Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

Relay For Life 2013 – and remembering Susan

February 6, 2013

A year ago on this day, 6 February, my good friend Susan Niebur (WhyMommy) died of inflammatory breast cancer.

Susan Niebur, 1972 - 2012 (photo credit: Kristen, @mommy4cocktails)

Susan Niebur, 1972 – 2012 (photo credit: Kristen, @mommy4cocktails)

Since then, another friend, Jenny, a fellow New Zealander whom I had “met” online through Susan, also died of inflammatory breast cancer.

My own family has also been touched – no, not touched, smashed into – by cancer.  Cancer doesn’t visit lightly.

As you may know, for the past couple of years Pearl and I have taken part in the local Relay For Life to raise funds for the NZ Cancer Society.  We can’t run this year, but we are still supporting the Relay.  My sister – The Fabulous Auntie B – and her children are still managing a team.  We will help them raise funds and cheer them on from the sidelines in March during the event.

I hope you will continue to support Relay – whether it’s our team in our event, or another team, or your local event – in whatever way possible.  If you know me in real life and would like to donate to our team, please contact me for details.

If you don’t know me in real life but would still like to donate – hooray! Please go to the Relay For Life website and donate to any team you like.  Or find your own local Relay For Life or Cancer Society webpage and donate there instead.  The important thing is to help these societies support people with cancer and their families.

Celebrate – Remember – Fight Back!

For Susan, for her family – Curt, Widget, Little Bear.  For her friends, too many to number here, but including Marty, Stimey, Kristen, Jessica, Kelley.

For Jenny, and her family and friends.

For my family.

For your family.

For ourselves, should we ever need it – they’ll be there.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Birthday party fun

June 24, 2012

Today we hosted Babess’ birthday party.  Six of her closest friends came bouncing down our driveway, parents in tow, to be greeted with squeals and laughter.  There is nothing more exciting than seeing friends you normally only see at daycare come to your house.

When everyone had arrived, presents opened and ooooohed over, The Dad took them all outside with a bottle of bubble mix each.  Thank goodness it was a lovely day!  We’ve had a few shockers recently, but we got sunshine and no wind when it really counted.  The neighbourhood was awash in bubbles in no time, and there was – again – much bouncing and squealing of laughter.

Bubble mix exhausted, they came inside and tumbled over each other to wash their hands and sit up for afternoon tea.  I had made a “caterpillar cake” – about 20 cupcakes in a row, with gummy-snake “legs” on each one except the head, which had marshmallow eyes and a drawn-on smile.  Each segment/cupcake had a letter of Babess’ name, a “4”, or a heart/star/swirl design.  I was quite proud of it.  I did notice that most kids ate the lollies but not necessarily the cake part though.

Birthday feast!

Apart from cake, there were chocolate crackles, chippies, fruit, milky-way racing cars, sausage rolls, cheerios (cocktail sausages), fairy bread and juice.  Much too much food.  Never mind, fairy bread for dinner won’t kill our family!  Attending adults were well-fed too, and a couple of large pots of coffee went down well.

As the sugar took hold, we shooed the kids outside again and my wonderful niece set up a “tattoo table” so all the little ones could choose temporary tattoos for arms and hands – and even legs.  Then there was much running around and exploring the house and playing with toys, as the adults chatted and enjoyed a bit more than the two-second “oh hi, nice to see you” conversations that you tend to get at daycare drop-off and pick-up.

Babess’ birthday ink

Eventually, things wound down as kids got tired and were taken home before reaching meltdown.  I did not do “goody bags”, and no-one missed them (huzzah!).  I did threaten to send extra chocolate crackles home with anyone whose present contained more than 100 pieces, but it was all good-natured fun.  Even the ones who gave Babess a huge beading kit laughed.

HOW many beads?!?!

Babess thought it was a great party, and Fainjin enjoyed it too.  I’m pretty sure the guests had a good time, and we didn’t set fire to anything, spark any allergic reactions, or have any accidents drawing blood.  I think we can call it a success.

(I still want to be invited to a Lego Robotics party at Stimey’s house, though!)

© UpsideBackwards 2012.


May 18, 2012

Babess was involved in a little contretemps at daycare this week.  We heard about it from her teacher first.  There may have been some provocation, but it sounds like Babess was more sinned against than sinner.

This afternoon she was telling us her version of events.

“There’s a boy called X, he’s my friend, and he was pushing, and shouting, and hitting…” emphasis added with very grown-up-looking hand gestures and a wry expression.

“Oh dear,” I said mildly, not wanting to add to the sense of drama but suppressing a smile at the theatrics.

Yes,” she huffed.  “He’s not a very good friend.”

© UpsideBackwards 2012.


