Wednesday, December 10, 2014

As Two Turns Into Three

Tomorrow is that semi-awkward date that comes around each year. A date that holds a lot of weight, pressure, and meaning to me but few others. I walk around during the day, all-knowing, but hardly anyone knows that behind a smile is a plethora of thoughts about the significance of the 11th. Some great others difficult. I don't expect anyone to hold that date so close to their own heart, but unless you've been through it, you can't quite understand how lonely and secluded it can make you feel.

I think a lot of it is just the pressure of it all. Wondering what I "should" do, even though there isn't any right answer. I feel as if treating it like just another day is absolutely insufficient. Doing nothing doesn't feel right to me. But how does one use the day to mark their late husband's death? For a birthday, you celebrate another year older but what do you do for, uhm well, for a "death day"? 

The first year family and friends gathered at his childhood home, watched a couple of videos in memory of him, looked through cards and photos, and shared memories of his life and our time with him. It was a perfect way to celebrate. I felt so full of love. Love for me, and love for Spencer. But this year his family isn't here, I don't have any friends who live here that knew him. I suppose you can understand why it's so easy to feel a little bit empty on that day. 

December 11th presents a feeling very similar to shortly after I lost him. Perhaps it's appropriate given that this time of year I'm reflecting the time around when he died. The whole day it's a feeling like something is missing. It's one where you can be in a crowded room surrounded by people you love and some of the best company, but yet still have a feeling of being empty and lonely. It is a paradox; When I'm with people, I want to be alone. When I'm alone, I desperately want to be with people. A feeling of never being quite satisfied with the current situation.

I want to be with people because sometimes being alone with my own thoughts is overwhelming. But I think one reason I want to be alone so much when I am with others is because no one really knows what to say. It's that whole "elephant in the room" situation. People try to tiptoe around the subject always worried about saying the wrong thing instead of overtly saying, "Hey, I know you miss him, I miss him too. This is my favorite memory of him...." Sometimes saying nothing at all is worse than saying the wrong thing. It's been three years. I've healed. It's OKAY to say something to me. It's OKAY to talk about him. 

You know how rare it is for anyone to mention him to me anymore? I can't even remember the last time that I had a conversation about Spencer or shared a memory about him. And while that is okay, because I know I always hold those memories in my heart, it's also really, really nice to have someone to share these stories with every once in awhile. It helps me feel like I am keeping his memory alive. That we aren't forgetting about him and that there are still other people aside from myself who love and miss him, too. 

But despite on how I "should" spend tomorrow, overall I just want to remember Spencer and I'd love for you to help me do so. I want to remember his life and not so much his death. I am so thankful and lucky to have shared a small part of my life with him and how amazing it was to be his wife.


Sweetpea --

There are nights where I kind of sit in disbelief knowing that it's been 3 years since I last saw your smile, held your hand, kissed your lips, gazed into your big bright eyes. Three years. Some days I truly can't believe it's been so long, and other days it feels like it's been such a short period of time. Weird how time can play tricks on a person like that. Making it seem like both forever and just yesterday with each passing tick of the clock.

Each year, month and week it gets better. Slowly but surely this has gotten easier. The beginning of year 2 was brutal. Much worse than the first year, but as it has come to an end I feel at peace. The difference between the start and end of this year is literally like night and day. I don't know that there was a specific turning point, I don't know that I necessarily made any major discovery or anything like that... but as year two without you slowly (and quickly) turns into year three I find myself in the best place I feel like I can be. I am filled with love, passion, and joy again. I am so overwhelmingly happy.

I can finally see a future starting to come together with you in my heart rather than by my side.

Two days before you died I lay beside you in your hospital bed, hands entwined, tears in my our eyes, and I asked you what you wanted for me even though I'd heard it a thousand times before. It was my way of asking, "Where do I even go from here? What am I supposed to do with my life without you here?" without ever muttering those words. The biggest gift you could have ever given me were the words and the message that it's okay to move forward whenever I am ready to do so. To never be afraid to find and to do what makes me happy. To be true to myself. To find someone to be happy with. To find love once again. Thank you for giving me your blessing even though I can't even begin to imagine how painful it was for you to say. It's a gift to me that will keep on giving for the rest of my life. Thank you as it has helped feelings of guilt subside as I move forward with my life. Thank you for saying the words that help get me through knowing that this is what you want for me... for me to find happiness in everything I do. Thank you.

Spencer I just hope that in my jumbled little world, with all of the crazy twists and turns that it has taken these last three years... well I just hope that somehow I have managed to make you proud of me. I'm sure there are decisions I've made that have you shaking your head at me. I know that I've done things that have no doubt been a let down. But with that aside and in the overall picture, I hope that whatever you are you're looking at me with a smile, with love, with joy, and are proud of who I've become and the future that I have set for myself.

I miss you and your quirks and I'll keep you in my heart forever. I love you, Pea. I love you so much.

I carry your heart with me, I carry it in my heart.

Friday, December 5, 2014

To my wine drinking, story telling, hell of a good friend

"Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts and we are changed forever."

Thank you, friend, for so so much. Throughout these last three months you have been so much for me. You have meant so much to me. You have given me confidence, made me feel like I can be myself, helped me continue to come out of my shell and be who I desire to be. 

You've taught me skills and helped expand my knowledge. You've tested me, challenged me, been more than willing to work with me and help me to become better. Not only just because I've asked, but because you've wanted to. You have been more than willing to go the extra mile to help me succeed. 

You've taken a load off of me at work, willing volunteering to do draws both outpatient and in, offering to do Tuesday morning draws at Hester Home, going up to HH on off days for draws, always keeping busy. Doing some of the busy work that I've been so used to doing. Always having a good attitude. 

You've listened to my rants while I've listened to yours, have been my confidant, my sounding board, the one I trust and go to when I need a listening ear. You were there from the start when I started planning the next chapter in my life I'm about to venture into and you've given me truly invaluable insight and help with what to do. Even though I will continue to be scared and unsure about the next steps you've helped calm me and help me realize that I can do this and it will work out. That I am really doing the right thing for ME.

You've helped me understand and balance my past, present, and future because you yourself have had to do the same. Helped me work through some of these inner emotions and figuring out that super fine line I fight with as I'm letting someone else in and trying to keep my past in my heart.

I don't know that there is any conceivable way to express my thanks to how good of a friend you've been to me. Strangers that blossomed into a friends and it's a friendship that I can only hope is just beginning.

I've enjoyed so many memories with you. Bitching all the way to Colby to shop until we dropped, nasty wine that got us buzzed, delicious scampi and staying up late, Wii bowling and far too much wine on Thanksgiving.... It's all memories I wouldn't trade for the world and I'm so grateful to have. It's been so fun spending time with you and getting to know you. I wish we had more time because I feel like we've only scratched the surface. 

I'm really going to miss weekends with you, your hysterical story telling, snickering at creeper in the corner, laughing with you, turning lights off on you, and all the other little silly, stupid things we did instead of work! =) You certainly know how to make it fun.

But what I'm going to miss most is the friendship we've built and the confidant I've gained.

The lab will feel so empty without you there. You brought so much life, joy, and humor to not only my life but to our little corner in the hospital. You are a ray of sunshine and know how to brighten things up and make it a place people want to be. Working with you has been SUCH a pleasure and I'm we're going to miss you dearly. In my honest opinion, you're irreplaceable. You're skills are top notch, you pick up on things so naturally, and your optimism and patient-comes-first mentality are to be emulated. You fit in right away and definitely became part of our little lab family. Truly our whole hospital family. I'm not sure we'll find another quite like you.

This isn't goodbye, only see you later. I hope our paths cross again in the future. Come join me for wine in California, my friend. A tasting will be quickly arranged and we'll toast to friends and new beginnings. Love ya, Theresa. I wish you the very best with everything and may only good things be in your future.

Miss you already.

Monday, November 3, 2014


November is the month of thanks and I've been thinking so much about how thankful I am for everything in my life. My heart has been so full and I have been happy. I'm so giddy that I just can't seem to wipe a smile off of my face. There is a bounce in my step that doesn't leave. I almost don't want to talk about it because I'm nearly afraid I'll jinx it, but as I said, my heart is overjoyed. It's been years since I've felt this way and I couldn't be more thankful.

