Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Reflections

These end of the year reflection blogs are some of my favorite blogs to write! I love looking back on the year that I've had. I definitely slacked in blogging this year, therefore this is a bit wordy because I certainly have plenty to write about! Most of the writing I did this year I chose to keep private. I've tried really hard this year to minimize how much of my life I make public, and am happy with the success I've had!

So with that.... this was my 2015!

To Move or Not to Move
When I rang the 2015 year in, I had intentions of packing up my life and moving to California. I wasn't happy in Bird City and I wanted and really needed a change. While it was such an exciting step for me to make, it was also one that terrified me. There were so many unknowns and I couldn't shake the uneasy feeling that I got when it came closer and closer to me making the move. After countless debates back and forth in my mind between a regret of not moving and the relief of not disrupting my life and making a potential mistake, I finally realized that I wasn't making the move with my best interests in mind. I was taking the leap a little too quickly and it was just something I was not at all ready for. I think the part that held me back the most was the fear of failure. Leaving my comfort zone was my biggest obstacle. That decision came with a whole lot of tears and heartbreak as I told my friends in California that I wouldn't be moving. However they were incredibly accepting of my decision and supported me 100% even through the disappointment I'm sure that they were hiding. That's what you call true friends =)

Now I can't say that I wouldn't have been happy in Cali. I honestly think that if I would have moved, things probably would have fallen into place and worked out just fine for me. However making the choice, no matter how hard it was, to put myself first was a HUGE milestone for me. At the end of 2014 I made the decision that I needed to concentrate and work on ME this year. To uncover my own identity and figure out what I wanted and needed in life. That was just the first step of many that I have to take!

To New York!
Before January, I had never been any further east than Topeka, Kansas. My friend Bob grew up in New York and he drove cross country from California to New York to spend his first winter break with his family in Lafayette, just south of Syracuse. I had the opportunity to take about a week off of work, so I purchased a one way ticket to fly to New York to experience the east coast and do a 1/2 cross country drive back to Kansas! The flight was a nightmare, but after a 2 hour delay due to deicing the plane, a missed connection, and then a layover, I made it to Syracuse!

While there I got to experience the best coffee I've ever tasted (that's saying something as I'm not really a coffee drinker!), ice skating for the very first time (and didn't fall down!), 2 Syracuse basketball games, Funk'n Waffles, amazing BBQ, sushi and Sake Bombs for the first time, and I met a whole bunch of new people and had such a fun time!

Top and Bottom Left: Syracuse Basketball Games
Top Right: Ice Skating at Clinton Square
Bottom Right: Delicious Waffle at Funk 'N Waffles 
ASCP Certified
In February I took the ASCP certification test to become a certified phlebotomist. I had been studying for the exam since September 2014 in preparation to become certified in the state of California as a phleb. I also have been wanting to take the exam as it will help me in my goal to become an MLT/MT and also just to prove to myself that I am skilled and know my stuff! I was absolutely ecstatic when the screen came up and told me that I passed! I got almost double the required score to pass further proving that I am very competent in phlebotomy and all of my hard work has paid off.

The very first thing I did after I passed my test was to text Theresa. She replied telling me how proud she was of me and that she knew I could do it. We had planned to talk on the phone that night or the next day, but unfortunately that text was the very last I heard from Theresa before she passed away that day due to a brain aneurysm.

Another Difficult Loss
Waking up that morning to that news was absolutely devastating. I cannot even express the sorrow that was in my heart and honestly still is. Never have I let out a sob so fierce in my life. I will forever be grateful for my friend who answered my blubbering phone call at 4 in the morning... for my sister coming to sit with me that morning as I cried... for my boss allowing me to take off work that morning so I could compose myself... to my mom who took me out for lunch and let me talk and cry... and for all of the support I received from my friends and family who understood how difficult that loss was for me. Your kindness didn't go unnoticed.

Losses never get easier. Whether it is a spouse, a family member, or a dear friend, each of them strikes your heart in a completely different way. I've had my fair share, but Theresa's death hit me deep down to my very core. Nearly a year later I still struggle with her death. When I talk about her I still shed a tear. Her friendship was so real and I truly thought she'd be the constant in my life for years to come that I had been missing. I miss her dearly, and she will always be in my heart.

Work Success
I had many successes at work this year as phlebotomist and our organ donor committee president. I was nominated employee of the month for the second time, I successfully did an arterial blood gas on a patient under Karen's supervision, earned a raise, had an awesome lab week and job shadow day in the lab, and made Blue and White day for Organ donor week a success by hosting a walk and presentation that pulled in more participants than expected.

