“‘Cause I’m a comeback, I’m a comeback kid Down for a minute, I’ll get up again Looks like I’m breaking, but it’s just a bend; it’s not over yet…I’ll save you a spot at my big parade You’re all invited on my comeback day I’ll serve you ice cream and lemonade” – Kimberly Perry / Neil Perry / Reid Perry

I woke up this morning with a huge pain in my chest. My heart hurt. (Let’s be real it was 5am. Getting up at a time I am normally staring at the clock was difficult say the least.) But it needed to be done. I have spent the last 5 months in an intense CNA – Certified Nursing Assistant – program, with the goal of going into hospice care. The funny thing is every clinical skill I was taught was something that I had been doing for years, skills I had mastered in my years of taking care of Duane.

Many people have asked why I decided to go into this line of work after everything I had already gone through taking care of Duane. The only thing I can say is I was drawn to it. I went to college for forensics and had done autopsies and I have my mortuary license. I always said “I can work on dead people, but I would never work on the living because I don’t want to mess up”. But I have always been drawn to it. I remember one day while Duane was sick, we had friends over (one who was a nurse) and she said you would be a good nurse and immediately Duane said “No she wouldn’t”.  That deterred me for a while, but I kept thinking maybe I can. I brought it up many times and family and friends would say, not yet, it’s too soon, you’re not ready. I will say I have many supporters, people that have encouraged me to pursue this from the start, unwavering support. So this year on “Duane’s Day”, July 8, the 1 year anniversary of his passing I decided I needed to get my shit together. On July 9th I walked in to the local college and asked about classes, they started the 10th – I signed up. The next day I started class and knew I had found my passion.

I finished classes a few weeks ago and registered for the state boards. The only day open was December 7th. Our wedding anniversary. Our third anniversary. He has officially been dead for more anniversaries than he was alive.

At first I said it was a “sign”. But this morning, with an aching heart and tired body I saw it as a mistake. What was I thinking?? How could I put this much pressure on myself, today, of all days. I got through the written test and then moved on to the skills. Got through the skills and then lost it. I looked at the evaluator as she said, “you’re done, thank you”, and I lost it. I took a deep breath and the tears started flowing I told her that my husband had passed away last year and that today was our anniversary. She asked me for a hug and told me everything was going to be ok and that I should definitely consider getting my RN. We need mature nurses she said. You would be great at it, you know this and your heart is in the right place.

I left the test happy. Proud of what I had accomplished and ready to start looking for a job. But what she and so many of my other mentors have told me, the idea of becoming an RN is weighing on my mind. Two more years of school versus 5 more months and then a summer of fun. I need to make a decision in the next few weeks.

For tonight and then next few days I am going to sit, relaxed and pleased with my accomplishments. My heart is no longer heavy and I know that Duane was with me today. He told me I wouldn’t be good at anything nursing related and I am, so I guess I am also laughing at the fact I can say “I told you so – you were wrong”! hahahahaha

– xoxo Victoria

 

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“Of years together spent. A pleasant memory Of places that we went We used to walk and we used to talk We used to laugh and we used to cry And there will always be a place in my heart…” – Michael Ness

I haven’t bought pajamas/ thermals in years. We used to “camp” in the motorhome for weeks at time, sometimes in the snow and freezing temperatures so Duane could pre-fish lakes for upcoming tournaments. I was always cold during the winter – because lets face it – no matter how well a RV heater works, when you’re at Lake Shasta in December and January there is no staying warm.

Every year he would take it upon himself to go shopping and buy me crazy thermals and flannel pajamas. People made so much fun of him! They would ask why he bought me “those” to sleep in. He would just laugh and ignore them. In the spring and summer he went out and bought me bikinis and always made sure I had pink and glitter baits to fish with. 