There have been times that I've wondered what life has to offer me because I felt so stuck in a rut. I certainly have my days like that now, but I am starting to see my life begin again and while I've felt uneasy about it because there is so much unknown, I can also see the potential that is has and it's been enthralling for me to experience. I've had many "ah-ha" moments and chances to make some huge decisions on the direction I want to go. It's unnerving at times and the thought of moving forward in such a big way stops me in my tracks, but as things continue to unfold, the more excited I become.

I have been given a lot of new opportunities and with much debate, thought, and tears I've accepted them. Each one has opened up to something better and it's got me optimistic about these chances I am taking. I've always been the type of person to stick to my comfort zone, but this time I've decided to take the risk and to just go for it. Since branching out of the known I've had an entire world open up to me that I had been ignoring. Stepping out of my comfort zone has taught me that you can't get what you want and what you deserve unless you spread your wings and take a leap. And while things may fall through the cracks here and there, everything has it's own way of working out. It always has. I'm so excited for these next 6 or 7 months to unfold. So many new adventures await me and while the planning in between is stressful and completely overwhelming at times, thinking about the overall outcome is what keeps me going.

I've been having such a fun time the last 3 months. My circle of friends has expanded. My confidence has skyrocketed. I've been getting out and doing more things. I've taken more trips and have explored new places. I've taken a chance with my heart and couldn't be more happy with how things are.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Beginning of Nov Photo Challenge

Photo Challenge Day 1 - Something Blue -

So much laughter was had yesterday afternoon. A friend and I got together and decided to check out our local Sage Hill Vineyard and Winery. I was shocked at how different the wines are here compared to California, where I had my very first wine! The kind of grapes that we can grow around here are different and I had a lot of wines that had a very distinct flavor I've never had before. They were very earthy and had a spice to them.

I've found that so far I tend to like the white wines more than the reds, but I was completely shocked to find that at our tasting yesterday I didn't like any of the whites he poured us. I wasn't a huge fan of the reds, either, but there was one that I didn't mind and could have a glass of!

We got to try a couple of dessert wines that were unfortunately unavailable for purchase right now, but they were quite good! I decided to get a bottle of the red wine that I didn't mind but as we were getting ready to leave we asked about one that was on the pamphlet that we didn't try. He did have it available and poured us a little bit. Hopefully my palate wasn't completely gone at that point, but I really enjoyed the very last white that we tried so I switched the red for the white! Hopefully when I open the bottle up again I won't be disappointed!

We then drove around the lake and went into town and had dinner at Skyline together.

I have been so lucky to get to know this lady and it's going to be sad when she leaves as she's only here for a short time. I'm definitely going to be missing a good friend that I've made. The time that we've spent together has been so enjoyable. She's been great to bounce ideas off of, gives wonderful advice and suggestions, and I've really loved getting to know her!

Photo Challenge Day 2 - I saw this! -

For roughly the last month and a half I have been studying and preparing to take my national ASCP certification in phlebotomy. The phlebotomy class that I took to get my certificate was super basic and so I've been enjoying (for the most part) learning more and getting a lot more in depth with everything. I definitely know that I'm in the right field of study. As I've been reading through the book I've been wanting to know how everything is connected, wanting to know even more. Very excited to get back into school and finish up my degree and get a job in what I know I want to do!

My goal is to take the test by February and so far I don't think that will be a problem to get done! I'm currently working on getting the paperwork filled out and processed to register and once that comes back a date will be set! I'm really nervous about it because I am a terrible test taker, but I'm feeling pretty confident in knowing this stuff like the back of my hand since I've been working in the lab for awhile!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A month for writers...

Last year I really wanted to attempt NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writers Month. Each participant has the entire month of November to write a novel of 50,000 words or more. They look at it as everyone has a story to tell, whether it's fact or fiction. Most people say "Some day I want to write a book." NaNoWriMo is that time. The time to stop putting it off and to just do it.

I started writing last year on November first and only lasted about 3 days. I ended up with 1,043 words. Roughly 2 pages in a Word document. My subject matter was difficult. I couldn't stay focused. Writers block hit about as soon as I started. I did no planning and I had a heck of a time deciding how much I wanted to personalize it.

I was too picky. I couldn't make up my mind and I tried SO hard not to criticize and edit myself after each and every sentence. Most of what I wrote was not re-read after I typed it and it was the hardest thing I did! 9 times out of 10 when I write a paper, or even a blog, my rough draft ends up being near my final draft... but with a book that isn't possible.

I contemplated giving NaNoWriMo another shot this year, but I honestly don't have the time, dedication, or drive to put into it. I have a full time job that I've been putting in overtime with, and I'm trying my hardest to study up to pass my ASCP exam beginning of next year.

But I do miss writing. I miss the challenge and I miss expressing myself. In the past I have done blogger challenges by posting every day for a month and I've decided that I want to challenge myself to doing that again. My blogs may be short and sweet, or they may just contain a photo for the photo challenge I want to attempt (once again). But I need a jump start into blogging again and I felt like it was an opportune time to do so.

I've went back and read what I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo and I want to share a bit of it. When I read it I really wish I would have kept going and written more. I don't think what I jotted down was too terrible (certainly could probably be better) and I hope that maybe some day I can take it further. Writing a book is on my bucket list and whether I can publish it or not is beside the point. But I hope that someday I can revisit that point in my life and help other people go through what I went through and show them that while it was a difficult journey, one can heal. I know what I want the subject to be, I know what I want to share, I just don't know how to go about it and the format that I want the book to have.

Now I don't know if I want my book to be written this way... but when I started this one last year I decided that I wanted to share my life but do it in a way that it was like telling a story and writing a work of fiction. Most things are taken straight form my life, some are exaggerated... that's the freedom of writing :)

So here is a little excerpt of what I wrote... Judge kindly, but constructive criticism and comments are always nice :)


She gathered up her things and put them into her navy blue bag that had held those few necessary items for the last three months. A toothbrush, change of clothes, important documents, and maybe a book, if only she could focus enough to read it. Making the decision of which shirt to pack was harder than normal and brought her to tears. Realizing that she would likely not change into it anyway, she just threw one in without a second thought. She sat down on the bed in their bedroom of only 9 short months and heaved a heavy sigh knowing they would never sleep beside each other in that queen sized bed again. They would never have the chance to hang up their sign they just bought reading, “I love you more!”. They would never again playfully argue over whose turn it was to switch his oxygen tubing from his nasal cannula to his bipap machine. Memories raced through Sophie’s mind as she stared at those 4 pale yellow walls. She was numb and still could not fathom what was about to happen.

She kissed Brad’s little chihuahua and set out his food before she left. Her heart shattered in that moment as there is nothing like the bond between a man and his dog. After 3 months of being separated, with a few short visits in between, there is no doubt that he knew something was going on, but the poor dog could never be prepared with what was to come.

As Sophie went from room to room recalling memories that they shared in each, she started getting anxious and realized it was past time to get back to him. She didn’t get a whole lot of time to herself these days, but it’s not that she wanted it, either. Time to herself was filled with panic and all the what-if questions. What if something would happen if she were gone? What if he needed her? It was best if she just stayed near.

Grabbing her things, she left their home with sweet memories but a broken and bitter heart. She started out on her one hour drive that she knew would be the last. Her stomach was in knots, her heart palpated, and tears threatened to escape her tender green eyes. She wanted to get back to him, but knew that with each moment that went by, it was one moment closer to when she would get hold his hand and kiss his lips for the very last time.


The story and relationship of Sophia E. Baker and Bradley L. Martin was considered a lifetime movie to most and even a fairy tale to some. Sophie and Brad could hardly agree. They saw their relationship no different than anyone elses, and that is what made it so extraordinary. It may have been full of dumb luck and quirky flaws, just like the next couples, but unique to their blossoming relationship were trials unimaginable to most.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

California - Los Angeles

It's a pretty unfair question to ask me which part of my trip was the best. Every single part was fantastic and I would do it all over again in a heart beat. . . Well maybe not the terrifying traffic experience and feeling so lost - but hey, that's all part of the experience and the funny memories!

The weekend we went to Yosemite definitely sits very close to the top of the list of favorites. It was so relaxed and absolutely beautiful. It was a great time to just enjoy nature, get away from the business of life and really get to know Bob better. Late night conversations when you're exhausted but just can't sleep because you're so happy and don't want the day to end are simply the best :) I also got to know his best friend. I think a persons character really shines and comes out through the friends they are around and how they act when they are around them. I seemed to get along with him really well, hit it off really quickly, and I loved being together as a group. Late nights playing games, having drinks, sharing (and making) memories, cooking meals... It was a perfect setting.