Big Move Turned Little
After deciding that I wasn't going to make a huge move to California I decided to make a little move into a cute little apartment in Benkelman. As stated before, really needed a change and moving 30 minutes north into the town that I worked was just what I needed to keep me happy and sane. I really enjoyed living in Benkelman. It was nice only having a 3 minute walk to work, being closer to the majority of my friends, and not having to drive if I wanted a fun night out!

But eventually I began to feel stuck again. I was happy working at DCH, and I loved my job and my friends, however I couldn't escape the feeling that I wanted more for myself. After having a pretty low moment and heavy discussion with my mom one night around midnight, I made the choice to look into going back to school and getting my degree as an MLT. Things moved pretty quickly after that. I applied to Mid Plains Community College in North Platte and was accepted into the MLT program.

So far returning to school has been a huge success for me! I ended fall semester with a 4.0 GPA and honestly couldn't be more proud of myself. It's an accomplishment I didn't know I was capable of. It's been very exciting actually learning the things that I want to do with my career! I can't believe that the fall semester flew by so quickly. I will graduate with my MLT degree Spring of 2017. Only 3 more semesters of classes and a semester of clinicals and I will be well on my way to starting my career... Oh, and paying off all this student loan debt!

Quitting my job was extremely difficult but the prospect of getting my degree and working as a tech alongside Karen, Mike, and Emilee is so exciting for me. It's what I've been waiting to do for the last 2 years! The decision to go back to school was fully supported and encouraged by my family, friends, and coworkers. They have had my back from day one and continue to support me through this journey!

Ed Sheeran and California
I knew that after starting school the trips that I was going to be able to make would be pretty limited so I decided to fit a few in where I could! At the end of June my sister and I went to the best concert I've ever been to! We saw Ed Sheeran at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. We paid a pretty penny for the tickets but it was completely worth it and I don't know about Shayna, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat! Opening for Ed Sheeran was Rixton, a band that I've been following for awhile and love! I completely forgot about it and so when they came on stage I got so excited! Glad that we got to take our annual concert trip. Wonder what's in store for 2016?!

Just a day after getting back from Colorado with my sister, I left again to the airport to take one last adventure to California to visit my friends for the Forth of July! It was so much fun and I got to see nearly all of my friends who live in Cali... and then some! I stayed in LA the first half and then stayed in South Pasadena for the second half. Glad I made that trip happen. Although I wish I could see my friends more often and they didn't live all over the map, it is really fun having them in different locations so I can experience new things!

During my vacation I received probably the best ice breaker message from a guy that I've ever received! It was enough to peek my interest and when I returned back home we went on our first date. At first we were both a little skeptical that it would work out, however a first date that seemed to have no end and 6 months later.... things couldn't be better! He hooked me by taking me fishing, we went to the Benkelman and Chase County Fairs, went to a Huskers game, have had many dinners together, spent lots of time with family, and have had lots of dates since we met. I feel so fortunate to have been introduced to Josh and have him in my life. He's opened my eyes up to so many things again since Spencer and he makes me so, so happy. It has definitely been one of the best highlights of 2015! We've been taking it one step at a time and are enjoying getting to know each other and taking advantage of spending time together every moment we can. I'm very excited to see where everything goes =)

August was definitely a whirlwind of a month! I got a job working as a lab assistant/phlebotomist at Great Plains Health, moved to North Platte, and became a student again! I'm currently living on campus in the dorms as it's really the only option as I'm going through school. It's been difficult to adjust to living with people again and tough to be on campus with mostly 18 year olds... but I've met a few awesome people that make it not-so-bad! Unfortunately the job I had at Great Plains Health didn't work out for me with juggling school and getting back into the swing of studying, and so after a major viral illness that landed me in the hospital overnight, I decided that school was my full time job and I needed to prioritize to put less stress upon myself. So I am now your classic definition of that broke college student ;-)

The last big trip of the year came in October. My sister has never been to the mountains before and her bucket list consisted of hiking in the mountains during fall right as all the colors change. Well this year she got pretty lucky and I had an additional day tacked onto my weekend right at the leaves were changing. So we headed up to Estes Park and hiked several miles to several different lakes. It was breathtaking, exhausting, but so much fun and it's a trip that I'd definitely like to take again!

I am so happy with how this year has ended for me. I'm so proud of where I've ended up, the lessons I've learned, and how much I have accomplished throughout 2015. I have a feeling that 2016 is going to be a heck of a year and I'm so excited to get it started!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Pinter Moment

My heart felt oddly heavy all morning and I struggled to keep tears from my eyes.... And then a good friend of mine stumbled upon this and kindly shared. I was left speechless. Timing. What perfect timing.

