Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Reflections

This years Year In Review post is likely going to be a little different from the ones that I've previously done. I am all for being optimistic, hopeful, and positive, but as I've sat here for a couple of days now working on this post, I have found it really hard to find the good that has come out of 2013 for me. 2013 was a really rough year. I think it's perfectly acceptable to flat out say that this year sucked and was one of the worse that I've had in a long time.

I'm sometimes hesitant to say that it "was the worse" with anything, because I think of when Spencer died and how awful that was, and still is. But I also had A LOT of good come out of 2011. This year, I think that the tough patches overshadow a lot of the good because they were the majority of my year. I'm not saying that 2013 was COMPLETELY bad, I know there were some really good moments, but it was just so difficult with being so sick. It wasn't just the illness that brought me down, but the realizations of possible surgery, losing my job because of it, having to move, and then the recovery which was incredibly hard.

 So while usually these year in review posts are positive and reflect the entire year pretty accurately, I'm going to take a different route with this one. I just kind of want to forget about 2013, honestly. My sister did a cool Year In Review post on her blog and I thought maybe I'd do the same because I'm finding it really hard to write out everything that has happened, and I don't want to sound ENTIRELY negative the whole post ;) This helps me think about the good that HAS come out of 2013, even though it's difficult to find!

What did you do in 2013 that you've never done before?
Attended a funeral of a close friend. Became a phlebotomist. Was nominated for employee of the month. Moved into a place of my very own. Quit a job.

Did you keep your New Years resolution? Will you make more for next year?
I didn't make any resolutions and it's very rare that I do. I have goals in mind for the upcoming year to better myself as I believe those are more achievable :) I just don't think you need a new year to all of a sudden start something new. I've already implemented things into my life to try and improve myself this year and I just hope it carries on to 2014!

Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! My friends Christine and Adam gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Atticus!

Did anyone close to you die?
Unfortunately, yes. My friend Molly passed away.

What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
Optimism; 2013 was really tough for me. New friendships and meeting new people would be nice, too. I would really like to find someone to share my life with. It's been a bumpy road since Spence passed, but I feel like I'm ready to take that next step. We'll see what happens. I certainly need to meet people, first!

What moments from 2013 will remain etched in your memory and why?
* The funeral of my friend, Molly because of the emotions and grief I experienced. It was incredibly difficult.
* When Christine told me she was finally pregnant :) They had had such a trying process with IVF and many setbacks and heartbreaks. It made my heart so full when I found out!
* Heart-to-heart moments and time with a friend. My friend and I don't spend a whole lot of time together anymore and I wonder if moments from the past didn't interfere with our friendship. But I really cherished and appreciated the serious (and even not so serious!) talks that we had and hope that this year isn't the last of it!
* Christine and Adam coming to visit me in Kansas shortly after I moved back. We had such a good time together and it was fun showing them my roots.
* 2013 Fairs in Benkelman, St. Francis, and Imperial. They were such a good time!
* The Riddle camping trip!

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Recovering from being so incredibly ill and pushing through my struggles. While this year didn't bring a lot of positives for me, just getting through each and every day being so sick was an accomplishment for me. Sometimes you just have to focus on those little victories.

What was your biggest failure?
I really fell off the bandwagon with my faith. More-so than you will ever know. I don't know if you'd call it a failure, but it's the first thing that comes to my mind. I'm still not at a point where I am comfortable or feel ready to get back into it. "Get back into it." I know that sounds weird. I'm holding a lot of deep emotions that makes it very difficult. I don't need to explain myself, but I am disappointed with how that journey has went for me this year.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
Oh yes, yes I did and it was the majority of my year definitely overshadowing everything else. I went through the biggest health struggle of my life. It started in January and spiral out of control quickly after. I went through ER visits, multiple doctor visits, GI visits, scopes, clinical trial, the very real possibility of surgery for the first time, rapid weight loss, muscle atrophy. It was awful. I've never been that sick before and I got sick enough to where I was very scared. The lack of control and rapid deterioration was terrifying. I am still not out of my flare-up with my IBD yet, but it's gotten a lot better than it was.

What was the best thing you bought?
Even though she annoys me greatly, I'm so glad I got my kitten. She makes me laugh a lot and she loves to cuddle (when it's convenient for her). I think I've decided to name her Skid/Skidz. She skids around everywhere and is so incredibly spazzy. Skidz was also Spencer's nickname, it just really, really fits.

