t valid.  I’d like to say that next time we get hamsters, I will make sure that the boys spend time holding them, etc. so that they learn to trust people and don’t bite.  But, as I don’t want to hold them, I can’t say that will happen either.

So, I haven’t quite figured out the allure of hamsters.  Maybe one day I will.  They are awfully cute, as long as you don’t have to hold them and risk being bitten.

The Family Bed, Breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting – Part 3

When I started this thread, I didn’t think that I needed to explain what I was writing about.  Michael was reading over my shoulder (as he often does when I am composing a post) and asked, “What’s the family bed?”

I asked him if he remembered sleeping in bed with me and Chris when he was little, and he said he did.  I explained that the family bed was all of us sleeping together.  It is really a simple concept and one that didn’t need to be explained until the last 100 years or so.  Our ancestors (and currently in some other countries), slept with their babies.  They all slept in the same bed/area.  It wasn’t until people started collecting wealth and building large homes that children were expected to sleep alone.

When in the womb, an infant is warm and cozy.  He hears his mother’s heartbeat and her voice.  This is his world.  When he is born, he may be thrust into a world that separates him from his mother.  He is expected to sooth himself, to sleep alone and to take nourishment from a plastic bottle.  A lucky infant is the one whose mother is prepared to breastfeed and keep him close.  When he is near his mother, he can still hear her heartbeat and it is comforting to him.  He can smell her milk.  He feels warm and safe.  His mother is his entire world.  By keeping him close, his mother meets his needs.  Sometimes even before he can cry.  He sleeps close to her and forms a strong attachment to her.

As he grows older, he begins to form attachments to others.  But his mother is still his world.  Knowing that she is there, trusting that she will keep him safe, he is able to explore the world around him.  When he is little, there are few adults in his world beyond his mom and dad.  His time away from mom and dad is minimal until he is ready to be without them.  This is attachment parenting:  the bond formed first between mother and child and then between father and child.  The mother, when attachment parenting, learns to trust her instincts when it comes to her child and do what feels natural.  It is an amazing experience:  to know that your baby needs you and that for that moment no one else can fill the need.

At this point in my parenting journey, I have not been nursing longer than I’ve nursed.  My boys happily go off to do their own things, knowing that I will be available to them when they want or need me.  They have learned to take risks because they are accepted for who they are and loved unconditionally.  As a parent, I trust my instincts about what I believe they need, but I also discuss it with them because they are usually able to tell me.  They know what they need and how their needs can be met.

They are confident  and well-adjusted (most of the time) and if it wasn’t for their dad’s cancer, they would be happy.  Surprisingly, they very rarely get in trouble.  Chris’ and my expectations are clear and they understand them.  They know the consequences (they learned that word before they were 2) for not meeting expectations.  Whenever possible, we impose “natural consequences.”  If the boys are goofing around and talking in bed past their bedtime, they will be tired in the morning.  They are still expected to go to school and do their chores.  It didn’t take them too long to figure out that they didn’t feel well when they were tired and cranky.

I don’t believe in permissive parenting.  My expectations (and Chris’) are extremely high, but they are reasonable.  When we impose consequences, they are well thought out and not overly harsh.  I learned very early in my parenting that I needed to follow through when I said something, so I shouldn’t say anything that I wasn’t prepared to follow through with.

I am not my children’s friend.  I am their mother.  However, they know that they can come to me about anything.  They know that I won’t judge them and that I love them, no matter what.  This is essential as my kids enter their teenaged years.  David already knows that if he drinks alcohol, I won’t be pleased, but that I will come and get him wherever he is, if ever he needs me to.  He understands that if he drinks and drives the consequences will be significant, but he can call me and I will get him.  He won’t get off if he calls me, he will still have consequences, but he will be safe and alive.  He knows that he can talk with me about any subject and I will tell him what I think.  He must make his own decisions but he can trust that I will listen to his thoughts and his respect his right to make those decisions.