I'll never understand why things work out the way they do, but I'm thankful for little reminders like this that those we love and have lost are still, and will always be, in our hearts.

Comments from the photo as follows:

d.mandella Sometimes your heart is heavy and you're walking down the street in a distant land with your head down when suddenly, three old friends show up to make it all better. #SanDiego#WhoDidThis? #OldFriends #Gratitude

nikkipea12 My heart has been *so* heavy today. Wow. What timing. What perfect timing. Love you, friend! 

d.mandella I saw the cement piece and it totally surprised and confused me in a good way. Then I crossed the street to the liquor store that my brother lives over to get a Coke and that was the first one in the cooler, facing out. I was like "Oh I HAVE to go back!" So perfect. That kid never quits!! Love you, too @nikkipea12

mousethedog This is magical. We just moved into a rent house in San Jose Ca. Around the corner in the neighborhood are starlight drive and riddle ct. 

d.mandella Further proof of his promised@mousethedog haunting/stalking!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

To Good Friends and New Memories

Once again I found myself vacationing in California this year. A place that I've fully come to accept will always hold a special place in my heart. With the high prices, insane traffic, and countless not-so-friendly people I've encountered I've not always been so fond of the state; however the more I visit the more familiar I become and the more it's grown on me each and every time.

I've slowly come to learn that while a lot of the LA/California stereotypes hold true it doesn't define every area. It doesn't describe every person. I've also discovered that if I look past all those little quirks, California is so much more. It's a starting place for so many people trying to make a life and a name for themselves. Little neighborhoods that I've stayed in have so much charm and hold so much history. I've found that there are still little family owned shops, little hidden charms that remind me more of home, less of the hustle and bustle of city life. I've learned a lot each time I've stayed there and it's grown on me.

I decided to take a quick trip to Cali before starting classes again in the fall since I know I likely won't be able to the next couple of years. Not many plans were made in advance, but I tried to reach out to everyone I knew there in hopes to connect. Some plans fell through and there was a lot of downtime, but despite all of that I had a great time and ended up seeing nearly everyone I had hoped to see!

I kind of split my vacation up between two locations to maximize how many people I would be able to see. I stayed near Santa Monica with Corey, Ruben, and Jackie the first 4 days. It was definitely the relaxation half of my vacation! I think I watched more movies during those 4 days then I have all year! I don't have cable or satellite so it was fantastic to be able to veg out in front of the TV and channel surf. My three friends had to work a lot of the time I was there. The first full day I was there, which was Thursday, I spent the day between the third street Promenade and Santa Monica Pier.

I am typically not one to enjoy activities alone, especially in a place I'm not all that comfortable with. I had been to the Pier 4 times before and I've been to the Promenade once so thankfully it was a bit familiar. But despite being by myself all day I honestly had such a relaxing and fun day. I guess you can call it one of those self reflecting days. I walked along the beach, listened to the waves as I read a book, got that corn dog I'd been craving for a month, explored the pier - again, went into a ton of little shops, saw a movie (theater with reclining chairs - what?!), and watched a lot of performers and bands. I wasn't on a schedule and I didn't have an agenda for the day so I got to do things completely at my own pace. I discovered a couple LA-based bands I really liked and sat and listened to them for a good amount of time. There were some dancers, some comedy acts, a cute, smart little dog the kids just loved... It was a perfect day.

The next day, a Friday, was spent pretty much in front of the TV all day watching movies and reading my book which was perfectly fine with me! On the 4th (Saturday), I was able to see Bob for a bit and I finally got to eat at a place called Lemonade that I've heard so much about from my friends there. It was delicious! It was great to see and catch up with Bob again since January, didn't hardly skip a beat =) Glad that the timing was perfect for when we were both in LA for a few days!

I spent the rest of the afternoon with Corey, we watched some TV, went to a brief beer/wine tasting where he works and did a lot of catching up. Once Ruben and Jackie got home from work, Bertram came over and we got our evening started! We didn't see any fireworks but had a fun time hanging out. We did our own little tasting at home and tried like 8? 10? 12? different craft beers. I really wanted to experience city/LA night life and so we used Uber and went to Venice Beach and did some bar hopping. Soooo different from back home, obviously! A bit overwhelming ;). We went to 3 different places and ended up at a karaoke bar shortly before it closed. I felt like I got a little taste of home at that last bar.... Sweet Caroline and a little Journey to end the night. Californian's don't do Karaoke quite like us Mid-westerners, but still a fun time!