Whose behavior merited celebration?
Certainly not mine ;) But really? My sister tops the list on this one. She overcame a lot this year by starting therapy for her anxiety and depression. I've seen her make a lot of strides. Of course there is always set backs, but I'm beyond proud of her for pushing through and continuing on the path of improving her life. She deserves this and the hope that she now sees flickering in the distance isn't just hope for her, but for me, too.

Whose behavior made you appalled?
It's hard to name names when it's a public blog ;) and so I won't do that. But I will honestly say that my own wasn't much to be applauded on. I don't know if 'appalled' is the right word, really.. but disappointment seems to fit well.

Where did most of your money go?
Medical expenses. Thousands and thousands of dollars out of pocket went into medical expenses and are still going into them, too. Depressing, really.

What did you get really, really excited for?
This is a tough one. I don't know that I got really excited for anything, but a few things I really looked forward to was moving into my new house, starting my new job, and moving back to be closer with my family. What am I currently really excited about? Going to Vegas in January? :)

What song will always remind you of 2013?
I don't know that there is a song that will specifically make me think "oh! 2013!" but a song that was popular this year and really stands out in my mind? What Does The Fox Say. Oh jeeze that got too much popularity ;)

Compared to this last year, are you a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer? 
a) Happier. Though it's been a hard year I feel like my heart is mostly full. 2013 is ending on a better note than it began. b) Thinner. Lost so much weight from being sick! c) Poorer. So many medical bills continue to pile up.

What do you wish you'd done more of?
This is a really hard one, because I wasn't physically able to do a lot this year. But I wish I would have read more books. Went on more trips (aside from just to Kansas to visit) such as exploring places I haven't been to before. Did more in Utah while I still lived there like visiting museums, hiked, and went to places I have been wanting to go there. I wish I would have done more on my weeks off of work!

What do you wish you'd done less of?
Spending less time on my computer. Less time worrying about roommates, my future 10 years down the line. Spending less time having such a plan for anything and everything.

How did you spend Christmas?
Not too far off from the usual. On Christmas Eve we had the Sander's Christmas at my grandmas with my moms side of the family. Eating lots of food, visiting, and opening gifts. Christmas day we opened up our Santa gifts from mom and dad, spent most of the day putting together these Santa gifts, and went over to the Home where my grandpa is to celebrate the Johnson Christmas with my dads side. It was a difficult time over there because my grandpa isn't doing well and likely doesn't have more than a few weeks left with us.

Did you fall in love in 2013?
There was this boy... and I don't know if I fell in love with him, or the idea of being with him/someone. Likely I did not fall in love, but I think I have always loved him and always will, but more-so as a friend and brother and sometimes I think it's hard for me to distinguish that because I want to love someone again. I want to share my heart, my life, and my overabundance of love with a man. It's easy for me not to fall too deep too fast and too easily, I guess you could say.

What was your favorite TV Program?
I do have to say The Walking Dead. My sister and I watched it together (we're still 2 episodes behind!) and it is just brilliant! I also really love The Sing Off! I don't have TV so I don't watch a lot of shows and most of what I watch on Netflix are movies. Oh.. and Gossip Girl probably tops them all. I know, lame.. but I really got into it on Netflix and finished the last season this year. It's still a favorite!

Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No, I really can't say that I do.

What was the best book you read?
It's really hard not to go back to the very last book that I read! But The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was amazing. I love his writing style. But I read so many great books, not as many as I wanted to.. but still a lot of good ones! (My Foreign Cities, Something Borrowed, The Pact, Safe Haven and etc!)

What was your greatest musical discovery?
I rediscovered a lot of artists I'd previously forgotten about, but I also discovered some new musical talent this year, too. The Icarus Account. Boyce Avenue. Alex Goot. And then there was also a lot of miscellaneous songs I found that I loved as well.

What did you want and got?
A place of my own. To feel better. A job at Dundy County Hospital in the lab. A kitten. To be physically closer to my family.

What did you want and not get?
Remission.  Insurance. To go back to Utah to visit.

What is your favorite film this year?
Les Miserables, hands down. It is spectacular and I cry every time I watch it!

What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 
The love and support from friends and family when I was so sick. Being closer to my sister. Getting to work again and at DCH, where I wanted to work!

What kept you sane?
Hope. I mean, really, though. The hope that I would eventually get better is probably one of the only things that got me through. My family helped, my sister helped.

Which celebrity/ public figure do you fancy the most?
Oh dear. Chace Crawford? ;) (Gossip Girl anyone?? lol)

What political issue stirred you the most?
Healthcare. No questions about that. But there were more. The little girl, Sarah Murnaghan challenging the lung allocation system. Gun control. But mostly... Healthcare.