People kept teasing him … “that’s what you want her to sleep in?” He would just laugh and joke about the bikinis being the trade off! … Then one day during a fishing seminar he told everyone the key to getting your girlfriend/ wife to fish with you, camp with you and stay with you in a tiny motorhome for weeks at a time…

“Keep her happy. Buy her the warm clothes, the cute bikinis, books, magazines, and whatever baits she wanted. If you want her with you, she needs to enjoy it. Spend some money to keep her happy and she will always come with you”. Everyone just looked at us. I was a staple at every tournament and every event. No one could understand why I always went, why I got up at 4am and made lunch for everyone, why I stood for hours in the rain waiting for him to weigh-in. Because I liked it (mostly). Because he made sure I was comfortable and dressed for the weather so I would enjoy it and keep coming. He made sure that at least one night while we were gone we went on a real date, smelly and tired , but we still went. At that same seminar he had the chance to “fish” in the HUGE tank at Bass Pro, but instead of him taking the cast, he called me up and had me do it. The fishermen couldn’t believe that he didn’t take this opportunity. He went on to explain, that even though he wanted to, he knew it was a one time thing and he wanted me to enjoy the HOURS we had spend at Bass Pro and knew this would do it. People laughed and chuckled and then realized he was right. 

It’s getting colder here and I realized I need pajamas, I have never really thought about it, they were always just there. So I went in my drawers to check my size, I didn’t know –  and ordered my own. 

I think he would have approved of my choices. 

– xoxo Victoria

“‘Cause he knows how to treat his woman And he knows how to make ends meet He’ll take you for a ride in his four-wheel drive And he’ll fix about anything” … “And there ain’t nothing better than Being loved by a workin’ man” – Angaleena Loletta Mcco Presley

My house has a well and septic tank (I’m sure that will lead to a completely different post in the future). That water is harsher on your skin and hair so I’ve had to change my products and try to figure out how to manage my blonde hair. Today I used purple shampoo – I’m not sure how it works, but it makes the blonde, blonde again… MAGIC. When I was done I looked around the shower and there was purple shampoo and conditioner EVERYWHERE. How did it get on the ceiling?

I started laughing and started cleaning and then I realized I have never noticed this before. I have had every color hair throughout the last 10 years (pink is my favorite), I’ve dyed it at home in the bathroom or the shower hundreds of times. I’ve never noticed the dye and the shampoo. And then I realized…

I never cleaned it up. And I never knew what a mess it was because Duane just did it, never said anything about it, just cleaned it. 

Over the last few years I have come to realize that there were a lot of things Duane just did that I didn’t know anything about. Gutter cleaning, propane filling up, maggots in the outside trash can… He went to work and then came home and cleaned hair dye out of the shower. 

I didn’t appreciate it. But I do know. Learning how to do all of this by myself has been challenging and, at times, defeating. I had the best teacher though. 

I wish I would have told him more how much I appreciated him and everything he did for me and us. 

– xoxo Victoria

 

“Love is not as simple as it seems But I have learned to trust the space between” … “When I look back on our years together The only one I gave my whole heart to” … “Oh your tender heart, Taught me the hardest part is having to let go And everything you do promises I love you” – Anthony Cameron / Garth Williams

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I just got home from clinical at the hospital. I cried all the way home and then sat in the driveway, in my car, crying for another half hour. It’s crazy how all of a sudden the emotions just catch up with you and paralyze you. 

I love my house, I love my dogs, but there is something about walking into an empty house day after day, night after night that is just exhausting. It’s so lonely. The loneliness of walking into an empty house and having no one to share your day with. 

It’s hard to share these feeling because most people see it as one way. They don’t realize you can be sad and lonely and missing someone and still be ready to move forward and start a new life. People don’t understand that, they don’t want to. They don’t want your grief or confusion to interrupt their lives. They see it as one way or the other. Black and white. They can’t comprehend that you can be happy and be sad. 

The loneliness is deafening. I moved across the country and sometimes doubt the decision. I still get lost everywhere I go. I don’t have many friends and I can’t just show up on their front door step looking like this. (Yes, I am having a pity party right now). I’m thinking forward and know that I will have a regular job soon and will hopefully meet people and make friends there. I am trying to get out more and interact with people but it’s not easy. 

