2017 in review

I have been struggling with writing my 2017 blog, and it's not because I don't have plenty to say about the year, but because I still feel like I'm processing it all.  Each beginning and end of year I come up with a word, or words, (because indecisive is definitely one of my words) for that year.  The beginning of 2017 I chose the words balance and purpose; half way through the year I added duality, because it was necessary.  To end the year I would say the word is unveiling, maybe I would even go as far to say, awakening.  

In a lot of ways 2017 was a direct reflection of the ways in which I am not living congruent with my beliefs.  Watching so much of the world be divided against one another, I had to really look at it as a mirror.  What ways am I being played?  What ways am I blindly consuming all that is handed to me?  Who am I finding myself divided against? 

I remember the first time a class project was to debate another student.  I so deeply recall thinking, "Why the hell are we being taught to throw our opinions around until we either offend the person or convince them to see our point of view? 9 times out of 10, that approach only leads to resentment.  Why aren't we being taught to find common ground, to even attempt to listen to others and see what we can learn?  Instead we are to listen just to respond why they are wrong."

Well, this same feeling I had about debate in middle school, is very similar to how I feel about it in 2017.  Boy, did this year hold more debate than I remember ever seeing in the past.  

Just as I believe in our education systems we are taught things, that truly don't serve us, it's still happening as adults.  We are literally being taught this is our only way, we must debate and be right.  Our truth is THE truth. It's not just that programming I've been really made aware of, but we're also programmed to consume, look out for just us, and the outside world is to be feared. Fear, fear, fear.  You fear God,  fear Santa, fear the republicans, or the liberals, or refugees, or anyone who worships a different God than you, or fear fear fear, all misguided. All being used to distract us from actually coming together and growing stronger. 

2017 to me and a lot more people than you'll hear about on any news channel is an awakening.  I guess really our ability to see if it's awakening vs the end of the world vs the world being made "great again" depends on how we perceive the world.  Each time my heart was hurt because of something I saw in the world, I started being shown in serious reflection, ways in which I have been part of the problem.  It's unnerving, and I supposed that's why so many people turn away from that, and just take the easy approach and say ugh, the problem is with everyone else.  Everyone sucks.  Trust me up until half way through the year I was screaming the same thing.  Everyone made me angry.

So angry in fact that I literally went mad this summer.  The extent of my madness can be summed up in a quick story. I got a ring at the door one day this summer, and it was one of my neighbors.  He handed me a bottle of wine and said, "We felt you could use this wine, it seems you're having a rough time, we heard you yelling, 'I Can't F***ng do this anymore.'' "Oh," I say, "You heard that?"" Yes," he replies matter of fact because of course he did I was screaming it bloody murder into the direction of Steve, God, the trees, my flowers, the dogs.  I mean I owe everyone a thank you for not getting my mad ass sent away.  I literally was a blaze and was burning everyone down with me. 

However that fire I started and let burn for longer than I could control was purposeful.  It was painful as hell, but fire transforms in beautiful ways, after some healing. Fall was the healing I needed to start to feel the regeneration.  Not facing my emotions, just isn't a possibility for me anymore.  If I let things go, it festers and becomes a wound! 

Speaking of wounds Steve's wound this year was all over the map. We started the year with a set back and the wound going to the worst it was, fast forward to summer, to it being healed,  to broken open, to healed, to broken open again.  Because that's how wounds are.  Even when they're healed, it leaves you fragile.  Fragile, and needing to be tended to with the same grace and care a real wound does. I hope you are all seeing how this is also an analogy and it applies to life and real life wounds. :) Just in case you're missing it just wanted to spell that one out.

When Steve's wound healed, he was able to get up and paint again. (3 times this year)

When Steve's wound healed, he was able to get up and paint again. (3 times this year)

 

So my words:

In search of my purpose, I had a conversation with an amazing intuitive Rebecca, and she said something that really helped me ease into my actual being.  She said, "Your life is your purpose, you're never not in your purpose.  Every moment has been shaping you into who you are, and that is your purpose."  Those words which after hearing, felt very common sense, really shifted things for me.  I feel like I was spending a lot of times, chasing a purpose, because Steve was so sick so many times.  I was self preserving because I knew if I had some other "purpose" that was just mine, it would carry me through whatever was going to happen.  Well, fortunately I released that kind of crazy pressure, and felt myself settle into me more after the "fire." Even more fortunately Steve is here and stable!  Proving again that doctors words on Steve's fate mean nothing as long as he's in.  Thankful for all of this! :)  This understanding that my life is my purpose really helped me learn how sharing my story is a huge part of that. 

