“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

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“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

“The first rule of hurricane coverage is that every broadcast must begin with palm trees bending in the wind.” – Carl Hiaasen

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“Come to North Carolina,” they said. “You’ll love it here,” they said. WTF?????

As I said earlier today, “with a hurricane you get a few days warning… with an earthquake, it just happens”. 

I’m not a doomsday prepper, I’m not really even a prepper, but today I did buy beer, wine, pop tarts and lettuce. I think I’m well prepared. I have water and lanterns and some food. As long as the dogs and I are fine nothing else matters. That’s what insurance is for. 

Seriously though, there is gas in the cars (and the boats… just incase), everything is as best protected from trees as possible. I know how to work a generator and cook on propane. I have dog food. I’ll fill the tubs with water to flush the toilet and I have a ton of unread books. 

Thank you fo all the messages and concern! Love you all!

– xoxo Victoria

“I ain’t lonely, but I spend a lot of time alone More than I’d like to, but I’m okay with stayin’ home My how the last few months have changed … I breathe in, I breathe out Got friends to call who let me talk about What ain’t workin’, what’s still hurtin’ All the things I feel like cussin’ out Now and then I let it go, I ride the waves I can’t control I’m learnin’ how to build a better boat” – Liz Rose and Travis Meadows

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This is a blog that I have wanted to write for a while, but I knew it would be hard to write and I knew it would be a hard to follow, it’s a jumbling mess – just like inside my head right now. Here goes … 

Lately my mind has been a jumble of so many things. I’m angry and frustrated and sad and confused. I am a pretty calm and happy person, I don’t like raised voices, I meditate, defuse lavender, sit in a sauna… But I have a level of anxiety I have never experienced before. I can’t quite tie it to one particular thing. It’s not school, work, the dogs, house stuff … it’s just a general feeling of being incredibly overwhelmed. I feel like no matter what decision I make I am letting someone down – who? No idea. Myself? No idea.

It started about 8 months ago, at that point I could manage it by having only two commitments in a day (grocery store & work, dinner at my parents & working out). If I added something else – like I needed to take my car in or I had to pick something up somewhere, or I took on another freelance job – I lost it. Like broke down, hysterically crying, hyperventilating, lost it. I settled into that but recently it got bad again. It is now to the point where I am not sleeping again, I have acid reflux (which I’ve never had before) and any little thing can set me off. I’ll just be driving and start crying. My stomach is constantly burning and I’m always exhausted. 

Before anyone responds here, yes I see a counselor, originally it was every few weeks, then once an month and now its back to every week or so. 

I am loving school. I am so motivated to get done and start helping people. I can’t wait to actually be making a difference in people’s lives. I love the competition of class (I know it’s not a competition! hahahaha, but it is!) and realizing that I KNOW this. I CAN do this and I can be amazing at it. I love discovering that for the two years I was a caregiver, I was doing it right. I also love knowing that although it was heartbreaking and pushed me to my limits on a daily basis it prepared me for my life now. I feel such a sense of accomplishment. (so it’s not that!)

I love my house. I am doing a lot around the house to make it a home; carport, extending my deck, shoveling 10 tons of rock, mowing 2 acres hahahahaha But I love it and feel settled and feel like I have a real home for the first time in years. (This maybe be part of the overwhelming part – I have to make all these decisions alone… the color of the roof of the carport? I don’t know let me call my dad. 5 tons of gravel or 4? I don’t know let me call my dad. Riding mower? I don’t know let me call my dad. Quotes on extending my deck? Seems high, let me call my dad. My poor dad!)

Two dogs … should have done it sooner. They are happy and I love them. 

Work – happy to be working again. 

This is where it really gets jumbley… 

The triggers are emotional and I need to get over them. I need to figure out how to not take other people’s actions personally. But I want to shake them!!  How can you take your loved ones, your friends, your family for granted? How can you treat these people like an after thought?

I will help anyone, seriously anyone. I will drop what I’m doing to help someone. I also never ask for help, but when I do, I actually need it, but it is always (other than my parents) “I can’t commit to that” or “can you do it another day” or just simply not answering the phone. I know how to “fix” this, I need to stop saying yes to everyone. I need to establish boundaries and take care of me. I need to stop doing things for people that take me for granted. 

I think I need to accept the fact that not everyone has the same heart. People always think of themselves first. I don’t, I really don’t – I think it’s a “hazard” of being a caregiver on the level I was for so long.

