The Supermom: Julie Dolson

December 13, 2011

This story is dedicated to all the amazing moms out there.

I met Julie in 1993 when I was a new kid, in a big city, at my very first advertising job. This is exactly how I remember our first encounter…  My boss, “Wendy, please take this piece of paper down to broadcast and give it to Julie Dolson. She has red hair, and might beat you up, but you’ll be okay.” Thinking to myself, “Oh shit, I don’t remember this happening on Thirtysomething”, I walk downstairs, get lost awhile, then approach Julie’s desk. I see a woman with red hair, wearing a black lace top, with a big ass snake tattoo that stretches from one shoulder to another. This memory could be exaggerated, for all I remember, it was a tiny smiley face tattoo, but I see a big ass snake. Our exchange goes like this…

julie1

 

Me: (squirmishly) Julie?
Julie: (looking down. clearly too busy for requests from new dorks): What?
Me: I have an advertising request for you.
Julie: Put it in the box.
Me: Okay. Thanks. (and I’m gone in a flash)

That was it! Super easy and she didn’t beat me up. From that point on, Julie and I were cool, and years later, she has become a source of inspiration for me and my family. She’s an awesome mom who has an awesome family and I’m so proud to share her beautiful story.

where are you from?
I grew up in Valencia, CA. Most people know Valencia because Magic Mountain is there and you’d better believe I spent many a weekend night there as a kid/teenager. After college and a boyfriend in Missoula, MT, I moved back to Valencia. Now, I’m finally where I want to be. Westlake Village, CA. The best suburb ever.

what do you do?
I stay home with my 5-year-old boy, Levon. By far, the most demanding job I’ve ever had. Such a cliché, but it’s so true. And if that isn’t enough I am the sole caregiver for my best friend Mindy who had breast cancer a year or so ago. The cancer is now in her bones. So, we’re back to fighting cancer together. It’s a blessing to be able to help her. Some of our memories are so intense. I remember last year, she was bald, sick and unable to bathe. I got her undressed, I got myself undressed and we got into her shower. I slowly cleaned her body and thought, “Wow.  This is like a scene out of a super sad cancer movie.” She had a lumpectomy, chemo, radiation, a year of an anti cancer drug, a double mastectomy and still, the cancer came back. I do what I can for her. I hold her hand, I talk the cancer talk. I know the terminology. I make notes. I record doctor conferences. I listen. I bake muffins. I do what I can for her.

what is unique about you and your family?
The most unique thing used to be that we’re a blended family. My husband has two children who, when I married their father, became my step kids. Then, my husband and I got pregnant and now the story of Levon is the most unique thing about us. The most fabulous. The most unique. Levon had his right brain removed when he was a year and a half old to control seizures. Levon seized every day for a year and a half before the surgery. The surgery itself was hell on wheels, and then the 2 weeks after were worse than that. What’s worse than hell on wheels?  True Hell.  Whatever. It sucked. But now, he is fabulous and unique and I love him and his story and wouldn’t change a single thing. Well, I don’t know if that’s exactly right… Having a child with half of a brain is normal for us at this point. I sometimes wonder if I’ve really comes to terms with it though. Am I really in touch with what those years were like staying home day after day with a baby who didn’t develop? A baby who turned blue and stopped breathing? A baby who seized daily? A baby who, at one point, got shot in the thigh muscle for weeks on end? I know it was hard… anyway, I won’t go into it here. Guess that is what therapy once a week is for… working through these questions. I love therapy. What a wonderful gift I give myself. But the experience itself brought us to our knees. Our f-ing knees.

what’s the hardest thing about being a mom?
I’m in a unique situation. The hardest thing for me is watching my son, with all his limps and gimps, and wonder what will be. Will he be well enough to branch out on his own? Will he live with us forever? I wouldn’t mind that actually. Will he marry? Will people accept him? Is he as smart as I think he is? Will he have children? What will he do when Mommy and Daddy leave this Earth… will he be okay? It comes down to that. Will he be okay? These are the questions that run through my mind almost constantly. They’re there, in the back of my mind. Always. When Levon had his surgery, we knew no one who had gone through the same thing.  We had one phone call with one Mom, who was very helpful, but that was it. There was nothing on the web, no support groups, nothing. Shortly after Levon’s surgery, another hemi family from Texas was going through the same thing with their daughter so they decided to start a foundation.  The Hemi Foundation (hemifoundation.org) has been so wonderful for us.  We are very involved with this fabulous group of people. A year or so ago I got the bright idea to do a film from parents to parents. A sort of what to expect when your child is expecting a hemispherectomy. My husband and I worked together on the film and it is our second child. It helped us to work through the experience and hopefully it is helping other families when they are looking for answers or just support. It was a great experience and something I’m so super proud of.

did you love pregnancy, or not so much? be honest. why?
There’s one picture I love when I was pregnant. Does that count? I loved the way my hair looked. I loved to feel the kick of my baby. But my pregnancy was fraught with problems from the very first. We found out an old cyst was back in the middle of my head. Had to have surgery when I was 6 months along. At a routine ultrasound of the baby all hell broke loose. You know, the woman who was doing the ultrasound was all chatty and sweet, “Look!  There’s his feet!  He has cute feet!  Look! There’s his heart!  What a cute heart! And here’s his brain…” Fucking silence. I knew in that moment it wasn’t good. So, pregnancy. No. Didn’t enjoy it.

if you could have it your way, how would things change? the sky is the limit.
I know this is taboo. I know I’m not supposed to do this. But when I blow out any candle, put any coin in a fountain, make any wish at all it is this:  May my child and all children never ever have another seizure ever. I think it’s a simple wish actually. But uggg, I’m not supposed to say a wish out loud. Now it won’t come true. Thanks Wendy. I would also throw in a wish about cancer. That may it forever leave this Earth and to please leave my best friend Mindy alone. It’s a real pain in the ass.