I don’t know what I have been so emotional lately. Maybe this is just a build up from all the writing I’ve been doing for my book. Maybe it’s just the past few years finally setting in. Maybe it’s everything that I haven’t really confronted coming out. Maybe it’s my frustration with other people thinking I can’t be happy and sad – or even have a bad day. I don’t know what it is but it sucks. 

I need to just be. Let the emotions come and go and embrace them. It’s hard and it hurts. But I am fortunate for the life that I have and am excited about what is to come. 

Pity party over … well in the morning it will be!

– xoxo Victoria

 

“And that’s when I was searching, I’m not searching anymore And that’s when I was learning about the things worth living for Before I was open, before I knew I couldn’t live a day Without you” – Vincent Paul Degiorgio / Bill Kaltabanis / David Roland Williams / Tom Kaltabanis

Picture on the left – 2004/2005 (depicts my attitude perfectly), picture on the right – 2017. How much I have changed. So many people would say that. So many people have said to me “you were the last person we thought would care for someone”. “I can’t believe you can (and did) do that on that level”.

I won’t say I wasn’t nice. I was just hard and very private. I didn’t share anything. I was already living with Duane when my parents met him. I didn’t share things, I didn’t let people know what was going on in my world, my life and especially not in my head or my feelings.  These last few years have softened me. I have become vulnerable and I share everything! hahahaha

I think that the main reason I was like that, is because I am actually VERY sensitive, my feeling get hurt VERY easily and I never wanted people to know that they could get to me. I hate yelling, until Duane got sick we never yelled, not even that dinner was ready. I hate raised voices and I dislike uncomfortable situations. I put up a good front, I had a very hard shell. After everything I have experienced I can no longer do that. I’m not capable of hiding my feelings. I just can’t.

Last night at clinical a girl, who I thought was my school “friend” lied about me and spread the lie to the other students. She said I said something to her I NEVER would have said, she said I told her she couldn’t help her patient and that I said I was taking the patient. (Short version). I heard the rumor at the end of the night. I was so upset. I corrected the story with the 2 girls who shared it with me. I drove home, called my parents and cried. I only sleep 2.5 hours, I so upset over this.

I know it’s not a big deal. I know I should get over it, but I can’t. I don’t operate that way anymore. I don’t understand why someone would blatantly lie. 24 hours later it’s still bothering me. I know it’s her issue and it’s not me but it seriously bothers me. I’ll be fine, I always am. Clinical is canceled tomorrow (due to the 2nd hurricane of the season) so I have until Tuesday to clear my head and move past this.

I need to meditate and sleep. That’s my plan.

Why can’t we all just get along? hahahahaha

– xoxo Victoria

“Hardships often prepare people for an extraordinary destiny.” —C.S. Lewis

Apparently I have been doing this for a while. 

I LOVE school. I started clinical last week and yesterday I started with my own patients. I would never have imagined I would be so happy walking the hospital halls and taking care of people. I am currently in the Surgery/Trauma unit, car accidents, motorcycle accidents, TBIs. All the patients I came into contact with were sweet and helpful and so willing to work with a student. They were encouraging and were really excited about being able to help us learn. I am sure they won’t all be like that and I’m sure there will be hard days but I feel like I made the right decision. I couldn’t be happier. 

The pictures above are from when Gracie had cancer. We had to give her IVs because she had lost so much weight. Duane did them and then… he had to go back to work… so I had to do administer them. Duane taught me how. (Seriously though, Gracie was a very patient patient. The first time I had to do it alone I placed it wrong and she cried, I started crying – feeling horrible that I hurt her, she turned around, licked my hand and then turned back around waiting from me to try again). So when it came time to inject Duane’s meds he looked at me and said “you know how to do this, I taught you with Gracie”.