Time spent with his friends, classmates, and study group was great, too. As well as the cumulative time spent with Bob talking, laughing, sharing music tastes, and feeling comfortable just sitting or walking in silence, appreciating the moment.

But the weekend that we spent in LA probably tops the list as the most "fun", even though I still think it's an unfair question ;) It was a huge eye opener for me, introduced me to more friends, his lifestyle (past or not, he'd still be living it if he could ;), and definitely reminded me how much I really miss the city life.

On Friday (10/3) we got up, had breakfast and headed to the dorms to pack and pick up his roommate so we could head off to LA after classes. We got out of there a lot earlier than expected and were LA bound! It's about a 5 hour drive but when your with great company it doesn't seem near that long! We had a great conversation on the way there, I had far too much caffeine to keep me awake, and I finally got my In-N-Out burger and was a pretty happy camper!

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It was so much fun driving around LA with someone who has lived there and knows the area well. So many stories came up and about every 15 seconds Bob would rank a restaurant or bar we would come upon. Such a foodie! The stories that came out of being in different areas were a lot of fun to listen to as well. We stayed at Bob's best friends house which is also where he lived in LA, in the Palisades on the west side of LA. When we got there we said hello to everyone and then went to grab dinner.

The places this guy goes to eat casually just blew my mind! I'd never been anywhere like it! Of course we don't have places like that around here, and when I lived in SLC I rarely ate out. He took me to a German sausage and beer place called Wurstk├╝che and the atmosphere was amazing! Just walking along the street it would be super easy to overlook. We went in, ordered our brats and some beer. Think of a very small bakery - that's what it looked like when you first go in. I figured you just got your food and left or something, I had no idea there was so much more to this :) Bob then led me around a wall and down a long hallway until we got to where we can sit down and eat. It was dark, packed with people, had a bar, and a DJ. Like I said... incredible atmosphere and so fun! The tables were lined with parchment paper and you could draw pictures or write messages on it. The food was delicious and I was blown away. So fun and I am super glad we went there! When I first heard we were going to a sausage place I never imagined what we'd walk in to! After we ate we went to one of Bob's friends houses for drinks and he was able to catch up with a couple of friends. Good conversation and a fun night.

On Saturday we got up early and went to have breakfast at a great breakfast/bakery place with a couple of Bob's friends, had a delicious latte, huge but delicious omelette, and witnessed a very passionate/angry french man who wanted specifically 5 baguettes, not just 1.

After breakfast Bob took me to Santa Monica beach. We walked hand in hand along the beach barefoot listening to the water crash into the beach. It's so nice to be able to be with someone and to feel like you don't need to say a word. To where the silence isn't at all awkward and to just be able to fully appreciate the surroundings and who your with. I enjoyed it a lot. He introduced me to a fun gift store, Kitson, and we walked around a little bit taking it all in.

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He then took me up to some great sight-seeing points that were stunning! I showed him the joy I get from the simple things in life, such as the satisfaction of stepping on a crunchy leaf in the fall. He might have shook his head at me but his cute smiles followed by the words "You dork" just showed me he enjoyed it as much as I!

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Before heading back to the house he took me to a place he discovered shortly before moving. We went to some meditation gardens at Lake Shrine. Didn't get to walk on all of the paths due to a wedding, but it was beautiful and very peaceful.

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We then headed back to the house, went got take out from Panda Express, and played a pretty cool game with Katso and Scott in which I kicked butt and took names (no, but really I didn't know what I was doing proudly won.) Bob and I then went to meet a couple more of his friends at the Bodega wine bar, another fun place in which I'd never been to anything like it before. Great ambiance! We had more delicious food and shared a bottle of wine. Bob was raving about the bacon wrapped dates (have I told you how much of a foodie he is and how much he loves to try new things, no??). I was pretty skeptical but we got them and they were actually pretty good! Then we had caprese sliders, a pizza, and more bacon wrapped dates. So much food but oh no, we weren't done yet. After a lot of laughs and a good time we headed down to Eat Shabu. So good! Once again, and you'd probably guessed this by now, I've never done anything like it!

You have this big pot of boiling kale water in front of you, a huge plate of veggies (cabbage, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, tofu, onions, noodles, etc), various spices for the water, a bowl of rice, bowl of peanut sauce, and bowl of soy sauce. You then order your meat and it comes raw, super thinly sliced on a plate. Then into the boiling water goes some of the veggies, the meat, and your choice of spices. You let it cook, dip it in the sauces you want, and eat it with the rice. It's delicious! At the end you can boil all of the veggies together and it makes an amazing broth you can eat with the noodles.

This was my first full attempt at eating with chopsticks... and I nailed it after being shown the proper way to hold them. To say I was impressed with myself is an understatement! But goodness we had SO much fun that night!! I loved the friends we spent time with and the conversations had.

My delicious Shabu!
As you can tell, Saturday was an extremely long, but awesome day, we did SO much... and I'm not even done yet! Katso and Scott picked us up and we went to meet some mutual friends of Bob and I's at the theater to watch Annabell. Oh man, what an experience! Bob is hysterical to watch scary movies with, poor thing! I definitely fed off of his anxiety which made it so much worse for me, because typically I do not do scary movies! But at times he was my comic relief :) Sorry, Bob! We went to Corey's place after the movie to hang out. Played Mario Party and Super Smash Bros (another game I kicked butt at, thank you very much. Kirby FTW!) Bob gave me a pat on the back for my video gaming skills ;)

We got home around 4:30 in the morning and crashed until 10 to meet up with a couple more friends for breakfast. We were planning on eating at a great waffle place, however the line was over 40 minutes long, so we decided to try Hucklebees.. Another packed place that we weren't willing to wait for. Bob joked around about how we could go to Dunkin' Donuts, however I wasn't impressed and I think he could tell that my my 'hangry' look. But in the end......

You guessed it.... I experienced my very first Dunkin' Donuts trip. The line was crazy long and we waited for quite awhile, but in the mean time we were able to talk a lot and we had a good time.

We had to leave LA early afternoon on Sunday to head back to Merced. The trip home seemed a little bit longer, but not too bad. Bob and I explored music tastes and shared some more stories. We got back to the dorms and then we headed out again to drive an additional 2 hours to San Francisco so I could catch my flight the next morning. Stopped and ate at Buffalo Wild Wings and then got a hotel and crashed there for the night.

Overall LA wasn't anything like I expected it to be! I thought it was all go, go, go and always super busy, but there are the more 'calm' parts and little communities, too... just like any other city you would go to. I actually liked it a lot, and definitely a lot more than I thought I would. And it's beautiful there. One thing I have always loved about California is the palm trees and the ocean. One thing I loved about Utah was the mountains. Well, in LA you get a 3 for 1 and it's pretty perfect!

I was super bummed out to have to leave and come back to my reality, though the routine again has been nice. I truly had an AMAZING time in California and I am so excited to go back at some point. Thanks so much to you, Bob, for showing me around and letting me have your car while I was there! Thank you for putting up with my terribly cheesy (and just plain terrible) pick up lines and incredibly awesome Kansas slang. Hope I taught you we aren't all red-neck hicks and that I'm not always quite as ornery as I seem! =D Thanks for the dinners, the date, the company, and the lack of Dragon Ball Z watching while I was there, even when giving you permission ;) Glad we missed out on a couple of #whoops moments there! haha. I miss you and I can't wait to see where the next adventure leads. I think New York and the east coast is calling my name in a couple of months?!

Until we meet again :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

California - Friends and Dates

I've been far too busy enjoying my time to sit down and properly write about the remaining days of my trip so I decided to wait until I got home to finish it all up in a couple of different blogs.

The next few days leading up to the weekend are a blur and tend to run together! But I think I finally got them straight :) Bob had classes all day on Wednesday as well and so I took advantage of the extra time to myself and sat in the library on campus all day. I studied my phlebotomy for the ASCP cert I am preparing to take. I got a text late that afternoon from Bob asking if we wanted to go to Applebees for bingo night and some wine after his lab. I was a little disappointed at first, as I wanted to spend the time as just the two of us, but I knew it would be a great time meeting his friends, getting out and really having a good time. So I obliged and we went.

And a good time we had! I met 5 or 6 of the people he has classes with, studies with, and hangs out with. They are all really fun people and the type of people I could see myself spending time with. Bingo didn't happen that night but we got the quesadilla burgers and a bottle of wine, and had good conversation. When we got back to campus we all took a walk along Yosemite Lake, found out none of us could skip rocks very well, if at all, climbed through a barbed wire fence to get to the car, and laughed a whole lot. I'm very glad we went out!