Parenting by heart, it is challenging and requires forethought and reflection.  But, the results are amazing and even with the occasional lack of sleep, I wouldn’t parent any other way.

The Family Bed, Breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting – Part 2

When Michael began walking, he started following David around.  This was great because I was able to do some things without touching Michael, or should I say without Michael touching me.  Michael was quite attached to David and I welcomed the small breaks it gave me.  Sometimes Michael would even sleep with his brother for short periods of time.

Most nights David was sleeping in his bed and Michael was sleeping with us.  Michael continued to nurse until he was almost 3 and while he was nursing, I didn’t try to get him to sleep in his own bed.  When he finally weaned, Chris and I tried to get him to sleep with David (who was 5).  Most of the time it worked well, but sometimes on school nights (David was in kindergarten) Michael was difficult and ended up in our bed.

At some point, David  S decided that he wanted his own bed and moved to the top bunk.  Michael stayed on the bottom bunk and was sleeping in his bed most nights.  He was weaned, but he was still rubbing my arm.  This was something that he started when I would ask him to wait to nurse (after he was a year old)  he would rub my arm from my elbow to wrist over and over again.  I don’t know when he started it and I don’t remember when he stopped.  Although, I do remember that it became annoying and I was touched-out.

The reason that I am writing this is that, even at 13 and almost 11 the boys still find their way into our bed.  Michael sleeps with us more frequently, but occasionally David ends up in our bed.  That is what happened the other night.  Chris had to work overnight – they were moving computers or something and needed to do it after business hours.  David goes to bed earlier than Michael because he needs to get up almost 2 hours before Michael does.  Since they share a room, Michael usually reads in our bed from the time that David goes to bed until his bedtime.  But the other night, I was exhausted.  I got into bed while Michael was still reading in my room.  From there, it seemed natural that he would scoot over and snuggle.  And of course, we fell asleep.  Kirby was sleeping up against my back and Sugar was sleeping at the bottom of the bed.  Michael isn’t usually fun to sleep with; he ends up lying cross-ways on the bed, he kicks, flings arms out, steals covers and other terrible things while he is sleeping.

At some point I realized that David had come to get into bed with us.  I remember telling him to get his own pillows (he’s fighting a cold and with Chris’ cancer . . .).  So, all three of us were in my bed.  And the dogs.  None of us slept well.  The dogs kept waiting for Chris (he got home at 4:30 am and slept on the couch).  Michael got up at 2:30 am to go to the bathroom and decided to go to his own bed.  David was tossing and turning and me, well, I was being bombarded by flying Michael parts and hearing David cough and the dogs bark.  It wasn’t a good night.

The thing is that I strongly feel that the boys should be comfortable coming to our bed.  Yes, it is a little weird to have David in bed with me – he is taller than me – but I am glad that he still feels that he can come to me to be comforted.  Michael, well, when Michael has a night terror (which hasn’t happened in a LONG time), Chris and I found that the best thing was to have him go to the bathroom and then get in bed with me.  It calms him the quickest so that all of us can go back to sleep.

When Michael first started having night terrors, he was 5 and Chris lived in Colorado while the boys and I were still in Illinois.  I was working part-time and our house was on the market and I was single parenting.  Sleep was important.  Michael would be distressed and frantic and the thing that soothed him the quickest was to put him in bed with me.  It was necessary as he was having night terrors 3-4 times a week.  And I just couldn’t manage.  So, we did what worked.

While writing this blog, I’ve been thinking why this is so important to me:  having the boys be able to come to my bed.  I remember being anxious as a child.  Very anxious.  And I didn’t think that I could share my anxiety and fears with my parents.  I didn’t think that they would understand.  Maybe they would have, but somehow I knew at a young age, that I shouldn’t talk about my repetitive thoughts.  You know the story about Bloody Mary coming through the mirror if you said her name 3 times in a row?  Well, I would get stuck on it and say it over and over and over in my mind.  It scared me.  It scared me so much that I was often afraid of opening my eyes and I was afraid of going to sleep.