Sunday was another very laid back day. I went to breakfast at a farmers market with my friend Jorge that morning. Had a great Belgian Waffle and got to hang out with Jorge for the first time since I saw him about 5 or 6 years ago! The 4 of us went out to eat together that evening and that's about all aside from more movie watching!

Monday is where I feel like things started to get a little more lively! The second half of my trip began and I spent that time in South Pasadena with a group of friends. I headed to Union Station that morning and was reunited with one of my best friends, Emily! We've been trying to get together at least once a year since, I think, 2008 and so far have succeeded all but 1 year! Em lives in San Diego and I'm so glad she was able to come to LA for a couple of days! My good friend Adam flew in from Maryland for a few days and was in LA the same time we were there, so I got to spend 2 days with him as well. We all stayed at Lauren's house together and had a great time.

After picking Em up at the train station we went to lunch at this cute little Cafe called the Alcove Cafe and Bakery. Jorge joined us again and we met up a couple of friends, Marlon and Jill, who work for the Starlight Children's Foundation on the site which I volunteer through called Starbright World (SBW). Lunch was INSANE and filling.

We then headed to Hollywood to do some touristy things where Gabe met up with us! So good to see him again. I've known Gabe for many years through SBW, first met him when we shot a video I was in that he directed for the website, met again at Starlight headquarters one year, then at the first Starlight Gala Spence and I spoke at. Awesome that it worked out to meet up again! Went to Hollywood Boulevard, saw the Walk of Fame, the hand prints in the sidewalk outside of the Chinese Theater, and saw some other cool historic and famous buildings there.

Next was Griffith Park and the Griffith Observatory! We were all kind of beat at that point and the actual observatory was closed, but I'm still glad we made an effort to go! We walked around the observatory and got an amazing view of the Hollywood sign and the view looking out over Los Angeles. We walked around a portion of the park a little bit and Lauren got to play soccer with a professional soccer player there in LA. Made for some good pictures and great video ;). We ended our night with some great pizza, cookies Emily's mom made us (Thanks Ellin!), and watching half of The Goonies together before crashing hard to hit it early the next day!

Lauren, Em, Adam, and I ventured out to the LA Farmers Market for lunch the next day. Had some great fish and chips (may I add in how ridiculously FRESH the food is there?! Ahh I got spoiled!) and walked around. We sat around for awhile and decided to either go to Malibu or take a hike at the Rose Bowl. We were quite prepared for a trip to Malibu and the beach to we headed back to Pasadena and got ready to go to the Rose Bowl Stadium to walk some trails. It was a great view and there happened to be a bike race there that Adam was mesmerized by ;). We found a great trail and hiked that for about 4 miles and then headed to eat dinner at Urth Cafe and see a movie together. We ended up seeing Inside Out - such a cute movie! I felt ridiculous for tearing up at the end, but Pixar knows how to pull emotion into their films!

The movie made for a pretty late night so we crashed as soon as we got home. Unfortunately that was our last day as a group. The next day, Wednesday, we had to get up early to take Emily to the train station and Adam to the airport. We had a nice breakfast with Jorge before heading out! It was so sad to see them both go! We made a lot of new memories together. Lauren and I then ran a couple of errands, then went home to relax for a few hours as we chowed down on more of Ellin's cookies and getting reenergized with some Starbucks. I had plans to go explore South Pasadena a little bit but I was exhausted and decided to watch Reba with Lauren. =)

I think the absolute best way to end my trip happened that Wednesday night! It just so happens that a very good friend from college at the U lives in Orange County now and was able to make a trip to Pasadena to see me! I cannot even put into words how AMAZING it was to get together with her again! We haven't seen each other in about 4 years and kind of lost touch. But I'm so glad I reached out to her and we were able to make it happen. Jessi was definitely a highlight and a big part of the first and second of college for me. Trying to get lost in SLC, "study" nights, movie nights, homecoming, airport trips, and the list goes on. So many memories that we got to reminisce about together. We caught each other up on the last 4 years of our life, but I hardly felt like we were even able to scratch the surface. There was just SO much I wanted to ask her and know! There wasn't a dull moment and it was a frantic mess of trying to share every aspect of our lives with each other in just a couple of hours. Truly such a fun dinner together and I can't wait until we get to see each other again.

And as always, it always has to come to an end. But goodness, I am so thankful for the many friends I have on the west coast. It's so great to be able to say "See you later" as opposed to "Goodbye" and knowing for a fact that it's only a matter of time before our paths cross again. I'm ecstatic that I was able to see 13 (wow! more people than I thought!) of my friends during my trip. So much relaxation, so many things that I was able to see (but still SO much I have yet to see!), and tons of new memories.