Thursday's plans were kind of thrown a curve ball with a quick meeting that Bob had to go to in the middle of the afternoon. But we definitely made the best of it! After his first class of the day we stayed on campus and played frisbee. It was super hot in the sun, but I found out I can throw a frisbee pretty darned well! I had a lot of fun! After that we went back up to the dorm, cooled off, and watched Castle until his meeting. And then more fun began! Bob had promised to take me on a date during my trip, time was running short and I honestly didn't know if it was going to happen, and I didn't really want to push it. I was just really enjoying the time we were able to spend together!

But this guy took me to a Vineyard roughly 10 minutes away from campus and we did a wine tasting. It was a super cute little place and we had a very enjoyable time. He (Tom) started us out with some white wine and varied into reds. He told us a few food parings with them and the differences between them. It was all just so good! Saved the best for last with a nice Rosato in which Bob ended up buying me a bottle of (Thank you :). He paired it with a little bubbly which made it even more fantastic. I'm anxious to try a glass since brining it home! In addition to the wine we met this very cute and fun older Australian couple there. They take 6 months at a time, come to the US, and just travel around the country in their RV. They have been to so many places and are currently traveling in California tasting wines, visiting national parks and etc. It was so fun to hear their stories!

Bob had a discussion after our date and so we snarfed down some food, I relaxed while he had class, and then we headed off to find a hotel for the night and crashed right away before heading off to LA the next day!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

California - Merced & Sacramento

Bob's been in class and studying a lot this week so I decided to spend all day on Tuesday exploring Merced. He has pointed about 2 or 3 of the main streets here and so I thought I'd take the car and just drive without a map or GPS. After all that definitely seems like the best way to figure out your way around a city! I was pleasantly with how easy it is to get around. I was able to find about anything I could have been looking for following those streets. I walked around a little bit and scoped out the mall here. Found a Barnes and Noble with a Starbucks and sat around for awhile until he got out of class.

We then had a super interesting adventure when we found the apartment we had rented for the week on Airbnb. Neither of us felt very comfortable in the area. I think we likely would have been okay, however we decided to go with our gut feeling after talking about it and canceled the reservation. We frantically searched on airbnb for another place to stay that we could afford and came across a gorgeous house nearby the college. The place actually didn't appear that it was available but Bob reached out to the owner and he was able to accommodate us through Thursday afternoon. He has 3 or 4 people staying at his house at one time. They are able to get together in the evenings, cook together, talk and get to know each other.. It's actually really fun. We haven't gotten to enjoy it much because we've been out very late each night, but in the future it would definitely be a perfect place to stay! We're so much more comfortable here and I'm glad it all worked out. It sure was stressful for awhile trying to figure out where we were going to stay for the week!

Yesterday I discovered that California driving is all a realm of it's own. Not anything like I'm used to. I was a bit nervous about driving but I figured that I had driven in the city in SLC for a few years, I could definitely do it again. Bob had classes from 7:30am to 9:30pm so I decided to take a day trip to Sacramento to see a couple of friends and do some exploring. What. A. Trip. I was completely wrong about how "easy" California driving would turn out to be. Not so easy when you're a passive driver! ;)

I met up with my first friend and we ate at a Japanese place. I went the safe route and just had Shrimp Tempura with some rice. It was delicious, though! After that we decided to go to Old Sacramento. I forget how long it takes to get to places in the city vs. how long it does in Kansas. We were about 20 minutes away which I didn't realize at first, but it wasn't a huge deal. I was excited to be able to go. So we head out and then I realize... it's rush hour. It took us probably about a good hour to get to where we were going. I would have LOVED to spend more time with her and walked around a bit more, but I was starting to run really short on time so we said our goodbyes, I dropped her off at home, and then went back to the heart of Sacramento.

It probably would have been a little bit better had it not been DARK when I was heading downtown. Thankfully rush hour was over by that time and I was able to drive on the free ways no problem. But then it came time to get off of the free way. I got off no problem but when I was trying to turn on P street I got really, really confused with the stop lights. There were several different streets going across and I truly thought my light was green. Turns out it definitely was not green. (that or the other guy ran the light, but I doubt it). I was going along, thankfully very slowly, and nearly t-boned a black car in the middle of the intersection. It was terrifying. I felt awful. Someone was watching out for me!!!

I was getting ready to meet my other friend downtown to eat some dinner. I was still shook up from my earlier experience. I found the place, no problem, however parking was a different story. I cannot parallel park. (A skill I really need to work on). I can, but I do NOT feel comfortable doing so, especially since it wasn't my car. So I drove around forever trying to find a place I could park. I finally found one I felt comfortable enough using and was getting ready to do it until this a-hole of a car pulled right in front of me and whipped into the spot I was about to take. I was not happy.

At that point I was just completely done because I had been searching for a spot for at least 15 minutes. And most of the streets were one way, so I kept getting confused and turned around. I finally found some public parking, even though I knew that it would cost me more than street parking. Decided to use that. About crapped my pants when it turned out to be $10 but at that point it seemed really worth it. I then get out of my car and I knew that I was a ways down from the place we were meeting at. Unfortunately I got really turned around. I couldn't see the street signs from where I was at so I really wasn't sure what direction I needed to go in. I just decided to go for it and started walking. I found that I was at 16th street and 1200 but I couldn't figure out what way would get me to 1414, right or left. I started getting REALLY frustrated. When I get stressed out, uncomfortable, and that frustrated all I want to do is cry. Ya. Bad combination.

I finally just started walking, hoping I could make some sense out of the streets. My friend was my saving grace when she noticed me walking and called out my name! I was completely relieved! We had a very nice time catching up (it's been several years other than contact online and phone) and I'm so glad we were able to make it work to see one another. I hope I get more opportunities in the future to see her :)

I haven't gotten many more pictures yet, but here are a few more from the last couple of days :) You can click on it to enlarge!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

California - Yosemite

What a great trip so far and I've only been here 3 days! A vacation has definitely been long overdue for me and I'm so excited that it's finally here! I've had the opportunity to take a trip out to California to spend a couple of weeks with Bob and celebrate his 25th birthday with him. We met on Molly's Organ Trail a couple of months ago and one super thought out selfie later we've been talking a ton, sending a lot of late night text messages and just getting to know each other and seeing where things take us! :)

I flew to San Francisco super late on Thursday night (Sept 25th) and we drove about an hour, found a hotel and crashed for the night. A bit disappointed it was dark when driving as I didn't get to see much of the area, but we had a great time listening to music, catching each other up with what we've been up to, and running off of pure adrenaline to see each other again! 

Got up early on Friday (Spet 26th) and drove the rest of the way to Merced so he could get to his classes for the day. I hung out at the library, studied a little bit, and then we met back up and made plans for the weekend. 

Friday late afternoon we headed to Yosemite National Park for Bob's birthday weekend! We rented a huge and super nice townhouse for a group of us (5 ended up being able to come) and had a blast together! Played games, ate some delicious dinner we cooked for his birthday, hiked, talked, napped, drove a lot, and did some sight seeing. So fun :) Stayed all day Saturday and left to head back to Merced Sunday early afternoon. Right now we're just relaxing, catching up on some sleep, and going to study and have dinner in a bit! 

I'll leave you with a few pics from the trip to Yosemite until next time I can write and share!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Blossoming through difficulty

Ever since Spence died I think I've become so much more aware of other people with cystic fibrosis passing away because I highly doubt that all of a sudden we started losing more people to this disease. I've been very close with the CF community for many years and since losing Spence, it's definitely become more difficult to be a part of. I've had to see CF through to its very bitter end and I continuously see my friends, my courageous, strong, and beautiful "Cyster Wives" make daily posts about how their husbands are fighting for their lives just as Spencer fought for his in the ICU for 3 painfully long, but painfully short months.

And it's not only seeing the daily struggles they live through and have to muster up the strength to fight through, but being able to empathize with the heartbreak as they post that they husbands have passed away from the disease that connects us all together. 3 wives very recently have lost their spouses. One just lost hers tonight. And that doesn't account for the growing number of CF Wives, and now widows, that we've added to our CF Widows and Widower facebook group within the last few months. A group where everyone can go and talk about the gut wrenching pain, the absolute heart break and devastation that comes with losing their world. Some of us have been on this journey much longer than others. A couple are very new and completely blind sighted by their new world minus one.