Balance. Well I like to describe this ever changing definition with a visual. Imagine what it takes to get to a point where you and a friend are being held up on teeter totters. Perfectly balanced and not one falling down to the ground. That kind of balance is a few steps forward, and a few steps back.  That visualization helped me see balance as a practice.  You get out of balance, and you come back to it, you do what it takes to stay there, and when you fall again, you stand up and try over. 

Duality.  The dark is as important as the light.  Finally coming to peace with some dark things this year, led to me actually making progress with my book.  I had been loosely working on this book for years, without a lot of direction, but finally facing the dark, led to me feeling okay to write about it.  After some direction from a coach Steve gifted me with for my birthday, I have been making progress on the book.  I don't want to write about it here too much, because I want my energy spent more on making small actions on it daily, instead of talking it up yet.  Putting my thoughts into tangible, readable paragraphs, has helped me in a lot of ways to really process some things that were holding me back. 

Garden in late spring. 

Garden in late spring. 

As 2017 continued to show me my shortcomings, it also pushed me immediately into action.  I may struggle with consistency (introducing 2018 word number 1),However, action rather than talking about action has become a thing for me, and I'm holding on to it for dear life. :)  It's a post fire gift.  I was called out very clearly on the areas I wasn't committing to (2) my life or anything in it.  It also showed me where I wasn't being congruent (3).  I would find myself so upset about the ways people were mistreating the planet, without seeing ways in which I COULD do something about how I was mistreating the planet.  

My words for 2018 are commit, congruent, and consistency.  At the end of the day I've decided although it will take a lot of f'ng work it will be glorious. I feel amazing when I'm congruent, so my biggest lesson, take away, goal going into 2018 is to take the steps necessary to be more congruent with my beliefs, be consistent and committed to my health, my life, my work, Steve, my self care, whatever projects my mind takes me on,... Continue to take daily actions, and show up, and educate myself.  

Education was a large part of 2017, with me starting a 2 year herbal immersion class in January.  Now a year in the knowledge has helped me and everyone that comes in contact with me more than I could have imagined.  Becoming educated on subjects important to me grew through the year.  After taking an intuitive class, led me to a beekeeping class, and permaculture.  I want to be an educated steward of this Earth, and I know that until I have the knowledge I'm just fumbling around trying to make a difference.  However, another thing I've learned clearly this year is "Knowledge isn't power until it's applied." Dale Carnegie.  A key example is showing up in my health.  This year, the culmination of all the stress I've gone through the past 6 years (33 years) has left me weak and shaken.  If I'm honest it's 80% my fault.  From eating one meal a day, skipping work outs, eating foods that I know make me feel terrible, and having the yo yo diet.  By that I mean, I'm really strict and eliminate foods that bother me, and then eating donuts for breakfast and a bowl of ice cream for dinner, with nothing but coffee in between.  My health is screaming at me, by ways of low blood pressure and dizziness to actually commit to my health.

Favorite advice of the year, "Drink as you pour." Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

Favorite advice of the year, "Drink as you pour." Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

In my years taking care of Steve, if anything it has taught me that our health is a gift. It's not a guarantee that I can keep running off of steam, especially with grueling days like wound care and when Steve is in distress.  Which is why commitment and consistency will be the most important thing I could do for myself in this moment. 

I won't share any concrete plans here, because I really just want to focus on building my balance between committed routines that will allow the space for free flow.  I want to focus on action, instead of taking my energy on telling others on what I plan to do.  So if you're still here with us on this journey, thank you. Truly your support has helped us so much in ways I don't believe they have proper language for.  I truly cannot adequately put the feeling you all give us into words, I just know its the biggest blessing of my life to have it.  I hope you'll stick around, because I'm excited for what 2018 holds.  I'm always hopeful that Steve gets to experience many many many more of these new year reviews, but for now i'll close on what's most important.  Him being here now, and me BEING here too. :) 

December 2017

December 2017

 

Much love you all, and see you all in the new year! 