April 12, 2012

Susan Niebur, 1973 - 2012 (photo credit: Kristen, @mommy4cocktails)

Every time I look at the stars, I think of Susan.  We used to talk about the different constellations we could see in our different parts of the world.  She longed to see the Southern Cross one day.  When I look up and see it, I like to imagine her standing next me, looking up too.

Every time I read about advances in cancer research, I think of Susan.  How she tirelessly advocated for new, better, different research, especially into metastatic cancers.  How she participated in clinical trials, and encouraged women to join the Army of Women for further research.

Every time we read a “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That!” book, I think of Susan.  Her love of science, and her skill for communicating that, especially to children, and how she inspired so many mothers to encourage their children’s questions and help them find the answers.  She gave my kids a Cat in The Hat book, and it’s one of our family favourites.

Every time I hear of a new planet being discovered, I think of Susan.  For all my own interest in science and astronomy, I hadn’t really thought about what a planetary scientist might be or do until she taught me.  And now I can’t think of a more fascinating job.

Every time I taste Whittaker’s Dark Caramel, I remember the first day we met, when I gave her a block as a gift.  She offered to share it, but I told her to taste it first – after all, I can have it any time at home, but it’s not readily available in the US.  She did, and the most incredible look came over her face.  “You’re right,” she declared, “this is not for sharing!” and she tucked it into her handbag.  We both laughed.  I sent her a couple of “care parcels” later, and I know she did share them.

Every time I see a beagle, I think of Susan.  She loved beagles, and fostered rescued beagles.  If I ever get a dog (which admittedly is unlikely), I think I’d like to call it Kepler, after her beloved pet.

Every time I write a blog post, I think of Susan.  She was my very first, and closest, blog-friend.  She wrote a guest post for Kelley which sums up the sort of relationship brilliantly.  She also introduced me to lots of my other blog-friends, including Kelley, Stimey, Jenny, Marty and plenty more.

Goodbye, dear friend.  Thank you for all you taught me, and the friendships you have gifted me with.  You are always in my heart and mind, and I will never forget you.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

Relay for Life 2012

April 1, 2012


Last night, Pearl and I slept rough in a local park.  Although, to be truthful, there was very little sleeping.  There was quite a lot of walking, and some running.  Pearl was very excited to be up and on the Relay track at midnight, walking with her cousin and young friends.  We each did our assigned three 30-minute shifts, and walked alongside our team-mates at various other times as well.  There’s something very special about walking the track with friends in the small hours of the morning, looking up at the stars, chatting, listening to the music.

Pearl & her cousin run a lap in the Relay For Life 2012

We decorated candle bags in memory of family and friends, and stood sombrely with all the other relayers during the touching memorial service.

Candle Bags

There were 13 hearts on my bag this year, 13 precious people to remember. That's two more than last year, and thirteen too many to have lost.

Our team had set a fundraising goal of $200 per team member.  Thanks to family, friends, Pearl’s badge sales, and my sweet-toothed colleagues who ate as much white-chocolate fudge as I could provide them with at $2 per bag, the two of us raised over $570 – thank you, everyone!  That money will help the NZ Cancer Society to:

  •  provide people affected with cancer with important support and resources
  •  fund the volunteer driving service (free service to those undergoing cancer treatment – they are picked up by volunteer drivers, taken to their appointments and the volunteers wait for them and take them home again)
  • operate the free phone line 0800CANCER – any cancer any question
  • offer counselling and support to people with cancer and their caregivers
  • help make schools SunSmart and work towards a smokefree NZ
  • support people with their accommodation when they have to travel for treatment
  • fund vital cancer research into the causes and treatments of cancer

(Info above provided by the NZ Cancer Society).

You can still donate here.  If you know our names in real life, sponsor us! If not, sponsor anyone, make their day!

Of course, Relay is not all sombre.  Far from it!  There were laughs and hijinks, entertainment and giveaways, impromptu performances and some truly execrable karaoke about 1am.  There were free massages provided, and a very welcome hot breakfast served by volunteers.

We came home exhausted, footsore, chilled, and feeling a bit grimy… and well aware that anyone undergoing cancer treatment feels a whole lot worse, for a whole lot longer.  But we’re also proud of ourselves and our team, and grateful for the support of friends, family – and blog readers! – for such a great cause.

Susan remembered on the big screen at Relay For Life 2012.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

Farewell, friend

February 7, 2012

Today was Fainjin’s first day at school.  It was a good one, but I can’t blog about it tonight.  I am too sad.  Susan Niebur, Whymommy, died today (6 Feb in the US).  She was a wonderful person, and a great friend.

I will write more another time.

My deepest sympathy goes out to Curt, Widget, Little Bear (the same age as Fainjin), and to all Susan’s many many friends in “real life” and online.  We have lost a treasure today.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

Relay for Life 2012

January 29, 2012

We’re doing it again.  Pearl and I will run (walk) in our local Relay For Life event on 31 March this year.

The funds we raise will go to the NZ Cancer Society, to support cancer patients, survivors, and their families.