Knowing what to say to these grieving wives is nearly impossible. I don't remember how I made it through some of the earlier days. I don't remember what other people said to me that helped or hurt. I don't really remember certain moments or realizations that happened after he died. I seemed to be in so much of a fog it kind of just escapes me now. I was going through the motions. That's just about all. I was coping and just trying to survive each and every day in a new, strange, and scary world without my husband. I now understand how others, whose situation I am in now, felt when trying to muster up the words, courage, and strength to post how sorry they are that your husband just passed away.

You'd think that after going through the experience you'd be a master of what to say and how to handle it. How to comfort someone who is grieving. But sometimes I think it just becomes harder because you're more raw and more vulnerable. You understand that everyone takes what is said differently and you're terrified to say something hurtful instead of helpful. And you know how much comments can hurt.

But seeing how hurt and how lost they all are is so heartbreaking. Heartbreaking because I get it. I once lived through that pain as well. Sometimes it's hard remaining so closely connected to these situations. It brings up past feelings of loss. But on the other end of the spectrum of things, I'm glad that I'm able to be a confidant. Someone these ladies can go to when they are lost and don't know how to take their next breath. I'm so glad I can offer up my story and coping skills when a wife posts in our group about how much it hurts.

I'm so thankful that I have healed in such a way that it hasn't hurt me, harmed me, or made me a bitter person but instead made me better. Taught me lessons. Showed me my abilities. My inner strength. It has left it's marks, that much I will admit. There are still a few things I continue to work through, and that I possibly will be working through for a very long while... but over all I am amazed at how well I've come through my loss. I'm so grateful that I have the ability to take such an awful experience and turn it into something positive, something that can help someone and show them, when they are ready to be shown, that life doesn't have to end just because your husband's did. He'll always be a part of you, nothing and no one can take that away, but you CAN put the pieces back together, begin and continue to heal heal, and most importantly..... live. And not just live, but live happily and fruitfully.

The road to getting to this point hasn't been easy, no, not at all. And I know there will continue to be bumps from time to time. There was a point in time where I felt like each day that came I was further and further away from it. For a good while it became a whole lot harder. But I really do feel like I've hit a point where it's gotten so much better with each day that passes. I look forward instead of backwards the majority of the time. I can still spread a genuine smile across my face even when I miss him just a little more than normal. I can truly still feel happy despite losing Spencer. So, so happy.

It's a happy that at times I didn't know I'd be able to find again. But this year I've discovered and grown so much. I've not only learned that I CAN be that happy again, but that I can still open my life and heart up to someone else. That I can let another person in. That I can still become vulnerable, but in a good way, and not bad. That I can still follow my dreams and pursue my goals. That I have my whole life ahead of me

It's a kind of happy where I feel like people look at you and wonder what you're up to. The smiles are so real. Most of the time I feel giddy. I don't know where it comes from, I don't know why or how I feel it, but I'll take it. I deserve happy.

So I guess if this blog serves any purpose other than to allow me reflect on how much I've blossomed over these last 3 years... It is maybe something like this....

To tell all of my friends who are facing this same journey that you are strong beyond all measure. You are loved and I am so, so sorry that this happened to you. I want to tell you that it WILL be okay. That you probably can't see it now, but one day you will wake up and maybe you'll cry one less time tomorrow.... Or maybe you'll be able to hear your wedding song and smile instead of laying in your bed the rest of the day... Maybe it will be something as simple as waking up in the morning and taking a shower.

Though these things might seem like something so small, it is progress. Relish that step that you were able to take today that you weren't able to take yesterday. Step by step, day by day you are healing. You're going to have days, maybe even weeks at a time where you won't want to get out of bed in the morning (or let's face it, afternoon). When getting dressed takes up all the energy you have. When crying through the entire day is the only way you're able to get through. That's okay. It's going to happen and it's expected. On those days do what YOU have to do to make it through each hour, minute, and second. And on those days, and even the good days, please know I'm here for you and I love you. Please know you're never alone. It gets better. I promise that day by day, month by month, or maybe even year by year - as you learn the coping skills that work for you - it gets better.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Beginnings and Ends

I've had a lot of "ends" in my life, some much more painful than others. There have been more ends than I care to admit. Some have been near the impossible end of the spectrum leaving me empty, completely lost, vulnerable, and devastated. Ones I never thought I could recover from.

Others have been bitter, filled with anger and/or regret that mostly stems from hurt in one way or another. They are the ends that don't seem to have a finality to them... Ones that leave lingering emotions that sneak up from time to time through songs, dates, foods, and smells. The only thing to quell them is letting go and accepting unresolved ends.

There are also the ends that have brought about relief and peace, sometimes happening simultaneously with the ones that are also earth-shattering. Knowing that it's for the best. When it's expected. Knowing the time is coming for something better, or when the time comes only so another time can happen. It doesn't mean it isn't sad or doesn't hurt, but knowing and accepting in advance is the comfort.

Most ends have left me with a broken heart on a scale of a tear or two shed to nearly a couple of pieces beyond repair. But even with a deeply shattered heart, there are always those two pieces held into place, seemingly glued there after so many endings, somehow holding on screaming "Everything will be okay." With time the pieces are at work slowly mending, healing, and reshaping. And that's the beautiful thing. When the world is crashing down, inside the jigsaw puzzle of the heart is working to prepare you for what is to come and allowing you to grow and blossom through deep sorrow.

But with each and every end has always come a beautiful beginning with endless opportunities. Some beginnings are dreamed of. Others hoped for. When they come is a mystery and at times it seems like they are years away as I'm waiting here for another door to open, silently questioning and pleading for the reason behind the hurt. Beginnings have also snuck up quickly and very unexpectedly and at times I look at the closed door for too long and miss the one that's been opened. So many missed opportunities while not quietly letting old ones go.

I've quickly learned (but not as quickly as I would have liked) to be open to new beginnings. To be accepting of changed plans and a different slant on my future. I think that's an exciting part of my life right now. I've constantly been given these new beginnings but rarely have I fully embraced them. I've been muddled down with hurt, grief, and at times immeasurable pain. But being in such a good place in my life compared to where I have been in the past and with so much growth and discovery, it's been easier to allow myself to open up to the changes and beginnings that are presented to me.

I'm living in a beginning right now and the choices and opportunities I have ahead of me are at my discretion. Endless. Obstacles form a wall ahead, they always will, however with working through everything I already have, I know it's possible. It's the patience I have to have that gets in the way. But I know that I'm currently in that in-between point in my life. I'm not completely tied down to anything or anywhere. I'm not going to school and so when I go back, my choices are endless, as I am forced to move anyway. My job is fairly versatile and chances are good I can find something similar, or even better, if I choose to relocate. The thought of being able to pack up and go to any place I so choose is exhilarating, but terrifying at the same time.

Starting over is always a challenge and intimidating, but it's an adventure. And it's an adventure I'm so ready to tackle when the time arrises.

New beginnings? A fresh start.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Vague Discoveries

Nearly every trial and tribulation, life event, relationship, fight, and success in our lives makes us learn something about ourselves. Sometimes it's discovery of the strength we harbor when we feel we have none. Other times it's deep seated fears we never knew existed, preventing us from achieving goals and fulfilling our dreams. Every once in awhile we discover love and compassion for another being we thought incapable of our love before.

Life has a way of throwing us lessons and discoveries when we feel we're least able to handle them. When we're feeling most vulnerable we're struck with doubts, fears, and hopelessness we're forced to work through stressing our boundaries and relationships. But only life knows this is the prime time to test us because any other time we'd be forced to push these thoughts to the side. Ignore them for a "better" time, oftentimes forgetting about them altogether.

There are moments where you unveil a different kind of vulnerability that lies within. A vulnerability that is absolutely terrifying. It encompasses the good and the bad all at one time. Excitement pulses through your veins at the realization that this type of vulnerability is possible in your life once again. The ability to let down your walls and inhibitions to let another person in.

This vulnerability allows you to uncover both good and bad during these times. The good that makes you feel incredibly happy and filled with joy. Thoughts that make reality seem just slightly better than dreams. It fills you with the drive to wake up in the mornings, leaves you with a smile you can't quite wipe off your face. But then because you have suddenly let down those walls and inhibitions there are things that flood you with sorrow, sadness, and fear, making you cry what seems like your last tear.