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It's all a distraction

After any amount of time I'm off social media, I often get asked why I take long breaks from logging on?  I love a social media break, it really helps me observe what I do with my time, and gives me a lot of insight on how I can make better use of my time.   I have so many important connections I have made on social media, and find the medicine of it to be important, but for me personally if I'm not careful I get totally out of balance with it.  I'll give you some of my reasons and lessons and let me know if any of it resonates with you. 

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I have 5 signs that really give me the flag that it's time to take a break.

  1. When I find myself distracted by every sound, notification, social trend, of having to follow a certain persons story, to the point that I find myself 45 minutes later having realized I just spent a huge chunk of time, just shooting hearts and emoji-es all over the place.  Of course I don't want to be 100% disconnected, we already are pretty hermit-ed here not leaving the house; so I only tend to go rogue when my addict comes out to play. 
  2. I really like to connect with people in person, but sometimes I won't reach out to a friend or loved one because I see what they have going on, on social media, I think, "Well I don't have to."  It's only when I step away that I realize how much I crave true connection and while social media lets us story tell and share updates, it isn't the kind of connection I want to have with my friends and family. 
  3. When I find myself admiring what others are doing so much, I forget to do anything myself, if I'm not careful I find myself admiring everyone I love to follow that I find myself here with a day of doing nothing but scrolling on my phone. 
  4. This one is a big one. Hard to admit even. There are days where I will find myself genuinely upset that people didn't give me the response I wanted on a post, or upset when people don't buy my art, or read my blogs.  When that happens I know my reason for doing and being is very much so out of alignment. 
  5. Before this last social media break I observed myself, reaching for my phone at any single pause.  Whether it be a commercial, waiting for Steve to type, when I was blocked while writing, or literally any moment in between. I would reach for it, get lost into it for a bit, catch myself, and find it hard to get back on track. It was a habit, and one that took me stepping away to break; and will take me continuing to be mindful of. 

I find that in our world today, distractions are everywhere.  When you drive in your car the information you take in from all the advertisements everywhere (unless of course you're in the country and if so I know you're loving it, I would :)).  When you check your emails, that 30 junk emails you end up deleting, the social media notifications, the news (that's a whole separate blog that I will write for you soon), ... I feel like this list could continue but you are aware of what your distractions are, I don't have to tell you that. 

What I can tell you is, that the three weeks I stepped away from social media, helped me really tune into how I was spending my time.  I found myself getting so much done.  I of course, had to stop myself from reaching for my phone maybe 500 times a day, but it was powerful to see just how often I do that.  I have written on this before, but I have a way of blaming other circumstances and people when I don't get my goals for the week done. *important side note:* I'm of course not promoting all this doing and hoping people forget about being, but even my down time isn't well spent scrolling on the phone;  drawing, art, time in nature, reading, journaling, writing out all those ideas you keep saying you don't have time for, you fill in the blanks here.  My down time is better used elsewhere.  Truth is it's no ones fault but my own if I don't crush my week.  Steve doesn't distract me by needing me every 30 minutes (average), my phone does. 

Interestingly after being off for a week, friends who I had been hoping to hear from were reaching out, I was getting to catch up with friends, I was connecting with those around me again.  I think this is really important to say, because I know I'm guilty of it, and almost everyone is on a small scale.  When is the last time you actually spoke to someone you follow closely online that you consider a friend in person? OR... When's the last time you went to visit that person who is stuck in bed?  It's interesting that people think because I'm so good at sharing our life that we are really connected.  Are we?  

There's so much noise going on in our world right now, it's a bit of tumultuous times, a small step back however, can do you a huge favor.  When I take a social media break, I should add, I take an all media break.  It is okay to step away from the resistance (whichever side of it you find yourself on) and check in with you.  Sometimes I wonder how many people are just regurgitating information that is so frequently being handed to them instead of forming their own opinions or beliefs.  I know I can fall into that so quickly and when I shut it out, tune in, read, actually do my own quiet research; I know my truths.  I don't have to feel swayed by all the noise around me.  In these days, this feels so vital. 

So if after reading this you feel like maybe you need a small break, I highly encourage it.  You choose your length, you choose the rules; that way it's what YOU need.  I assure you, you'll find yourself connecting with life in a way that just doesn't happen when we give in to all the distractions. 

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When impermanence is your reality - Where Steve's health is today

So if you follow us on any social media you know we had a recent hospital trip.  It was brought to my attention this trip, that I probably haven't fully explained in one place where Steve is currently health wise, so allow me to attempt to fill in all the blanks here.  