Who do you miss?
As always, and what will come to no surprise to you, I very much miss my husband. I also miss Mary, an old co-worker from ARUP, The Soderborgs, The Riddle family, Emily Rosenthal, and I'm sure there's more I'm missing here!

Tell of a valuable experience you learned in 2013.
The biggest one I am not going to share publicly. Sorry. :) But other things? I once again learned I HAVE to be my own advocate with my health. Friends will come and go. I cannot hold on too tightly too the past because it is just that, the past.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. 
The storm is coming but I don't mind
People are dying, I close my blinds
All that I know is I'm breathing now.

But all that I know is I'm breathing
All I can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing now.

-Keep Breathing -- Ingrid Michaelson

Now for a few pictures that I feel highlight my year. It's always difficult to pick between only a few!

So that's my year. Here's to a really great 2014 with much to write about in my next Year In Review post =)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2010 Spencer Christmas Memory

2010 was the first and the last Christmas I spent with my love. While it was an excellent and very memorable Christmas, it sure didn't come smoothly for us! We had planed to go to Kansas to celebrate with my family that year but Spencer's health loomed over us making us question whether we'd actually get there or not. He landed himself in the hospital less than 10 days before we were set to head to Kansas and he was pretty sick. We weren't sure what was going on, just that his CF was getting worse and antibiotics weren't helping him recover like they once did and they weren't fully knocking out the infection.

A couple of days before we were planning on leaving for Christmas we got word from his CF doctor that there wasn't any chance for him to be able to travel to Kansas.. he would likely be spending the holiday in the hospital. We shed many, many tears over it. I was upset he wouldn't be with my family and get to meet my whole family, and I was also very tore over what to do... Spend Christmas with my family in Christmas, or stay in the hospital with Spencer so he wouldn't have to spend it alone.

After talking about the options and continuing to beg doctors to let us out, I came to terms with what will be, will be. I decided that no matter the outcome I was going to bring Christmas to us in the hospital and we had a wonderful, wonderful Christmas of our own. I went out to the store and bought a set of lights, a gingerbread house kit, sparkling juice, and we opened our gifts to each other early.

We started out the evening by decorating a gingerbread house. I did most of it, Spence just supervised as he still wasn't feeling the best. It turned out pretty good! The roof ended up caving it, but you couldn't even tell ;)

I had Spencer open his gift from me a little bit early. He was pretty excited.

Turned out he was thrilled! I picked a pretty good gift that year. He ended up not really using it in his chair at home because his back was so bony and it hurt him, but regardless, he did love it in the hospital!

We also had some sparkling juice. Todd, one of our favorite nurses, got us glasses from the cafeteria to drink it out of. They tried to make it special for us, too. One reason I love the staff that takes care of the CFers!

We continued to beg and plead with doctors about getting out in time for Christmas. The plan was to be discharged on Christmas day, but we had to leave before that since it is a 12 hour drive with a possible stop in the middle to sleep and do proper treatments for Spencer. We finally got a different CF doctor on call and after lots of questions and conversation, she decided that he could be cleared to go home. We left for Kansas on my birthday!

It was a pretty nasty drive for awhile. Lots of overturned vehicles and bad road conditions. We had Nacho and Chloe with us. Chloe was given some sedatives to help her be calm, and nacho just slept on Spencer's lap the whole way!

We finally got to Kansas in once piece after a very long drive! This was Spencer's second time staying at my parents place. I will never forget the number of times he told me how loving and caring my family was. How open to showing affection for each other we were. Something he didn't experience as often as I did. He loved how my mom would come up behind him randomly and touch his shoulders when she asked how he was. Or give him a hug when she went by.

One night he broke down crying. I couldn't understand what was wrong and I thought he was having a terrible time being so far away from Utah and his care team. (Because unfortunately with CF you have to worry about that a little bit). He told me that he just couldn't believe the love he was feeling there. He couldn't quite take in and comprehend it because it's something that he hadn't experienced often. His family showed their love in other ways (but did not love him any less than we did!). He was just overjoyed being in Kansas and was happy he was there.

We always celebrate Christmas with my family on Christmas Eve so on the 24th we went to my grandmas house to eat, visit, and open gifts together. Spencer was definitely spoiled that year! He was also very overwhelmed with gifts and broke down a couple of times because he didn't feel deserving of everything that he was getting. Every one in our family bought him a gift or two!