You find fears, sometimes paralyzing fears, that have the power to destroy if you let them have the best of you. Fears you didn't even know you needed to work through. Life finds these opportune times to throw it at you, making you dig deep and push forward, trying not to push those around you out. Sometimes these fears are the most difficult to work through, because fear is a reaction and it's courage you must have to overcome. Oftentimes when you think you have the courage to quell out the fear it comes up in a different form. It's a battle that rages on with every day.

It's because of this vulnerability that insecurities, flaws, and difficult emotions sweep in making you question, second guess, think, and overthink every word, every thought, and every action. They force you to fight a devil within. Internal insecurities and flaws that no one else would even notice begin to manifest their way externally causing more problems of their own.

And with all of this, everything you learn about yourself all at once, it's hard to find a balance. It's hard to take it all in. It's nearly impossible to stay sane. When you work through one, another creeps up and it's a vicious cycle that doesn't seem to end. These discoveries, fears, and joyous moments course through your mind a hundred miles an hour making sleep an illusion until it just finally wins out.

Self discovery is good. It's vital to continue to grow and become the person you have the full potential to be. But no one ever said it was easy and it never, ever stops. You must take the good with the bad, they come hand in hand, and find the balance you need to make things work. Through the difficult discoveries you'll eventually see the light and suddenly things will fall into place. You'll understand the picture as a whole and things will start to make sense. One day, through all this discovery It will be easier to make peace with yourself. It's the "getting there" part that's so hard.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Independence Day 2014

Happy Independence Day from my hometown to yours :) 

This year we were lucky enough to view fireworks without having to travel and had them right here in my hometown in "Small Town USA". They put on a spectacular display set to music that lasted 40-45 minutes. They did such a good job and it makes me pretty excited to see what they will come up with next year!

A huge thank you goes to those who volunteered, donated funds, and put in countless hours to make not only the fireworks display possible, but to make the 4th of July celebration here a success! 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Taking Stock

This post has been trending on a couple of blogs that I follow, and because I haven't put in any effort to continue blogging, I thought I'd join in on something simple and straight forward as I continue to try and muster up the motivation to sit down and blog regularly again. I still have my doubts that that will ever become reality....

Making: wreaths
Cooking: pepperoni pizza for dinner
Drinking: powerade
Reading: The Hunger Games
Wanting: this part time job opportunity to come through
Looking: like I just woke up
Playing: 2048 over and over again
Wasting: time in the day
Sewing: curtains. I haven't started yet, but it's on the to-do list
Wishing: there were 2-3 more days to relax
Enjoying: my weekend
Waiting: to go see The Fault In Our Stars with my sister
Liking: cuddling up to a movie with a pretty neat guy
Wondering: how my life ever came back together and how I've become so lucky after being dealt such a shitty hand
Loving: the amount of rain we've been getting
Hoping: this work week is so much better than last
Marvelling: at the ease of acceptance some people are able to have about the past
Needing: a dining room table and chairs
Smelling: the mouse in my hair
Wearing: summertime clothes
Following: the weather and radar closely
Noticing: the humidity
Knowing: I need to start working out again
Thinking: about my future and where it may lead
Feeling: happier than I have in awhile
Bookmarking: Many different recipes and new hairstyles
Opening: a text msg, snapchat, mail from someone I haven't heard from in a long time
Giggling: almost on a daily basis
Feeling: sleepy, yet content

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Society, Beauty, and Body Image, Oh my!

I feel so guilty about posting anything about the want to loose weight or slim down, just because I may not look grossly overweight. Society pushes me to feel guilty for wearing a size small, or if I order a shirt in a medium, stating that it's simply too big. I get ridiculed (as a joke, but it still feels like more than a joke at times) when I'm able to wear stylish skinny jeans or a really cute top that not everyone could pull off.

We are more often than not thinking about this happening only to those who are bigger and over weight. Feeling bad about wearing a large or extra large. Not being able to pull off a skirt or a slim fitting pant. But if you think it only happens to those who weigh more and are bigger... Think again... it happens to petite girls, too.

People tell me all the time, "Gosh I wish I could eat like you and stay so thin." I hear things like, "You're just so thin it's disgusting" and then follow it with a laugh because it's meant as a joke, and as some envy because they wish they could be thin, too. I get told how it must be nice to be so tiny. Comments are made that I shouldn't have to eat a salad for lunch, or eat a healthy lunch because I can certainly eat whatever I want. And then people jokingly (and sometimes seriously) tell me to grab that extra cinnamon roll or piece of cake because I certainly don't have to worry it about it later like they do.

But the fact is, this doesn't come naturally and most of the time I am not this thin. If I am, it's because I'm working my ass off at it, or because I'm really, really sick. In high school I was involved with sports and I was on the dance team. I always always really active. When I was in college I gained a lot of weight. I was nearing 140 pounds at my heaviest and I looked big. I was wearing medium and sometimes large sizes. I wasn't happy with my body. I ate enough calories and fat for 2 or 3 people because of Spencer, I hardly exercised. After he died it was a hard cycle to break. But then just last year I got terrifyingly sick. I dropped weight like it was nothing, going from 135-140 pounds to a measly 111 pounds in just a couple of months. I really didn't have much to lose after that.

When I dropped all of the weight I got SO many compliments about how thin I was. I also got told how I needed to gain weight. Fatten up. Some people told me how good I looked. But all I could see was how frail I had become. I had no muscle mass as it all atrophied away. I was just skin and bones and I looked sick, too. I certainly did not like the way that I looked. I wasn't happy with the rapid weight loss. Getting those extra pounds off may have been nice, however it was far too fast. Losing weight that quickly and as a result of being so sick is not the way I wanted it to happen or the way that it should have happened.

It wasn't until I started gaining some of my muscle mass back and filling out a little bit in my face that I started to become happier with the way that I looked. I didn't look quite as frail. I looked thin, but healthy. I was able to wear clothes and sizes that I haven't been able to wear in many, many years. I was pretty happy with the way things were going.

But when you loose weight so quickly as a result of not being able to eat more than 100-200 calories a day (if I was lucky, and man do I wish I was exaggerating), you gain it back very quickly too. For about a year I gained back a healthy amount of weight. I was able to eat fairly big portions, and I really didn't have to worry about what I ate because my body was still burning off things very quickly as it was still internally fighting against itself burning off a lot of calories and fat. I was weighing in at around 120-125, right where I wanted to be and felt comfortable at. My muscle had come back as well.

But lately I have continued to gain back the weight. I'm healthy now and my body is not fighting against itself as it was when I was sick. It's not taking near the amount of effort to get up in the morning, shower, sit up straight, even breathe. So the amount that I became accustomed to eating to gain my strength and stamina back when I was recovering and on the way to remission is now too much for my body to burn off. And so I'm becoming a little bit bigger around the middle. My face is a little more full than I'd like it to be. I just feel bloated all of the time, my clothes are getting a tad bit tighter and not looking as good as they did at the end of last year, and, once again, I'm definitely feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. Just 5 months ago I was feeling so, so confident. My self image soared. But now it is plummeting again as I'm having to try to figure out what I need to do differently to stave off this unwanted weight gain.

And now that I'm gaining weight again, it's been a little bit harder to accept then it was when I started college and gained the infamous "freshman 15" or 20....

When I was engaged/married and at my heaviest, while it bothered me, it didn't bother me as much as it does now. Spencer made a constant effort to always tell me that I was beautiful. I don't know if a day passed that I didn't hear, in some form, him compliment me and sincerely tell me how beautiful I was, even if I felt like I was looking my worse with no make-up on. That man made me feel beautiful and comfortable in my own skin. Inside and out. As comfortable as I could be. Do you realize how long it's been since I have heard those three words?

You look beautiful. You are beautiful.

Well sadly it's been years since I can recall hearing those words said to my face. I have heard that I am pretty, or that I'm cute, or I look good. But there is something about the word "beautiful" that just really stands out in my mind and leaves a lasting impression on me. Those are words I long to hear. And I know it doesn't really matter if it's from a girl, boy, parents, man, or woman... I'd feel flattered to hear it from anyone. But wouldn't it boost your confidence, too, to hear it specifically from a man? Thought so. It'd just be nice to hear.

I don't have that constant reminder that Spencer always gave me without even thinking about it and it makes it a little bit harder to look at myself in a positive light. To understand that I am beautiful inside AND out no matter how I look.. how much I weigh. How many stretch marks I have. And the list goes on.