I can’t explain how bad this affects my life. I can’t wrap my head around the way people treat others. It’s not my life, not my relationship, not my home and none of my business. BUT, it just seriously hurts my heart that people are so selfish. I don’t know why I can’t let it go. I am working on it!

See it doesn’t take any sense, it’s a jumble. IT MAKES NO SENSE. The only way I can keep the anxiety to a minimum is to keep my daily tasks limited so that I can work around all the mess in my head. If I pile too many “activities” into my day there is no room for all the confusion and feelings in my head to process. I can process everything as long I have time to sit and do it. I am slower at everything now – taking my time and enjoying life, even shoveling rock.  The thing is, this is affecting my live, in a negative way. I am trying to work on it, trying to remember I can only worry about my home and what goes on in there. I can’t control others, their feelings or they actions. I can only worry about how I live my life and if the way someone else lives theirs affects me on this level I need to reconsider having them in my life on a close, personal level until I can get passed this. 

It’s time to take care of me. to make myself my priority.

As I was writing this blog this song kept, at least 5 times, opening on my computer and playing…

It is all so SIMPLE.

– xoxo Victoria

 

“But I love my life Man it’s something to see … It’s the way it’s alright when everything goes wrong It’s the sound of a slow simple song” – Christopher Alvin Stapleton / Darrell Hayes

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WOW! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I love my life right now. I have a home, I’m in school, I started a new job today and I have the best two puppies ever! A lot has been going on and I have so much to share. The past few months have been full of personal growth and so much change for me. I have learned so much and am still trying to work through some things. Over the next few days I will be sharing some of my triumphs and some of my struggles. I miss sharing and staying in touch with you! All you support and love has meant me to me these last few years than you could ever imagine!

– xoxo Victoria

“Not My Job” – Me This Last Year… Before I realized it was my job!

Many people don’t know this but there were things that Duane thought were HIS job, he was adamant that I didn’t do them. They weren’t the “normal” things like working on engines or getting covered in grease. Changing oil or pressure washing the house. Yard work or gutting fish. Those were all equal opportunity jobs. These were the day – to- day simple household things that I just didn’t do. Even when he got sick I didn’t do them, he somehow made sure of that. 

I have never shoveled snow. He told me it was his job – to the extreme that Gracie wouldn’t go out to pee for 2 days sometimes until Duane came home to shovel her a path. (Her choice, not mine, she held it). We never lived in the snow after he got sick. This year it snowed … I just stayed home because – not my job.

I didn’t take the trash to the curb. Even in San Diego the trash guy came and got the cans. I still forget almost every week. I do remember, when I’m in bed, at 3am, and have to run out to do it.

AND the worst … I didn’t take my hair out of the drain – WORST. THING. EVER. I  would rather clean poop or vomit. In Reno it never crossed my mind, we had good drains in Arizona and in San Diego I just poured a lot of Draino down there. Well, when you’re living with a septic tank you have to do it. Last week I concurred that. I have LONG hair. It was the absolute most disgusting thing ever. I put on gloves and still gagged at least 5 times. How does so much hair get stuck in there? Why is it still soapy? Why is it so gross? What is all the other stuff in there? How do leaves get in there? Why doesn’t it just go down? I bought this flower hair catcher thing and I’m hoping that helps – until I have to pull it out and change it (because believe me $3 is worth throwing it away and getting a new one.)

I sometimes forget the things he did, before he got sick. He cooked dinner every night he was home, I sat on the floor leaning against the wall, drinking wine and watching (not learning). He took the trash out – if he was going to be at work when they came he took it out before he left, did the major house repairs with my help – which usually consisted of providing popsicles and staying out of the way, fixed the broken toys, changed the oil in the cars and boats, helped me with my business, cuddled with the dog, and cleaned the shower drain. 

This last year has been eye opening. The major things I was aware of – I had to be. I know how to maintain the big things – engines, house renovations, boats, cars and life. I know how to prepare one’s paperwork when they’re dying, I know how to care for someone when they’re dying, I know how to grieve. I know how to figure things out. It’s the small things that are still blowing my mind. As I stand over my kitchen sink eating random parts of meals because it’s too much work to cook for one person I realize it’s the little things that are so hard to wrap my head around.

He was a guys guy. But he always opened the car door, the house door and took care of me. He made sure I was safe and comfortable. He made sure that the little things were done – the things I knew nothing about but took for granted. 

– xoxo Victoria 

P.S. One thing I will probably never figure out is direction. I google maps everything. My sense of direction is so off. Duane would get so mad…hahahahahaha