Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Our Wedding PhotoBook

If we're friends on Facebook you probably know the excitement I had during the process of finally creating and finishing Spencer and I's wedding photobook! I not only posted statuses throughout the process, but I took a screen shot of each page and uploaded it to my facebook!

Well, only 3 days after ordering, I received my photobook in the mail and it is BEAUTIFUL! It turned out so much better than I even imagined it to. I am so in love with it, the memories, and the beautiful pictures of our love.

This was a very long and difficult process for me. I started working on it 3 months after we tied the knot, shortly after Spencer was admitted into the ICU. So back in September of 2011. I started piecing it together, picture by picture, during my free time when Spencer slept. As his health declined it became harder for me to go through our wedding pictures. I built up a lot of anger at our situation. It was unfair that we only got 3 months together before he got so sick, and during those three months we suffered so much grief and dispair with devastating news of his dad passing and his mother being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.

But I was determined to finish it. I wanted Spencer's opinions and I wanted his approval of what I had put together. Mostly I just wanted to share with him the memories. To be able to look at something neatly put together and reminisce of our love on that day. I wanted so badly to finish it before anything happened to Spencer.

Being his caretaker and wife became top priority as his body continued to fail. I had less and less time to work on it, and even more-so, I just didn't have the energy to put into finishing it. Spencer wasn't up to giving me his opinions and it frustrated me. Our communication was fading with time and it wasn't worth it to fight over how a page looked in our photobook when we could be having a meaningful conversation instead.

After Spencer passed away I stopped working on it altogether. My focus was on different things like the website, writing, and helping out other people who needed it.  There were also times that it became impossible to look at our wedding pictures and there was no way that I was able to piece everything together.

I started working on it again a few times when I found discounts online. There was actually one time that I sat down one day and completed it. I had plans to order it the next morning, but come to find out the program had crashed and didn't save any of my work on it. I was livid and in tears because I worked so hard putting it together.

But this time, I finally completed it! I started from square one and worked on it all day long for 2 days straight. There were times that looking through the pictures was difficult, and I even shed a few tears as I was remembering things such as our first dance. But it was all worth it because now I have something that I cherish.

I wanted to share and so I have embedded the photobook below if you're interested in looking through it. It looks so much better printed!  Enjoy!

                                        Click here to view this photo book larger

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentines Day Memories

Spencer and I shared 4 Valentines Day's together. Two of them were spent hundreds of miles away, and we were lucky enough to share two of them together.

For our very first Valentines day, in 2008, Spencer sent me this cute frog!
 We had been dating for 5 months at this point. He knew that I loved frogs and knew that my second favorite flower was a rose so naturally this was such a great gift! =) I remember him being very excited about it because he found the perfect gift. If I remember correctly he bragged about it on Starbright before he sent it to me!

Year two he decided to let his creative side show. Valentines Day of 2009 Spencer wrote this poem to me titled "Love". He e-mailed it to me, and even though to some it may not have been much, it meant everything to me. It was perfect! He definitely topped the previous year. I'm a sucker for personalized gifts!

Valentines Day 2010 was a special one. It was our first Valentines Day actually together in person and it's one to remember! Spencer and I went ring browsing at Jareds, Kays, and Morgans Jewelers. We had talked about marriage here and there, but ring browsing made it so much more real! Little did I know he had already asked my parents for my hand in marriage, and he already knew that he was going to use his Mom's previous wedding ring to propose. He just needed to get my finger sized so he could get the ring resized. 

Ring browsing definitely started out as a huge bummer. We started at Jared's and I didn't see anything that I liked. Their selection certainly didn't speak to me. We then moved on to Kay's. I saw a couple of rings that were okay, but didn't immediately pop out at me. But then we went to Morgan's and after explaining what type of ring I was in to (tension rings!) I found a stunning ring set that I fell in love with!! Spencer said that he really questioned if he was doing the right thing by giving me his moms ring because he saw how much I fell in love with the set that I just saw. I'm personally very happy that I got his mom's wedding ring. It was beautiful, perfect, and exactly what I wanted. Plus it had a deeper meaning to it. Spence had mentioned, though, that for one of our anniversaries he wanted to get me the ring set from Morgan's =) 

After browsing rings, we started our tradition of going to Olive Garden for Valentines day. As you can imagine, that's a popular place to go for a date on that specific day, so we waited in line quite a while, but it was completely worth it! We had a great time. Spence and I didn't go out to eat often, so one thing he always insisted on when we did is to go all out. To get a specialty drink, an appetizer  salad and/or soup, breadsticks, main meal, and dessert. We always left stuffed to the max with left overs to last us days, but I will never forget it! 

Valentines Day 2011 was spent in the hospital, naturally. But we were able to celebrate about a week later. We made it a day to go to Fred Myer Jewelers and picked out Spencer a nice wedding band. We then continued our tradition of going to Olive Garden and having a nice meal. It was so nice to do this after he was discharged from the hospital. He was feeling pretty well and was able to do a lot more than normal. Another day to remember!