I know, most people who look at me may not notice it. You may be sitting there reading this thinking, "She doesn't look big at all! She doesn't need to loose any weight or slim down!" It's been a subtle gain.  But enough that I have noticed. I'm not saying I'm "fat" per say, but I am just not looking how I want to look. Just because I am not very overweight doesn't mean that I don't have any pounds or fat to loose. It's my goal to not only look how I want to look, but also be healthy and feel healthy. A goal that I'm not quite reaching right now as I know that I am not eating very healthy at all, and I feel like I could exercise a lot more to benefit me in so many different ways.

But why do I feel so small when I mention anything about weight loss or slimming down? Why do people feel the need to comment? I just really hate hearing comments such as, "Are you kidding me?! You're so skinny. YOU need to work out more and eat better?" Hinting at the fact that in their eyes they obviously need it more than I do. So, you're telling me that for some reason I can't? Or it is somehow wrong for me to want to slim down a little bit? I just want to feel comfortable in my own skin. And that's OKAY. There isn't anything wrong with that. Please, please don't make me feel bad about it.

It's just really frustrating.

I don't know about you, but I think those of us living with chronic illnesses that cause extreme weight fluctuations tend to be quite self conscious of our bodies. Not only how much we weigh, but the extra fat we gain when we're finally able to eat 3 full meals a day vs. the one Ensure a day that we force ourselves to drink when we're sick. Or when we have to take 60mg of prednisone that makes us balloon up like a chipmunk or whale. We are terribly self conscious of the stretch marks that we develop all over our bodies, thighs, knees, stomach, chest, back, sometimes even chin because of the drastic weight gains and losses over such a short amount of time spanning from weeks to months. We become self conscious of the horrible acne we continue to have even in our adult years. The self consciousness extends when we notice that our hair is thinning and falling out due to medications and malnourishment. These extreme body changes ruin our self image, and in my case it happened at a very young age. It started when I was only 11 - a pre-teen not even in junior high.

I battled major weight changes back and forth all through jr. high and high school. When you're becoming aware of the other girls bodies and the changes that is happening is when mine was changing SO much more than theirs. And in such different ways. Despite your efforts not to, you compare. What is different about my body and theirs? At 12 years old I was asking myself why do I have stretch marks and they don't? Why do I have so much acne and they don't? etc etc. It wasn't fair and it still isn't fair. It just ruined my self image and it's something I've always struggled with. I've very rarely been happy with my body.

So I'm at a point right now where I really want to start eating better, becoming more active, and getting to a size, weight, and muscle mass that I'm comfortable with and proud of. I've been taking more walks and doing a little bit more cardio. My biggest hurdle with that is getting into more a routine with it and not skipping out on 2-3 days at a time. Motivation. And I think my biggest hurdle of all, which I know many can relate to, is eating a little bit healthier and having A LOT better portion control. I'm working my best with it, and I'm trying to incorporate things in slowly so I can get used to them one at a time. It's hard not to get discouraged when I make a slip up... but I'm trying my best to tell myself that tomorrow is a new day and the more I stick with it, the easier it will get.

Staying as thin as I have been doesn't come easily for me, as everyone seems to think it does. As I mentioned before, it happens because I am extremely sick, or because I put in a hell of a lot of effort.

And this time it will be because I'm working my ass off to achieve the body image that I want to have.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Where I want to be

Throughout Jr. High and HS I always knew that I wanted to be a nurse. There was no doubt in my mind that it was what I wanted to do. Growing up with a chronic illness and being around the hospital setting, I knew that I had a lot of empathy and it would be something that I was good at. 

I went to college and immediately declared nursing as my degree without a second thought. The first year of college was tough. I, admittedly, failed my anatomy class and nearly failed my biology class. It was incredibly discouraging and I shed a lot of tears over it. I my advisor didn't advise me very well in the classes that I took together, and so my course load was very difficult. I also was not used to the university classes, and having classes with hundreds of students was new to me. I was used to getting one on one attention definitely didn't understand the concept of how much studying it took to pull off classes like that. 

But I pursued on, knowing that I had a better grasp of what to expect. I knew I'd have to retake those classes over again, but I wasn't about to give up on being a nurse. My second year of college I took classes like physiology and chemistry, and while I did a lot better, I was still left disappointed in the outcome. Finals killed me and dropped my score quite dramatically. But I didn't fail and I passed with an acceptable grade.

My third year of college I finally started to second guess my major. Was nursing really something that I wanted to continue to pursue? I was beyond frustrated with classes, I wasn't having a fun time, and while I loved learning about it, it just wasn't what I expected it to be. I also doubted my ability to get into nursing school. With taking care of Spence, classes and working, I hardly had time for a social life, yet I was told I still needed to volunteer on the side as well as other things. I found that I excelled in classes like writing, family studies, human development, and decided that I would change my path. 

I was very happy declaring a major to be a child life specialist. It's something I had once before considered doing, but never followed up on. I loved my Child Life Specialist when I was in the hospital as a kid and I knew that it would be something I'd love to do! I started classes for that my third year of college and really enjoyed them. I felt comfortable where I was at.

But then Spencer got incredibly ill which forced me to withdraw from classes and school and spend every second of every day with him (which I wouldn't change for the world!) For a short time after his death I still wanted to continue on with that major. But after researching it and talking to several people about it, I started to second guess my decision, again. Though I don't think it was just about whether I would be happy with that as my career, but my whole life as I knew it and had planned it had been changed in the blink of an eye. A whole new world opened up to me that I never had the possibility of considering before. 

For at least a year after Spencer died I felt completely lost. I didn't know what I wanted to go back to school for. I didn't know who I was or who I wanted to become. My identity died with him. Because before I defined myself as Spencer's wife, his caretaker. That's really all I was. And while I was with Spencer, I was completely okay with that. I was comfortable with it and I didn't WANT to have it any other way. I loved being a wife and it was an honor to love and care for him. But when that part of your life disappears, what are you left with, you know?

Getting involved with lab work was a huge step in the right direction for me. Everything fell into place perfectly and almost a year and a half later I couldn't be happier with the career path that I've been taking. I LOVE working in the lab. It is very fascinating for me. I learn something new every day and things are always different. 

I find that I come home from work nearly every day very satisfied and happy. I love the people I meet and get to work with. I love the challenge of drawing blood, even though there are days where it gets very frustrating. I love the science behind everything that we do. I love being able to put two-and-two together with a patients lab results and discover what is going on. Our work in the lab is vital, and it is rewarding. I feel so good about what I do. It is a huge relief to honestly fit in somewhere so well. I know it is where I belong. To KNOW without a doubt in my mind, that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. It's always changing and always growing. The opportunities and possibilities with lab work are endless. 

I'm excited to go back to school to become a tech. My supervisor and co-workers have expressed multiple times how much they want me to come back to DCH and be a tech there. I don't know what I'm going to do, but it's always nice to be wanted :) I talked with my supervisor the other day during lunch, and while I can't publicly say a few things that made me ecstatic, (I wish I could!!!) I am excited to be able to learn more in the lab! On the slow mornings in the lab where there is little going on and little micro to do, I am going to go back into micro with Karen here and there and do it with her. Learn more about it which I am VERY excited about as microbiology is my favorite! She also said that she'd do some more microscope work with me and that we'd try to get into some manual diffs (counting the cells out through the microscope vs. the analyzer) so I can start being able to identify the different types of cells. :) She already shows me a lot through the microscopes, but half the time I don't really understand what I'm looking at. So I'm looking forward to getting some more experience in the lab before I go back to school. The more I have, the better off I will be! 

But aside from my job, I've done a lot of growing and have discovered a lot about myself. I've finally started to reclaim and shape my identity and while it has been difficult, confusing, and sometimes full of tears, it's been fun creating what kind of woman I am and who I want to be. I've been so happy lately with who I am. I'm still getting comfortable in my own skin and I will always be discovering who I am, but it is nice to have a better idea than I did a year ago. 

I am just honestly so happy. It's been a long time since I've been able to look back at nearly every day with a smile on my face. Since I've been able to honestly say that I love my life. I feel like I now have a lot to look forward to. It may be quite a ways in the distance, but it's there. Tangible, where it wasn't before. 

To know my place in life, what I want to do, who I want to be, and, in general, who I am is a very satisfying thing. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

It's all in a lyric

Have you ever had a moment where a song that you have known and have loved forever suddenly contains so much more depth and meaning that you somehow missed before? That's exactly what happened to me today. This morning as I was driving to work the song My Immortal came on. A couple of lines into the song I could feel the emotion in it. The deep sadness and the pain. It really hit me hard. For the first time my perspective of this song completely changed. I never before really understood the meaning of every single word until now. As the chorus came on, tears welded in my eyes as I related it to my own life.