My parents didn’t know.  (I guess they do now since they usually read my blog.)  It really was something that I felt would be considered “silly” and that I would be thought of as a “baby” because of it.  But it dominated my thoughts at bedtime for years.  As an adult, I know that this was a battle I was having, not with Bloody Mary (I knew she didn’t exist), but with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).  Going to my parents’ bed wouldn’t have solved the issue, but it would have made me feel less alone.

I don’t want the boys to ever feel alone.  As a result, I sometimes get tapped on the shoulder in the middle of the night and then move over so someone can climb into bed with me.  I imagine that there are worse things in the world than losing a bit of sleep to make sure that the boys feel loved and safe.

I’ll talk about Attachment Parenting in Part 3.

The Family Bed, Breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting – Part 1

Before David was born, I was told, by the friend of family, never, ever let the baby in your bed.  Chris and I tried to follow this advice.  But it was very difficult.  At first, David slept in a bassinet next to our bed.  I was nursing him and when he would wake up, I would get him from the bassinet and take him into his room and nurse and rock and then bring him back to the bassinet.  Many times I would put him down and he would wake up.  And he never seemed to sleep for more than an hour or two without needing to nurse.  Obviously, Chris couldn’t nurse him, so it was up to me.

When David was almost 2 months old, I started a new job.  I worked in the evenings as an Administrative Assistant for a psychiatric  practice and most of what I did was transcribe reports.  I would bring David to Chris’ work and then leave to go to work.  Chris would take David home.  By the time I got home from work, I was exhausted.  I was pumping and Chris was trying to give David bottles of breast milk.  David was not happy and would nurse and nurse and nurse once I got home.

Since I was getting home at 10 pm or so, David was nursing most of the night.  At first, that meant that I was dozing in the rocking chair.  But eventually, I was so exhausted, I began nursing him in bed.  Both of us would fall asleep.  When he woke (maybe 2 hours later, if I was lucky) he would nurse again, but as he was in bed next to me, I didn’t have to get up.  I didn’t really have to wake up.  After a while, both of us became experts at nursing and sleeping at the same time.

After about 6 months, Chris took a new job for a lot more money and I was able to stop working.  David still wasn’t sleeping for longer than 2-3 hours at a time, but since he was in bed with me (and Chris) and I wasn’t working, it wasn’t such a big deal.  We also tried putting him in his crib and letting him cry it out.  It was horrid.  He cried, and cried forever.  Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and got him.  Both of us were in tears.  It was at this point that I realized that David NEEDED me.  He wouldn’t always need me in that way, but why shouldn’t I give him what he needed?

So, David slept in our bed.  It wasn’t always great, but I slept better most nights.  He didn’t sleep through the night until, well, he was almost 2.

When David was 17 months old, I got pregnant with Michael.  I tried to continue nursing David, but I just couldn’t.  It was just too uncomfortable.  So, we began weaning David.  I write “we” because Chris had to be actively involved because when David saw me he wanted to nurse.  David still slept in our bed and held my hand to go to sleep rather than nursing.  It worked.

David was 26 months old when Michael was born.  His spot in our bed was between Chris and I.  Alex slept at our feet and Michael slept on my other side.  Michael never slept in the crib.  He was in the bassinet only when I needed to put him down someplace safe.  Michael was a very high-need baby.  He suffered from birth trauma and I’m not sure if that is what caused it, or not.  Michael needed to be touching me at all times.  He would not be put down.  He would not be held by anyone else.  If he wasn’t touching me, he screamed.  This made it very difficult to manage anything.