Obviously he needed his hair cut ;)

In that last picture he was playing around with a little voice recorder that he got. I actually still have that with the same message he recorded on it that Christmas!! And it's such a Spencer message too. It says, "Note to self: Kill everyone." We just laughed about it when he did it. I never expected to STILL have it on there to this day! 

We got home that night with our stomachs and hearts very full. It was a very, very good Christmas. Every Christmas day my parents get us a Santa Gift. That's our bigger gift for the year that she saves up for. We always tell her she doesn't HAVE to do it, but it's something she really loves doing for us. :)

Spencer wasn't expecting to get anything for a Santa Gift, but mom and I had been talking about it for a couple of months. He had a ton of PS2 games that he hadn't played forever. He had been telling me how he wished he could play them again but he didn't have a PS2. So mom found one online and bought that for his santa gift. He was so surprised when he had something to open!

The rest of our time that day was spent napping, playing dad's new Wii, reading my new Nook, and, again, having our hearts and stomachs so, so full. 

This was the most memorable Christmas that I have had. I'm so glad that Spencer was able to celebrate it with me and my family, it really did mean so much to be especially since we didn't get a Christmas together as a married couple. Seeing the joy on his face that year just said it all. I miss him this Christmas and every one here to follow. He's always in my heart and on my mind. Merry Christmas, SweetPea. I love you always. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Another year down...

[Started writing this 3 days ago... decided to continue on with it tonight]

It is truly hard to believe that my husband has been gone for 2 years.

24 months.

104 weeks.

730 days.

It doesn't matter how you look at the length of time that he's been gone; in hours, days, weeks, or months. There is a void inside of my heart, in our hearts, that not even time will be able to completely fill. That's just simply the price that one pays for loving so truly, so deeply, and so completely.

The more time that passes the more memories slowly dissolve. Bits and pieces of them become left to the imagination and pictures and stories vs. the fact. And what hurts the most is those private memories that only the two of you shared. You know, the ones that no one else is able to recall but the two of you, only now there is only one. The weight of those memories lies on my shoulders and there are just some things I don't remember, but desperately wish that I did. Laughing so hard we cried while playing fetch with the dog, but what was so funny? Our first hospitalization together, but in what year? Our first official date, but where did we go? Planning our dream house, but what were our wild ideas? He wanted to take me so many places, but where were those places?

And it's not only that, it's the lines of his face, his mannerisms, the quirky actions and thoughts that made Spencer, Spencer. Those fade with time, too, and I almost feel guilty that those things can't be remembered by quick recall anymore. It's amazing how quickly things are lost when your not looking at them or discussing them on a regular basis. With only 2 years down, it makes me wonder how much more will become lost with time. Time. It's always about time in one way or another, isn't it? How much you have with someone, how "time heals", how much time has passed....

I sat and studied pictures of Spencer tonight. Ones from when he was a boy up until 2 days before his death. His personality came out through his facial expressions and it was one of those rare moments when I felt a lot closer to remembering him as an actual person, vs. pictures and imagination because sometimes it feels like it was all a dream.

There is one night out of the year that I pull out my "Spencer Box" and slowly sift through everything in it one-by-one. I sit down and read the piles of cards he/we received from Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Get-Well-Soon, and etc. It took me over an hour to go through just the cards. I also looked through my "Spencer Book" which contains hundreds of letters written to Spencer during his final week. The words are so touching and it means the world to me that I have the ability to go back and be reminded of how much he was loved. It's healing for me and really warms my heart. The love is so overwhelming, even after 2 years.

I'm always very mixed with emotions when it comes to days like this. I'm filled with so much love, but so much emptiness at the same time, and that's tough to sort through. I very much miss being in Utah and I long to be there tonight. Last year was such a wonderful celebration of his life and something that I wish could be done every year. But I know he was still remembered by friends and family, near and far. Last year I just took a lot of comfort of being around loved ones. It helped smooth out the day and make it a whole lot easier to get through.

As today comes to an end and another milestone and hurdle in my life is worked through, I have to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who took a few extra moments today to think of Spence. And thank you so much for all of the love that you shared with both Spencer and myself before, during, and after. It's because of you that I have made it through these trials a little bit easier. The support you've shown me is incredible and, as I've said before, completely overwhelming.

And to Spencer:

Thank you for sharing your life with me. You taught me invaluable lessons I hold near and dear to my heart. Thank you for allowing me to be your wife and the person you trusted the most with your thoughts and feelings; The person you trusted most to care for you and to be with you until your last breath. Being married to you was the biggest privilege that I have ever had. I love you always and forever, SweetPea. Nothing I can say right now differs from anything I've ever told you before... I miss you so much and carry you so close to my heart.