Valentines day 2012 was my very first Valentines day without Spencer. I set up a Card exchange with 5 of my girlfriends to help get me through. I made them all a small homemade owl with conversation hearts in exchange for a Valentine from them! I got some cute homemade cards and gifts. When my mom came home from work, she bought my sister and I potted roses and some chocolate. 

This year was my very first Valentines day entirely on my own, and it was a little tough for a couple of hours. Before I got dressed and ready to head out for the day I had a small pity party for myself. My heart just hurt. But I decided to go and have a nice lunch at Olive Garden to carry out our tradition. I've always wanted to go for their soup, salad, and breadsticks during lunch time and so I decided that this was a great opportunity! It was my very first time eating at a restaurant by myself, but it wasn't half bad.  It was a bit emotional at first, being there without Spence, but after swallowing back a few tears I was okay, and actually remained okay for the rest of the day. 

I then made my way to Orem to visit the cemetery. 

As always, it was just so peaceful. I am very thankful that it was such a nice day. It wasn't too cold or windy. It was beautiful compared to what it has been. I drew on his headstone, as per the norm, and placed a couple of decorations there. I sat on Spencer's headstone for 20-30 minutes just thinking. Enjoying the calmness and the quiet. I shed a few tears and did a little talking as well.

So I guess overall my day wasn't half bad. I considered buying me a huge box of chocolate, renting sappy love movies, and sitting on the couch having a big snot fest... but decided better of it. I've been doing too much of that lately (watching sappy movies that make me sad), and wanted to go and do something!

Proud of myself for what I accomplished today =)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentines Day

For the most part, I have attempted to put Valentines day to the very back of my mind and as completely out of focus as possible. It's been fairly successful, but today it hit me that once again I'll be spending my Valentines day alone. While I realized that is a GREATLY commercialized holiday,  what girl doesn't get at least a little bit giddy at the thought of romance and special attention from the one that you are head over heels for?

I'm definitely no exception. I've always enjoyed Valentines day. I never, ever needed an excuse to show love to Spencer, as I did it every single day... But this is the one day that I could get super creative and that the bar would be set a little bit higher to see in what unique way that I could express my love and devotion to my husband. I never expected much from him, and he never expected much from me. Usually we just went out to Olive Garden for a date, watched a movie when we got home and called it a night. It was never anything over the top, but it was special. It was a reason to get out and celebrate our love.

But Valentines day is different now. I no longer look forward to it, and I get a little sad when I think of all the couples together. I get a little spiteful (just a little bit!) at those who have someone to share the day and evening with. There is naturally a little bit of jealously there.

I went shopping today for a few things. I needed to do something that would get me out of the house. Upon arriving at the store I was bombarded with red, pink, and white. Everywhere. Dozens upon dozens of last minute men frantically searching for some flowers, a card, or a gift for their loved one. Every aisle I walked down in the front of the store was covered with Valentines day things. I wasn't in any rush to get back to my house, and so I spent about 2.5 hours walking around the store. People watching. Getting caught up in my own thoughts.

As I was looking at all of the Valentine items, I made a spontaneous decision to visit Spencer's grave tomorrow. I can't say I'm looking forward to it, but I really wanted to participate in the holiday in some way or another since it used to be one that I enjoyed. It would, of course, be unpractical to buy something for him, so I decided to buy some grave decorations instead. This turned out to be a bit more difficult than I thought. Finding an inexpensive gift that will last. One that isn't plush, it can't be foam, no paper at all. It can't be too light, can't be too big, but yet I don't want it to be too small. Limits my options quite a bit, but I found a couple things that will work.

I just hope that everyone celebrating Valentines day tomorrow really takes a moment to realize what you have. I hope that you don't get too caught up in the commercialization of the holiday.

I guess my closing message with this whole post is that I want you to know that you are incredibly blessed that you have the ability to share your love with someone, and to be able to feel that love back in return. While you are enjoying a kiss, a touch, or a warm embrace, I, and many others, are longing, hoping, and aching to feel our loved ones spirit for just a split second, if not more.

If you didn't quite get the evening that you imagined in your head, don't get distraught over it and let it ruin your night. Embrace what you're given and make the most out of it. He/she tried, and that's the most important thing of all. Even if all you get is a card, or even just a kiss, you were thought about with love and for that you should be grateful.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bad things happen to good people

Why do bad things happen to good people? This is a question that will never be answered, but it's one that often pops into my head. Almost every single day.

Most of the people I know are the most strong willed, inspirational, and amazing people I've ever met. They have the biggest of hearts, the quirkiest of personalities, the most giving souls, and they are the most selfless people I know. They all possess these qualities despite the struggles they face on a daily basis, struggles that most people don't face. Being under 30 and losing their spouses, facing chronic illness that overwhelm them, and facing terminal illnesses knowing that today may be their last day. Yet they all come out on top, with incredible attitudes to face another day.