– xoxo Victoria

“With no regrets A piece of mind Lived so much time in so little time…I loved her, no regrets” – Gary Allan / Jamie Hanna / Jon Randall

IMG_1477.JPGI was talking to a friend tonight. ALS sucks. It’s hard. It’s tiring. Watching someone battle ALS is heartbreaking. There are no words to explain what it’s like. There is truly no way to understand it unless you’re in it, daily. My wish is that no one else would have to experience it. There are no books to read, there are no guidelines. There are no right answers. It is all trial and error. Mistakes are made. Adaptions are learned. 

So much is lost, but so much is gained. There is unconditional love. I didn’t know what love was until ALS. I didn’t know what forgiveness was. I didn’t know what patience was. I didn’t know how to live in the silence, how to sit in the quiet. I didn’t know what peace was. 

Sometimes there are no words. Sometimes talking is too much. Remember that when friends are going through hard situations. Sometimes just sitting with them (even on the phone) in silence does amazing things. 

I sometimes sit in anger and curse the disease, the situation, that fact that there is still, in 149 years, no cure. I cry over my loss and the years it took away from Duane. I cry wondering if I could have been better, done more. I second guess the path we took, the decisions we made. I wonder if we would have tried something else, participated in a trial, had more medical intervention… What would life have been like? 

I have no regrets. At the end of the day we did what Duane wanted. Up until the end he lived the way he wanted to live. He wishes were met. In the end there was love. 

– xoxo Victoria

“ … But you know you’re going to make it when the image of your dad, your husband, your friend, crosses your mind, and a smile comes to your lip before a tear to your eye. That’s when you know, and I promise you, I give you my word, I promise you, this I know, that day will come. That day will come.” – Joe Biden

I heard this song yesterday and I’ve had it on repeat ever since. I have so many memories of Duane dancing around the kitchen while he cooked us dinner, and then of us drinking wine on our front porch sitting on our bench or in the hammock. The memories have been flooding back and the smiles and happy tears have been endless – we really had an amazing life. 

Most people already know this but when Duane I first met I had no idea how to cook, NO IDEA. Tuna quesadilla and rock hard birthday cake were some of my specialties that first year. He laughed and refused to eat them – didn’t even pretend to! hahahaha! We were at a fishing tournament and like normal I got up to make everyone’s lunch for them, they wanted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I just stared at Duane when he told me that was what they wanted. A few minutes later he came back into the motorhome and asked why they weren’t done… I don’t know how to make them. EVERYONE stared and then started laughing! hahahaha (In my defense my parents and I are from England and that is not common there – I had never had it before.) In between the bouts of laughter I learned there was no right side to put either thing on and no certain ratio. So in those early days Duane always cooked when he was home – and when he wasn’t I ate at the fire station – a lot. But when he was home, he would be in the kitchen and I would be in the hallway, leaning against the door frame – my favorite sitting spot, drinking wine and watching him cook while we talked about our days. Those, to this day, are some of my favorite memories. So simple and easy and normal. 

Often times after dinner we would sit outside on the porch, whether we were at home, in the motorhome, camping … we sat outside, drank our wine and watched Gracie or Buddy play. When we were at fishing tournaments people always knew they could come by the motorhome for a beer, a bait or just to talk – Duane LOVED to talk! We didn’t have cable or real internet so we really spent our time talking or outside working on something. 

These are the days, when I feel good and happy again. While Duane was healthy he gave me the best life possible and while he was sick I gave him the best life possible. We were a team to the end. I am so happy that simple things can trigger the happiest of memories.

– xoxo Victoria

P.S. I learned how to cook and I ended up being pretty good. I learned to really cook on a stove with two burners and a hot plate. Once we had a real kitchen again – the possibilities were endless! hahahaha 

“But the struggles make you stronger And the changes make you wise And happiness has it’s own way Of taking it’s own sweet time. No, life ain’t always beautiful Tears will fall sometimes Life ain’t always beautiful But it’s a beautiful ride.” – Tommy Lee James / Cynthia Evelyn Thomson

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I really struggle with disappointing people. I worry about hurting other people’s feelings because I didn’t do what they wanted me to or I didn’t help them when they asked me to. I don’t know why, I don’t know why I take on that burden. I, up until recently, haven’t had a lot going on so it has been easy for me to help others and work around their schedule. I was able to arrange what I needed and wanted to do around what everyone else’s schedule dictated. 

