September 2011

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It’s our third month here at The Sussy Project and our 4th Sussy. We love the people we have met through this project and can’t express deeply enough our gratitude for the support and energy you guys have for TSP.

We received some great nominations this month and I promise that we are still reviewing them! Please keep them coming. We would do this every week if we can only find the time so the more nominations the better. This time, we are honoring Tena.

Ryan Shaw, one of my clients, nominated Tena, one of his clients. Here is what Ryan wrote us:

One of our clients gave birth to a baby boy 2 months ago and he was born with a congenital heart defect. He has already had one open heart surgery and spent his first 44 days in the hospital. I have become good friends with this client because my daughter was also born with a CHD and had open heart surgery 4 days after her 1st birthday.  My daughter is doing great now, but I know firsthand how difficult it is to go through what they are experiencing.

Thanks, Ryan. We’d love to get to know Tena and her family. I reached out to Tena this week to learn more about her little boy. We also sent her a $20 gift card to BabyGap so that her little munchkin can have some new fall digs. (Look at that picture! Could he be any cuter?!) Tena was more than willing to share the story of her son, and we are so happy that we could put a smile on her face. Here is what Tena wrote:

Our son, Myles Thomas has been through one hell of a fight in the short time he has been on this earth. He was born with a congenital heart defect; his heart is on the wrong side of his body and he was born with only one ventricle (most people have two). Because of this, his little heart has a hard time getting oxygenated blood out to his little body. Thankfully, with the wonders of modern medicine, they have been able to help to “fix” him.

On his 18th day of life, he had to undergo open heart surgery. On his 19th day of life, they found out the procedure didn’t work as expected and had to perform a second open heart surgery the very next day. Because his body was so swollen they were unable to close his chest and had to leave him open for an additional 48 hours. He was on life support for over a week. During the time he was on life support, with his chest left open, three drainage tubes coming from his belly and chest, with three different iv lines, he developed sepsis. He had two different strains of infection in his body and he started to go into shock. They were able to give him very strong antibiotics that worked but were very hard on his little body. After being removed from life support, he had to learn how to eat again and do all of the things that just allow him to be a normal baby.

Myles smiles

On day 44 we were finally able to bring him home. We came home with him on a feeding tube and my husband and I had to learn how to put the tube in and remove it. Since coming home, he is doing amazingly well. He is off of the feeding tube and is just now battling a little diaper rash because of the medicines that he has to be on, but we will take that. Myles is truly living up to the meaning of his name (compassionate in one language and soldier in another). He is our little fighter and has taught us so much.

Through this experience, we have found out how many wonderful people and organizations there are in this world , like yourself, Ryan, and the Sussy project. Getting to share Myles’ story and hearing how it is affecting others makes us smile. We appreciate the nomination so much and it is amazing to know that people who are virtually strangers care so much about our story. We are all connected and the prayers we have sent out and received combined with the positive energy and optimism have truly carried us through this difficult time.

Myles still has to undergo quite a bit in the upcoming months and years, but this is just the beginning of his story. We are confident that we still have so much to share. Myles’ next surgery will be in the next few months, so for now, we are just enjoying having our little pumpkin roll home with us. If you would like to continue to follow his story, please feel free to visit

Thank you again so much for caring and for having a wonderful organization like the Sussy Project. Blessings to you and wishing you much success!

We wish Myles a quick recovery. His adorable little smile sure melts our hearts. Thanks, Tena, for sharing your story.

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Oh Fudge

Few things touch our lives quite like pets do. For those that haven’t had a special bond with a cat, dog, horse, fish, or parrot, I truly feel for you. While our relationships with these animals are at times indescribable, our challenges in their passing are incomprehensible. So much so that you’ll often hear people say things such as “what’s wrong? Did your dog die or something?” when they see a sullen look on our faces. My dog, Otis, died 9 months ago, and I still think about how much I miss him every single day. What was once sadness, has now turned to peaceful happy memories of him. And this is where this installment of The Sussy Project picks up.

Oh Fudge. What a great cat you were. In fact, “You were the best cat (Joanna Barnett) ever had.” Meggie (my Sussy sister or susster) and I couldn’t sit back and allow the passing of Fudge to leave a persistent puss on Joanna’s face, so we stepped in. Like I mentioned earlier, grieving over the loss a pet can be a real challenge. You might find yourself sobbing at your desk while your non-pet-owning coworker looks at you in shock. You really don’t know what to think about the loss of your pet, but you also don’t know what to think about the way you are handling it. It is a strangely harrowing experience.

I emailed Joanna and asked if we could give her a Sussy. She said yes. She told me that she adopted Fudge from the Humane Society 18 years ago when she was 6 years old. Joanna goes on to say:

Our first cat died tragically (hit by a car), and my parents consoled me by allowing me to go pick out a new kitten. When we went to look at the kittens, Fudge scratched my little sister on the arm and I said, “I want that one.” She spent the first week that we had her hiding behind the washing machine. Once she came out from behind the washing machine, she spent the next couple of years sitting on the staircase and unexpectedly scratching people’s ankles as they went down the stairs.

Eventually, Fudge warmed up to us and decided that she wanted to be a cuddly cat instead of a mean one. If you were sitting, she was in your lap. And if you kicked her off your lap? She sat in front of you with her back turned to you so that you knew she was not happy with the situation. (A picture of Fudge snuggling with my younger brother, Andy, several years ago on the couch is below. As you can tell, she was irritated that we were interrupting her nap to snap the photograph!)  Like most cats, Fudge spent most of her days napping in the sunlight or next to the heat vent, waking up only occasionally to eat and tease the dog.

Her favorite thing to do was to sleep anywhere that was warm – a hobby that sometimes got her into troubling situations. Once, my mom turned on the dryer and we quickly heard a thump and a meow – she had crawled on top of the warm sheets in the dryer to take a nap and we didn’t see her when we shut the door to fluff them up. On several occasions, we would search the house for her high and low, only to find her napping on top of the VCR or DVD player inside the entertainment console. In her later years, a cat nap in the back of my mom’s open car trunk resulted in a very unexpected trip to Costco.

Fudge would love you forever if you gave her a dish of half and half or a spoonful of ice cream. When I was younger, she would also be on the kitchen table in the mornings, waiting to drink the milk from the first abandoned bowl of cold cereal.

Fudge was all black, which scared some people, but we didn’t mind. I’m sure that she will be particularly missed this Halloween season when we won’t come home to find her sitting perfectly next to the pumpkins on the doorstep, as if she were a decoration.

Fudge really was a wonderful pet. I think what I miss most about Fudge is how she used to make us laugh – in a way that only pets can make their owners laugh. I imagine that Fudge had a pretty great sense of humor. She made others laugh, too.


Apparently Meggie and I are the people that Folgers and Hallmark commercials are made for. We cry at everything. Reading Joanna’s words about Fudge really made me cherish the times that I have had with my pets. It’s these great memories that Joanna shared with us today that will become the basis for her fond memories of Fudge.

So here is the Sussy that I selected for Joanna and her crew (dogs Lily and Nellie shown above with Fudge). We realize that Nellie and Lily miss their buddy, Fudge, too, so we got them some fresh yummy dog treats. For Joanna, we got her some chocolaty goodness. Let’s be honest, chocolaty goodness always works.

Joanna, here’s hoping that The Sussy Project helped put a smile on your face today. It sounds like Fudge was the best cat in the whole world. And we miss Fudge too.