I admire and look up to each and every one of these friends, even if I only know them from chatting a few minutes online and only getting a small glimpse of their stories. It's hard to be surrounded by people like this, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I am a better person because of it and I have a different outlook on life. They change me for the better and put into perspective my own struggles.

But, as I said, it is hard. It's nearly impossible to separate my life from theirs. It's hard not to get involved in their struggles. I have learned to distance myself, but my heart still hurts when I hear of their trying times. One of the ladies I know, who is a fellow CF wife, just got married a few months ago. Her and her hubby were able to tie the knot after he received a double lung transplant and started to get his life back. But he is currently in bad shape. He's intubated and fighting a sepsis and lung infection in the ICU. Not only that, but he's been battling rejection of his lungs for quite some time now and he is currently waiting for a second double lung transplant. Unfortunately he is too unstable to go through a transplant and so he is currently inactive on the list.

My heart breaks for both of them. I know that he is in a very, very scary situation. I remember the look in Spencer's eyes when he started to grasp the seriousness of his situation... that his life was, once again, on the line. I know that she is in a state of utter disbelief and shock, watching her husband fight for his life, not knowing what the next day, hour, or minute might bring. Watching him lay there, confused, uncomfortable, and scared. Trying to comfort him, love him, and be everything for him as she tries to hide her own emotions and be the strong one. The shoulder. The support. The unwavering support that feels impossible, but is absolutely necessary to get them both through.

I want to do so much for her, but there isn't much that I can do. I think back to when I was in that situation. What did I want from friends? What did I need? There really was nothing that could help heal my broken and distraught heart. Cards, kind words and messages were always nice and they really, really helped get me through the rough days, but I was also so overwhelmed with it all. I read what I could, but didn't get around to reading some of it until months after he died. I struggled to return phone calls, texts, messages, and e-mails. I didn't want to get out with friends and family and leave the hospital because I never knew what might happen the one moment that I decided to disappear. I want to write her, but I have nothing to say aside from; I understand, I'm here for you, please let me know if there is anything that I can do. The generic message that everyone writes a wife in distress. When I try to personalize it, I'm always afraid that I'm going to say the wrong thing at the wrong time; the right thing at the wrong time... I know that I had instances of that myself. The last thing I want to do is upset her.

So A. B., if you're reading this, I want to help you, I am just not sure how, if there is any way at all. If you ever want to hear my experience I will be more than happy to share it with you. If you want to hear how I personally got through some of the rough moments, I am happy to share as well. I feel like that's about the best that I can do. Know that you're always, always on my mind, as well as your hubby. All of your Cyster Wives love you so much!

There are several more of my Cyster Wives who are going through a really rough time with things in their personal lives and with their husbands declining health. It's tough to read about this because, naturally, I only want the very best for them.

I also have another friend who is struggling a good deal right now. My precious friend, Molly, who is waiting on a 4-organ transplant is currently fighting sepsis in the hospital. She's in desperate need of a transplant and it's scary for me to wonder how much longer she can possibly fight. I have only seen Molly when she's been fairly sick and I would love more than anything to visit her when she feels like a brand new woman.

These are all examples of incredible people that make me question why something bad has to happen to such sweet and amazing people.

On that same note, I watched a movie a couple of nights ago that is based off of a true story and it was incredibly touching.  It was about a man with Polio who resided in an Iron Lung for all but 2-3 hours each day. He was a college graduate, a writer and a poet. One day he was asked to write a paper about intimacy and disability, which prompted him to search for intimacy for himself that he'd never been able to experience before. Along the way he found love with different women, experienced true heart break, and touched the lives of so many people caring for him.

His heart was huge and despite the incredible adversity that he faced, he never gave up. As I said, he was a college graduate. He went to school each day laying down on a motorized gurney. He crossed the stage getting his diploma with the crowd cheering for him and his success. Because he had lost voluntary muscle control in every part of his body but above his neck, he used a pointer with his mouth to do everything; type, answer the phone, move things, reach for things -- you name it. And it looked so, so hard to do. His attitude was one that all of us should adopt. I was greatly inspired.

I don't know what prompted me to watch it, as I normally wouldn't watch something like this based off of the description, but I got a lot out of it. I laughed, I cried, and I felt and understood certain things here and there. It was called The Sessions, if you're interested. (Just an advanced warning, it's not for young eyes, and uses strong language in some parts...)

It's obvious that life is not fair, it never has been. It's just hard to know that people who are so, so very deserving of everything in life, and more, get handed some of the crappiest cards to play with. I am so proud of my friends and acquaintances who play that crappy hand to the very best of their ability and they don't let it hold them back. They may have multiple set backs and babysteps are inevitable but, as I said, they combat that adversity time and time again, for their entire lives, and they come out on the top saying "This won't get me down."