I think of others first. I always do for others. Maybe it’s engrained in me after caregiving for so long. But even before Duane got sick, I did what he wanted when he was off of work. I was able to do anything I wanted for the 48 hours he was at the fire station, so I always figured when he’s home it didn’t matter what we did, as long as we were together. I can’t recall a time, in the last year, that someone has asked me for something or needed something and I have said no. I can’t tell you of a time when someone was stuck and I didn’t help them. It’s actually not part of who I am – I don’t operate that way. But I can tell you in the last two weeks how many times I have been told no, someone can’t help me or have ignored my calls to not help me. (That’s another post entirely – and part of the reason I don’t ask for help UNLESS I really need it). If you have read my last few posts you know that my anxiety is crazy high and I am easily overwhelmed when I have “too much” to do…. hmmmmm

This week at counseling we talked about something that we had previously discussed, numerous times – apparently it takes me awhile! hahahaha. It’s a great way to reframe the thoughts you have when someone asks you to do something or when you are trying to schedule everything YOU need to do. 

The concept is simple … ask yourself to fill in the blanks in these two sentences before committing to anything. 

  1. By saying YES to ______________, I am saying NO to ______________.
  2. By saying NO to ______________, I am saying YES to _____________. 

Example – (this is simple one – but works for major things too)

  1.  By saying YES to babysitting, I am saying NO to the nap I need.
  2.  By saying NO to babysitting, I am saying yes to taking the nap I need. 

By putting the options into a scenario like this I am forced to realize what I am putting aside to help someone else. As unnecessary as a nap may seem to you, it is probably the only 2 hours of fully restful sleep I will get in a 24 hour span. It is life for me. 

I have been using this the last few days for everything I need to do or am asked to do. 

  1. By saying YES to shoveling my driveway stone, I am saying NO to studying for my final. 
  2. By saying NO to shoveling my driveway stone, I am saying YES to studying for my final that I have worked so hard to take this semester. 

So far it has made even the simplest decisions easier. I am going to elaborate even more soon. I am committed to this process right now. I need to put myself first and only take on the “tasks” I want to take on! 

I’ll keep you posted on when I “crack” or if I’m able to keep this up! I need to start saying no. No to things that don’t serve me. No to things that hinder my progression. No to things that hold me back. No to people who are takers only. No to people who are selfish. Just no. 

– xoxo Victoria

 

 

“‘Cause he knows how to treat his woman And he knows how to make ends meet… And he’ll fix about anything… And there ain’t nothing better than Being loved by a workin’ man” – Angaleena Loletta Mcco Presley

These last few days of hurricane prep has taught me how lucky I was and still am. 

I had a real “workin’ man” for over a decade. He went to work, busted his butt, came home fixed everything, built everything. Never complained. And taught me how to take care of myself. 

I grew up with a dad who is super handy as well. He helps me and teaches me the things that I didn’t have the time to learn or be taught by Duane. 

I realized over the last few days that I have a real issue with people that can’t take care of their own shit. They can’t fix anything and are not even willing to try, they just blame it on someone/ something else. I don’t know why it bothers me so much, but it does, I equate it to laziness. I equate it to not taking care of yourself or your family. I know that that thought is wrong and it is not true but it bugs the crap out of me. I think if I can learn it then anyone can. At least try. 

People are going to read this and think I’m mean and unrealistic but this bugs me more than anything! Its not even any of my business how people live their lives – but if I hear about it – lord help me. hahahahahaha I don’t mean to be catty, I’m just sharing my feelings. 

So with everything ready, I can now sit back and relax and wait for Flo. 

– xoxo Victoria