I'm so tired of being here
Suppressed by all my childish fears
And if you have to leave
I wish that you would just leave
'Cause your presence still lingers here
And it won't leave me alone

These wounds won't seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There's just too much that time cannot erase

When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears

And I held your hand through all of these years

But you still have, all of me

You used to captivate me by your resonating light
Now I'm bound by the life you left behind
Your face—it haunts my once pleasant dreams
Your voice—it chased away all the sanity in me

I've tried so hard to tell myself that you're gone
But though you're still with me
I've been alone all along

And really there isn't a whole lot more to say because it's all said right here in these lyrics. This song depicts so much emotion. You can hear the pain through her voice and every note. Very powerful, especially to someone who has been through such a deep and emotional loss.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

For the love of Yoga

I have been on a yoga kick for a couple of weeks now, and considering how it makes me feel, I don't think this kick is going to fade away any time soon. Being so sick last year really made my muscles atrophy and I haven't had much strength since then. It's been my goal to increase my flexibility and gain a significant amount of all around, but specifically, core strength. I'd like to get back to at least where I was when I did dance in high school. Ideally I'd really like to exceed that since I'm doing it 5 or 6 days out of the week vs only 1 or 2 days when I was in HS.

I am not at all a fan of cardio, but who is? I think it's related to exercise induced asthma which makes it quite hard for me to exert myself that much. (I need to talk to the doctor about that, but maybe when insurance finally happens for me, HA!) The only type of cardio work out I really enjoy doing is swimming, and around here that is not a possibility. So I decided that I still wanted to do something and figured yoga would be a really good thing for me.

I easily understood why people say that they are addicted to yoga and why they love it so much! From the very first time I did a simple routine I was hooked. It made me feel so open and significantly relaxed. I felt like I could take a fuller breath, my joints weren't as achey, and I felt much more alert. It's amazing how it works!

When I first started I could tell how weak I really was as well as how little flexibility I had. It was almost embarrassing, but I kept telling myself THAT is why I am doing this. I have been doing it for about 2 weeks now and the amount of flexibility that I have gained within that short amount of time is amazing! I have also gained a little bit of strength. I've noticed that I can hold poses longer, and I can do them a lot closer to how they are supposed to be done and not cheating as much as my body limbers up.

The hardest part is to motivate myself to take at least 20 minutes to sit down and do it. Not every day is easy to just do it! But I think what gets me to that point is knowing how amazing I am going to feel after I do it. 20 minutes quickly turns into 30, which sometimes turns into 40. It's easy to lose track of time when I'm caught up in it.

I'm looking forward to increasing the difficulty of it and adding in more. It's great to be able to see, and feel results. Gives me that much more of a push to continue doing it. And I keep thinking that I've already put in 2 weeks, if I stop now I realize how much I will have lost!

So if you've ever thought about doing yoga, I HIGHLY recommend it. These are the videos I have started out with. Start out with "Flexibility and Range of Motion". It's fairly easy. Just do what you're able to do! I have gotten to where I remember the basics to where I'm able to do it without her, because she doesn't hold the poses very long at all. But I really like her, she's calm and shows you how to do it very well. I've mixed and matched a couple of videos to make it work for me. So give it a try - you don't be disappointed!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Confidence Builder

Finally finding a career I want to do for the rest of my life has been life changing for me. Each and every day that I am at my job there is a moment where I have that "Aha Moment" and realize that I am exactly where I want to be in the path to my life-long career. 

I have been feeling more and more comfortable at my job these last couple of months. Instead of running everything by my supervisor, I've learned the things that I can do with my own discretion. I have taken on more responsibility, and I have been learning and successfully performing new skills. It's not often that I feel proud of myself, but right now I certainly do. 

I finally bit the bullet with a co-workers persuasion and decided to start doing rapid streps and influenza screens. I watched them be done a handful of times, but never had the courage to do it myself, being too afraid I would do it right. That I would stick the swab too far up a nose, or not get the right part of the throat during a swab. But as I was told with Strep screens, "If you gag them, you're doing it right" and with Influs "You're just tickling their brain and if they don't hate you after you're done, you did it wrong." Boy are they right! I've now done them several times and I think I've finally got it figured out. I definitely can't be afraid to be mean doing these, and it's something that I really, really hate doing. But I've sucked it up and have volunteered to go them. Something I didn't want to do before!!

I was also pretty uneasy with doing blood cultures on my own. It's difficult to transfer blood into the bottles while keeping pressure on the venipuncture site. I would always either go and just watch, or have someone help me. But once again, I bit the bullet and started volunteering to do them myself. I have successfully done 3 or 4 with no help and I feel like I've done a good job with it.

I have also started to volunteer to go draw ERs that we have. I was always very nervous when it came to people coming through those ER doors. You never know what you're going to encounter. Traumas, breathing problems, heart attacks. It's just scary because you don't know the kind of shape they are going to be in. I would stay behind, answer the phones, do outpatient draws and whatever I could do to help out as long as I didn't draw them. That or I would have a tech come with me as my moral support, or backup. I finally decided that enough was enough and that I needed experience or I wasn't going to get any better with it. My adrenaline really kicks in as I'm walking down the hall to ER and I used to start shaking really badly, which, naturally, makes it really hard to do your job. 

But I have sucked it up, taken a few big deep breaths, and told myself that it's OKAY to take my time. I do have to say that for the most part, I have overcome the ER fear that I used to have. I still do not do well with traumas or things like car crashes, and I have someone either come with me, or go draw themselves, but I'm trying to overcome that as well. 

We have seen a lot of sick kids and they are tough to draw! None of us like it, but a couple weeks ago my supervisor encouraged me to draw a little 3 year old. One of my co-workers went with me, as is needed to support their arm and help with distraction. I ended up missing, but she backed me up and got it. But it was a good experience for me and showed me that I can do it without freaking out. My problem was going to shallow because I used a butterfly needle in the antecube and I'm used to going shallow with butterflies due to being in the hands. But I then drew a 6 year old successfully even though he was super nervous. That's the youngest I've done successfully. We put so much pressure on ourselves to draw those kids and make sure it's a 1 time thing. So much pressure that I often chicken out. But I KNOW I can do it... and that's a huge deal for me. 

My confidence has grown significantly. In the ability I have to do my job, and the confidence that I have in myself. My co-workers believe in me and know I can do it, too, and that plays a huge roll. I've drawn a lot of really difficult patients recently. And I've done it without a problem.. only after sweating it for a few seconds before sticking the needle in their arm. Just praying I've hit the vein that I can't see and can hardly even feel.

Today I had a very, very nice complement. A lady who doesn't normally hand out compliments came up to the lab and asked if my co-worker was there. I told her that he wasn't working today. She responded with, "Well then I don't know if you'll be able to get any blood out of me!"I kind of giggled because a lot of people say that. My co-worker is known for getting some pretty tough sticks when the rest of us can't, or chicken out. He's been doing it a long time and while we are all capable of doing it, he is gutsy and just goes for it. I think that's one reason why he's so successful with his draws. But I digress. She told me, "You get 2 tries. That's absolutely it!" I giggled again and told her before we even got into the draw room that it was okay, we'd take a look and see what I can find. She then looked and me with a straight face and said, "No I'm serious. Only two tries. That's all." My other co-worker was coming back into the lab and heard that conversation. I went back into the lab and she just laughed at me and said, "No pressure at all!" I was a bit nervous, but was going to try anyway. I found one that felt pretty good and decided to go for it. I got it on the first try and after I pulled the needle out and smiled she seriously told me, "You're even better than Mike." That's the best compliment that I've ever received because, as I said, she doesn't give out compliments and he can get just about anyone. Everyone asks for Mike. 

Today I was also able to get a man who never let me draw him before. I've won him over and now he doesn't ask for anyone else when he knows I'm the one that's going to do it. After I was done he told me, "You're just getting pretty good at that." Usually he flinches, a very low pain tolerance, but this time he didn't move an inch. 

I love my job. I love my patients and I love the residents at the home. I just love what I do. It's been a good few weeks and work and I'm looking forward to when I can go back to school, and maybe even come back for a year or two to learn the ropes as a tech. They have all said they really want me to come back after school. It's such a good feeling to be wanted.