When David was a toddler, I bought a sling.  David did great in it and it took a lot of the pressure off of my back when I was trying to carry him.  Thank goodness I had gotten used to using it with David because Michael lived in the sling.  He could nurse in the sling and he would sleep in the sling.  If I took him out of the sling and tried to put him down, he screamed.  It was horrible.  Showering meant that I would hop in soap up, wash my hair and hop out.  I think I got to the point that I could get in and out in 3 minutes.  Michael would either be on a blanket in the bathroom or in his baby chair.  And it didn’t matter if I sang to him the entire time or as he got a bit older, could see me while I showered, he screamed.

Once in a while, Michael would allow David to play with him and calm him.  That was great.  But since most of the time I had to hold Michael, I wasn’t able to do a lot of things.  Finally, I bought a backpack carrier and would wear Michael on my back while I tried to cook or clean.  It worked.

As Michael got a bit older, we moved him to the center of the bed.  So, Chris and I were on the outside and the boys were on the inside with Alex at the foot.  It is a very good thing that we had a king sized bed.  I don’t know how we would have managed otherwise.  Michael would nurse throughout the night, but I wouldn’t wake up fully, so it didn’t matter.  I think that Chris had the hardest time adjusting to the arrangement.

When David was around 3 we bought bunk beds for the boys.  We started having David sleep in his own bed.  For the most part, he did quite well.  Sometimes I would wake up and he would be in our bed, but generally he was happy with his own bed.

When Michael started crawling, he started leaving me for short periods of time.  He would “check-in” and either nurse or rub my arm 5-6 times in an hour.  It was better, but it still wasn’t ideal.  And he wouldn’t sleep unless he was touching me.

When David was 9 months old, I got involved with La Leche League.  This is where I met my friend, Emily, who was a Leader.  I’ve written about Emily and her boys and she was often my barometer.  She told me, with great confidence, that if you baby the baby and toddler, you wouldn’t need to baby the teenager.  I didn’t know if she was right, but I figured that the worst case would be that I would still have to baby my teenager.  It made it much easier to meet the boys’ needs, when I had support of an experienced mom.  Emily was only one of the amazing Moms that I met at La Leche League.

It was through La Leche League, that I learned about the Family Bed and Attachment Parenting.  My confidence as a mother increased and while Michael was extremely difficult, I felt supported.

More to come with Part 2.

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho It’s Off To Court I Go, AGAIN!

As I wrote yesterday, I had to go to court.  I was the victim of a crime in a parking lot in Parker, Colorado.  While I don’t really want to go into the details of what happened, until the case is resolved, the defendant was charged with False Imprisonment (a misdemeanor).  Truly that sounds much worse than it was.  Basically, he would not allow me to leave the parking lot.

Today, the man (who is a stranger to me) was to appear in court to plead.  I was told that I could attend or not attend, as I wished.  I had already sent a two page typed victim statement to the Victim’s Advocate.  I wanted this man to understand what he did to me, so I decided to attend.

First, I arrived at the courthouse early.  I wasn’t sure how far away I would have to park and how long it would take me to get through security.  So, I arrived at 12:50.  The defendant was supposed to appear at 1:30.  The Victim’s Advocate was supposed to meet me (somewhere) and introduce me to the District Attorney.

No one was in the FAC (First Appearance Court) area when I arrived.  The clerks windows were closed and the lights were off.  I sat and waited.  At about 1:20 pm the defendant arrived with his wife.  While I knew that I wouldn’t be happy to see him, I was not prepared for my reaction.  I started shaking and having a panic attack (trouble breathing, feeling like I was going to pass out or throw up, heart racing).  Obviously, I was in the courthouse and there were police officers all around and I was safe, but I didn’t feel that way.

At about 1:30 pm a woman wearing a court badge approached me and told me that if the clerk didn’t open the window, I should go in the courtroom and check in with the clerk there.  I told her that I was waiting for the Victim’s Advocate and asked if she knew where she was.  At this point, the woman told me that they were getting her and I sat and waited again.  Finally the clerk opened the window and everyone lined up to check in.  I waited off to the side until everyone was finished and the approached the clerk.  I told him that I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to check in or not and handed him the letter I had received from the District Attorney telling me I could attend.  The clerk told me that he would let the District Attorney know I was there and to take a seat.  About 10 minutes later, a man and a woman (wearing court badges) approached me and confirmed my identity.  They told me that they were District Attorneys and that they would like to speak with me.