Whether you know it, or not, YOU inspire others. who are some mothers who inspire you?
Dear Lord, I’m crying now. My mom inspires me. My sister inspires me.  Every single mother who has a sick child or a disabled child inspires me.  My Mother-in-law. She inspires me. So many wonderful mothers out there, don’t you think?

what was happening at the dinner table when you were a kid?
Well, I’ll never forget this. My dear friend Lori Nelson came for dinner one night when I was oh, about like 14. Something like that. Dinner was at the table, my Dad was about to sit down and he leaned in to kiss my Mom.  Lori said, “Are they in a fight?” So funny. No. They weren’t in a fight.  That’s just what they did every night at dinner time. That’s what was happening at our dinner table. Examples were being set. And I was watching.

what’s happening at the dinner table these days?
Sadly, no sweet kiss before we sit down. I was watching my parents, but I can’t seem to emulate them, huh? We have family dinner every night.  But twice a week, sometimes three, something wonderful happens. When we have all three kids at the dinner table, it is one of the brightest times of the day, week, and month. So much chatter, so much teasing. So much joy. My step kids, my hubby, my son. That’s all I need to feel fulfilled these days.

whether it’s the rude passenger on the plane, or a family member with unsolicited advice, what do have to say to those who judge?
Well, I wish I could say I never judge. But of course I do. I judge people who judge. Ha. Going through what my family and I went through I can tell you I have never been more compassionate, more understanding, more giving. I don’t understand all the hatred in the world. But it does get complicated. I can’t just sit here and say, “Love will cure the world!”  But when it comes to certain things, I think it can change the world.  Same sex marriage is a passion of mine. But I rarely speak about it. I don’t like to argue like I once did. I don’t want to be judged. I’m sick of being judged. So, yea. Also, going through the whole Levon thing. Uggg. I must say though I got so many wonderful emails of encouragement. I wonder if people who wrote to us know how much I used those emails to get through the darkest of days. I would re read them over and over again.  So, mostly, people were so caring and loving, but there’s always that one person who says something so stupid, so outrageous, so self-righteous…  so, unsolicited advice, shove it up your arses. Please. Immediately.  Shove it.  Shove it high, shove it low, just SHOVE IT!

you are taking a little “me” time. what will you do? again, the sky is the limit.
Wendy, Wendy, Wendy. My favorite thing to do? And I want to do it right now, with my husband. Don’t get scared. Stick with me. I love to, with my husband, lay down, on a lounge chair, at The Four Season’s Hualalai, with a drink in my hand, and… wait for it… I like to… daydream. I’ll save the other stuff for my interview in Penthouse.  But really, I love to be at our favorite Hawaiian resort and daydream. I love to think about winning the lottery and what I would do with the money. It starts off with buying Juana Hernandez a house and goes from there… my friends would be so lucky if I, Julie Dolson, freaking won the lottery.

what is your favorite piece of jewelry?
My engagement ring. Hands down. When Jack asked me to marry him, thank you Lord, he handed over a solitaire that made me weak in the knees. I’m kind of a tough girl, you know? When I saw that diamond, all sparkly, I became a little girl who just wanted to get married and have a baby.  Who knew. Julie Dolson, just a normal girl with normal dreams.  And I love my husband more than he’ll ever understand. But if you know my husband, then you’ll understand. He’s the most wonderful man in the world. So cheesy. But really. He’s great. And when we got married I heard more than once, “Jack Epsteen is marrying Julie Dolson???? But HE’S SO NIIIIIIIIICE!!!” Okay okay people. Get over it. I’m kind of nice too. Bitches.

what do you collect?
I really love stationary. I love stationary stores, I love Amy Lowrey’s stationary, I love greeting cards, I love invitations, I love paper. I don’t do all that much with it, but I do love to have a big huge stack of cards on hand and I write thank you cards a lot. A lot, a lot.  In fact I wrote one this morning. I love writing cards. I wrote a card to my stepdaughter Caitie and my stepson Peter the night before Levon’s surgery. I wanted them so badly to know how much we needed them. How happy we were they were in this with us. How the surgery and Levon was OUR story, as a family. I also wrote them cards the night before I married their father.  My step kids. They ruined me. And they healed me. Made me love children and want one of my own. I couldn’t be more blessed than to have three children and to only have had to birth one.


all photos provided by julie dolson.

Hope In One Hemisphere from Julie & Jack Epsteen on Vimeo