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Steve was diagnosed in August of 2011, after a year of misdiagnosed symptoms.  Upon diagnoses he started falling more frequently, and was loosing a lot of his muscles to atrophy. Late 2012 Steve had a feeding tube placed, as he was starting to choke more, that became infected the same day (insert infections that NEVER left). It was April of 2013 that he went into the hospital for pneumonia where he coded twice, actually died and was resuscitated once, that ended in him getting an emergency tracheotomy.  At the time of surgery Steve was on his decline to below 100 pounds.  We had no idea then what exactly was going on with his stomach, we assumed he was using most of his energy to breathe and that was the main cause of his weight loss.  Steve was not ready for the ventilator more so mentally than physically at that time, so he waited until October of that year to really begin to explore the vent.  He started on bi-pap settings, and quickly reached the point by 2014 where he needed full ventilation.  

During all of this Steve began vomiting most things that he would get in his feeding tube.  We initially thought it was just he couldn't tolerate formula or traditional tube feedings so I began to make his own food.  In early 2014 after a hospital visit where I expressed my concern for Steve's vomiting, then aspirating, developing pneumonia, and being hospitalized pattern we were in.  He was rapidly loosing weight.  Spring of 2014 Steve reached 67 pounds and I couldn't even get water into him, so I took him back to the hospital after only being home one day in between and I said, "We aren't going home without IV food." 

That's a very brief back story but currently Steve sits at 150 pounds (although maybe 30 pounds are the fluids his body holds), and I will speak on where we are currently.  Steve's stoma (Trache site) has stretched he has the biggest size trache (10) and a hole big enough you could stick your pointer finger in it along with his trache (don't worry no one does that).  So many people ask me how that happened?  It was the perfect storm : getting trache, immediately followed by loosing drastic weight, violent vomiting with aspiration happening, followed shortly by gaining significant weight, receiving all of his nutrition via IV (it may have saved his life but it only goes so far for skin integrity), and the use of peroxide (I should write a post on this alone before we knew better we were told peroxide was good for trache care, peroxide is terrible for your skin especially broken down skin-please never use it); so all combined led to a very stretched site internally and externally.  

2 years ago Steve developed anemia of chronic disease, again TPN (IV food) while it sustains him, it only goes so far. A year and a half ago Steve developed his first pressure sore on his left sit bone after being on the gurney in the ER for 6 hours.  It was set back exactly a year ago while going to a procedure and it became a stage 4 (all the way to the bone).  As of this hospital visit his wound is OFFICIALLY HEALED! Yes we are celebrating but also very well aware that the way a 4 heals means that tissue is very fragile and a recurrence is almost expected.  Regardless though, he has proven he can heal!

Also a year ago Steve's right lung began collapsing one lobe at a time.  It's suspected this happened because of constant pneumonia and turning off his wound.  So there we were with a stage four wound on his left butt, and a fully collapsed lung on the right side.  Normally you would want to be turned off of either of these, but that was no longer an option.  Steve has championed through these.  His trache stoma isn't the only "hole" in his body that has stretched because of extended length of use and the way his skin integrity is compromised. His feeding tube site and catheter site are both using the largest sizes and still leak.  

A year ago I began to finally get Steve's stomach to tolerate little bits of food (he has a G/J tube so I skip the GI and go straight for the Jejunum).  Since then, the times he can tolerate foods his infections do better, he doesn't need blood transfusions, and over all he has more energy.  I wouldn't be surprised if it also played a role in his wound healing (also our IV team increased vitamin C to help as well).  This week since being home is the first his stomach has tolerated foods since getting his gallbladder removed end of August, and for that I'm grateful.  Despite only getting roughly 80 CCs in him a day (broken up in 4 doses) that little bit at least builds his hemoglobin and helps him have energy to participate in his day.

Needless to say we are complicated so when we go into the hospital these days it is truly us just following theories.  We believe this last visit was mostly him needing a little antibiotics and extra TLC to fully recover from that gallbladder being removed.  I was worried he was reacting to his TPN, because he would have episodes at night only, where he became very anxious with tachycardia.  Which comes first the chicken or the egg here, is it anxiety or the heart.  Still unknown, truly, but this visit all of our theories were proven wrong, and somehow he just adjusted.  If you know anything about human anatomy, then you understand that Steve's heart is vulnerable (for more reasons aside from living with complications of advanced ALS) because of the way his lung has collapsed.  Your lungs protect your heart, and slight tachycardia is his new norm, so when it goes up we are talking the 150's.  