After traveling so much these last couple of years I am so glad I've chosen to spend time and money on experiences rather than things. Never will I regret having done and seen so much and having spent so much time with people who I care for so much.

Thanks for your hospitality and transportation, guys! I had such a good time and miss it, and you, already. Until our paths cross again, because I know they will, see you next time!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pictures are Proof

Sometimes pictures are the only solid proof we have that something amazing once existed. It's impossibly hard to believe that 4 years ago I said "I Do" to such a strong, brave, and incredibly quirky man!

Our love couldn't stop death, but death certainly couldn't stop our love. I love you and I miss you, SweetPea! You'll always be in my heart :)

Monday, February 9, 2015

I miss you already, my friend

"The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living...."

This has been one of the longest, most difficult days I've had to trudge through. I woke up this morning to news that my dearest, truest, and most loyal friend I've ever had passed away. I am completely devastated and so sad deep down to my very core.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to find words to express my sorrow and my hurt or any of the multitude of emotions that I have coursing through my brain and my heart. I feel broken. Under any other circumstance, she would be the one I'd call in tears muddling through words in between heavy sobs trying to explain what happened. She'd then likely tell me not to focus on the here and now, but instead on the memories and laughter shared. I can just hear her voice now... "Ya, but you know Nik, she wouldn't want you to be upset, she'd want you to laugh at the stupid shit she pulled... like that one time.... -insert story here-" Something to that effect because that's just how Theresa was.

But this circumstance is obviously different and I feel so lost. I've wanted to pick up my phone on several different occasions to talk to her. To ask her what I'm supposed to do in this situation. I always called her asking her what to do. Telling her my dilemmas. Opening up to her with everything. She has been my go-to and my confidant. We'd call each other on weekends and spend hours on the phone, never running out of things to say. She'd help me through situations I found myself stuck in. She'd give me advice and ways of looking at things in a way that really spoke to me and helped me out. Every single time I hung up the phone I felt a weight lifted off of me, a smile cross my face, and the affirmation that I was making the right decisions, or with a new way of approaching the next day.

Theresa understood me. We're cut from the same cloth. We both wear our hearts on our sleeves and look at the world in much the same way. We had the type of relationship that we could joke around with each other and end it with a super sarcastic comment, a ton of laughter, and calling each other a bitch but not take it to heart. I've never had a friendship where I could be as open and honest as I could with Theresa. 

Age was just a number. She was my best friend. 

We were supposed to talk this last weekend. We were texting on Friday afternoon when she told me she'd been having headaches for the last 15 days. God, never did I think it would lead to this. I even joked around with her about coming back to Benkelman and working at DCH for another 3 months! I knew she had to work last weekend and she told me she would call me on Saturday afternoon or on Sunday when she had a chance. I text her after I took my test on Saturday and told her I passed. She told me how she knew I could do it and how proud of me she was and that was the last that I heard from her. I just figured that she got busy and she wasn't feeling well so she was resting. 

I wish I would have called her instead of texted her after my test. I don't know on what day it was that she passed away, but god I wish I could have talked to her one last time. There was so much to talk about, I wish I knew what she was going to tell me. I wish I could have shared with her the things I was waiting to tell her.

But I am confident that Theresa knew how much she meant to me. I know she knew just how much I miss her and love her. 

I'm going to miss her so much. More than I can express. She was such a special person and she touched a lot of lives, mine included. I don't know why people like her are taken from us like this. I can't wrap my head around it and with each person I lose it damages and slowly chips away at my beliefs and what I feel like I may have gained back from the last loss.

Amidst feeling lost, lonely, empty, hurt, and sad... I also feel a lot of anger and confusion. I have lost so many amazing people within the last 3 years who I have grown so very close to and have loved with all of my heart. It seems like it's impossible for me to gain a constant in my life who I know that I won't lose. Never did I ever think I'd lose Theresa... not like this. Not ever. I'm so angry that she's not here anymore. I'm so angry that once again this has happened. I feel like it's a never ending cycle and it's hard to not wonder when and who the next one is going to be... And it shouldn't be like that. 

I know that people come and go in life... I'm just tired of the going =/

So to bring back a blog I wrote to Theresa when she moved away... here's to my wine drinking, story telling, hell of a good friend. 

Miss you already, Mother Theresa. Your heart will live on in mine and I'll never forget you and the memories that we made. Until we meet again.... xo