If you know us, and would like to sponsor us, you can donate here: Relay For Life.  If you don’t know us but would still like to donate, feel free!  Where it says “choose a team”, just pick one you like the sound of – the donations all go to the same place and that’s the important thing.

Other things you can do:

– join a team in your local relay – it’s a world-wide effort

– donate to your local Cancer Society

– think of a friend who has been touched by cancer (everyone knows someone), and send them a card telling them you love them.

This is a cause dear to my heart, and I’ll be blogging about it a bit in the coming months.

Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back!

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

For Whymommy

January 24, 2012

Susan’s blog ToddlerPlanet was one of the very first I discovered, and quickly became my favourite.  What a great name for a blog, and I loved her pseudonym “Whymommy” too.

She’s a scientist, and a mum like me – her younger boy and my Fainjin were born just a few days apart.  She seemed like a kindred spirit, although I only knew her through her blog posts.  She was sick, but fighting hard, and she got better for a while and I celebrated for her and her family.

When I started my own blog, I wasn’t sure of the etiquette about linking up, and I write her an email to ask her permission.  She was very sweet to me, so welcoming, and even sent a tweet to her followers asking them to welcome me too.

But she’s like that.  Sweet, and generous, and open.

Our friendship grew, through comments on each other’s blogs, and emails and twitter, and finally last year we got to meet.

I had suspected that, given the chance, we would be firm friends, the sort who could chat a morning away over a cup of tea, talking about everything and nothing, enjoying each other’s company unreservedly.

And I was right.  We clicked.  There were no awkward moments, it was like we had known each other forever.  When it was time to go, we realised we would miss each other – and we’d only “known” each other for a couple of hours.  Except that we knew each other pretty well online for quite a while before that.

Susan is a writer, a mentor, an advocate.  She is a wonderful mother, perhaps the most present parent I have ever known.  She is funny and caring and kind.  She has taught me an awful lot, in ways she doesn’t know even know about – and more than likely in ways that I haven’t recognised myself yet.  If I had to choose one word to describe her, it would be grace.  She lives a life enveloped in that beautiful quality.

Susan is in hospice care now, at home.  She is surrounded by the love of her family and friends, and the hundreds or thousands of people whose lives she has touched through her writing.

If you’d like to add a message of love, please leave her a comment here.

Susan, dear friend, thank you.  For all of it.  The science, the kinship, the laughter, and even the tears.  This is not goodbye, I know you’re not ready for goodbyes yet.  I certainly am not!  But it is another beginning, another chapter.  May hospice bring you relief and comfort, and more good times with your lovely husband and children.

Much love,


© UpsideBackwards 2012.

Going Back

January 17, 2012

Fainjin finished at daycare just before Christmas.  He could have stayed on until he starts school in February, but we decided he should have a summer holiday like other school kids, so he has been hanging out with Pearl and playing with his Lego a lot.

Today, though, we needed to see the specialist about The Dad’s elbow, and it was going to be a long boring day full of long bus trips and waiting rooms.  We fixed Pearl up with a play date, and enrolled Fainjin back at daycare for a “casual day”.

He wasn’t all that keen.  “I’m finished at daycare!” he pouted.  Fair enough, too.  I tried to sell him on the idea of it being a special visit day, but he was still dubious.

Until we were nearly there, and he saw one of his friends also approaching daycare this morning.  They ran to each other, jumping and laughing with joy to see each other again.  Once we got inside, he settled right in.  The other kids made a bit of a fuss over him, glad to see him back, and he enjoyed their attention and being “the big kid”.

He had a much better day there than he would have if he’d come with us.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

Happy New Year 2012

January 1, 2012

Well, here we are.  January, again.  This time last year we had just got home from our Christmas trip to Queensland and Melbourne.

Since then, some amazing things have happened.

A personal highlight for me was meeting Susan, Stimey, Jessica, and Kristen in Maryland in May.  It was wonderful to discover that people who seemed so lovely and like-minded on-line were even more so in “real life”.

Pearl and I had a great trip, caught up with lots of friends and made some new ones, and she discovered Disneyland.  She sat her first ever exams and did astoundingly well in them.

Fainjin grew up an awful lot.  He is now really ready for school, which I was quite worried about even six months ago.  He still loves everything fire-engine and emergency-services related, but has become more interested in dinosaurs and animals – he was fascinated by the series “Life” when he was allowed to stay up to watch a bit.

Babess transformed from a toddler to a little girl.  She has grown taller, although people still remark on how little she is for her age.  She speaks clearly and thoughtfully… and incessantly.  She is loving and caring, cute and funny.  She’s looking forward to being one of the “big girls” at daycare this year, and to being there by herself without Fainjin I think.  But she is still determined to go to school as soon as possible too.

May 2012 treat you kindly, bring you joy and laughter, challenges and successes.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.


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