I followed them into a conference room, where they had me sit and told me that they would like to hear from me, what happened.  I was confused, as I thought my victim impact statement was quite clear.  Apparently, the Victim’s Advocate had a doctor’s appointment and wasn’t in and they couldn’t find the statement.  Wonderful.

I told them what had happened during the incident.  The District Attorney told me that originally they were going to offer the defendant 12 months of probation, but upon hearing my story, he felt that it was not appropriate.  He told me that they were going to file the additional charge of harassment.  He explained that it was a Class 2 or 3 (I can’t remember False Imprisonment was one “class” and Harassment was the other) Misdemeanor and that with the False Imprisonment and Harassment charges they would allow the defendant to plead guilty to one or the other.  But they weren’t going to let him plead today.  The District Attorney also told me that usually the victims don’t appear in court, but upon seeing me there and hearing my story the additional charge was warranted.

Both District Attorneys told me that what happened prior to the False Imprisonment and Harassment did not give the defendant the right to do what he did.  The Police Officer who arrived at the scene in the parking lot, when I called 911, was kind and calming, but he did not give me any indication that the defendant’s behavior was inappropriate.  I cannot tell you how much better I felt after hearing that the defendant had no right to do what he did and that he committed a crime.

With the two charges against the defendant, he could serve jail time (up to 12 months) although I don’t see that happening.  Most likely he will be fined and put on probation.  I can live with that.

There are a couple of things that have me wondering, though.  Why didn’t the defendant hire an attorney?  He seemed to be middle class (retired) and should have understood that this was a serious thing.  It just seems stupid to not have an attorney, when you are facing a criminal charge.  Did he think that I would not show up and the charge would be dismissed?  I didn’t have to attend.  I did because I didn’t want him to get away with what he did to me and I felt that if the Judge knew I was there, he would realize that I was taking this matter seriously.

Also, if I was so rattled after my ordeal with this man and having to see him again (and he didn’t physically touch me), how must other crime victims feel?  Going into the court building was overwhelming and intimidating for me – I didn’t do anything wrong, I am a strong, well-educated person – what would it be like for a crime victim who didn’t have any understanding of the legal system or have much of an education?

Why do crime victims and defendants have to be in the same area while waiting for court?  Shouldn’t I have been “shielded” from this man?  Would I have been if he had physically attacked me?

What happens now, is that they are setting a new court date for this man to appear.  At that point, he will need to plead.  Since I spoke with the District Attorney today, I do not need to attend that day.  The District Attorney will then, provided the man pleads guilty, ask for sentencing to be deferred so that I can attend (as I want to).  I am not sure what happens (except that there will be a trial) if the man pleads not guilty.  I didn’t ask that and I guess I should have.

I feel validated because of the additional charge of harassment.  This man took away my feeling of safety in my community.  He took away my confidence in strangers helping strangers (a man got into his car next to me while the defendant was committing his crime and did nothing).  He caused Michael to become hysterical.  His actions have resulted in spending my time reliving the episode and having to attend court.  He did this and he needs to be held accountable.

Yesterday left me physically and emotionally exhausted.  The anxiety I had will dissipate until I find out when I need to go to court again and then I will have another day wasted getting ready for, driving to, sitting and waiting at court.  I will have to deal with all of this again and then deal with the exhaustion, again.  So, while I am glad that the District Attorney feels that a crime was committed and that additional charges should be filed against this man, I wish that it had just been resolved today.  Actually, I wish that it had never happened.  But wishing on a star doesn’t necessarily mean your dreams will come true, so heigh-ho, heigh-ho it’s off to court I go, again!

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