Of course there are hundreds of reasons for increased heart rate and Steve obviously has a lot that could be the cause, but for now we are thankful his body sorted out whatever it was.  Sometimes we have to admit we don't understand what's going on in Steve's body; which isn't an easy thing to do for doctors or me, but we have to.  So that's where we are.  The impermanence while there for everyone, that's already increased from a diagnoses like ALS, is really really real in your face these days (our face).

So if you're reading this and you maybe haven't spent a lot of time with Steve over the past few years because life just keeps you busy.  We understand, we have no hard feelings, but allow this to be a friendly reminder to come now.  His well-being requires naps but right now it also requires interaction with people aside from just his wife, immediate family, and our aide; so please come. He obviously can't tolerate a party full of people, so when you message me don't be surprised if I throw out dates where he doesn't have any visitors, rather than taking the last minute "can I come today". :) 

 

Through shadows and in the light.

Today is Steve's and my 6 year wedding anniversary.  Wow! 6 years.  When we got married it was very unknown if we would even get 6 years.  ALS and the stress it brings definitely tried to stop us from making it through these 6 years.  

Photo: Raymond Adams 

Photo: Raymond Adams 

The past 6 years I've been through more with this man, than I've been through in all my life combined.   Even though some days I feel the weight of it a little extra, I'm thankful for it, as I wouldn't be who I am today without this journey.  

The further along this journey Steve and I go, the more I see how our union was to not only help share stories of love and overcoming challenges with the world, but also to help make us as individuals meet our highest potential.  

Prior to us meeting Steve and I were not exactly on a path towards progress.  Following that pull towards each other, trusting it after such a short time and deciding to face difficult circumstances together catapulted us into possibilities we never saw possible for ourselves. 

Suddenly we were being shown our capabilities and opening up to pieces of ourselves we were closed off to.  Lots of growth doesn't come without fights and challenges that you need to overcome.  The trauma you choose to endure going face to face with ALS only makes you a better person going through it.  If you know someone in an ALS journey I know you'll agree.

Often times we know (both being intuitive) that people question our choices.  They question our love and our life, and sometimes it makes us question it.  At the end of the day when it's just Steve and I, we know that our love is beyond just the heart opening growth we get to experience it's about so much more.  We together serve a purpose that's so profoundly needed in this world, and remembering that gives us the fuel we need to keep overcoming these challenges. 

The beautiful gift this life has brought is the understanding of how in our lives we are all each others mirrors.  Showing us where we need growth, where we shine, where the shadow lies, and the light hits.  Steve and I mirror our strengths to one another, we mirror the ways in which we are capable of doing anything we set our minds to.  We also mirror our mean streaks, our love for calling people names, our addictions, need for control, and our need for attention.  

photo: Raymond Adams 

photo: Raymond Adams 

These shadows aren't there to break us apart, although it's really f'ing hard not to let them sometimes.  For Steve and I , what I consider the most fortunate with our love and life is that no matter how difficult and dark we've gotten our strength has always persevered.  Just like we come out of these hospital visits a little stronger so does our love through facing ourselves in each other.  The selves we want to run far away from. 

It's a blessing to be able to grow with someone and to be able to watch yourself AND your partner break through old patterns that were leaving us in the shadows and walk into the light together.  Our marriage on the outside is an inspiration because we choose to keep battling this journey for our love.  On the inside here it inspires me because we have fully faced ourselves, faced one another, and have remained in love.  That is what I love about us.  If I could add anything to our vows I would add, that I promise to stay with you through the shadows and in the light. 

photo: Raymond Adams

photo: Raymond Adams

Self encouragement wins today. <3

I just finished packing before sitting down to write this blog.  Oh, where you going Hope, somewhere fun? 

Nothing fun, but some place essential.  A place I'm super thankful for. Today we are taking Steve to the hospital.  I have a few things to finish up before we go so this will be a short blog.  This will be a blog where I offer myself some encouragement today. 

I would like to say that you're handling this well, Hope, and I'm proud of you.  I do NOT normally handle hospital visits well.  Lots of crying, a bit of screaming, and loads of complaining.  To Steve of all people.  Like he wants to be going there any more than I do.  It's something that I always feel super shitty about upon returning home from every hospital visits.

Processing anything prior to a hospital visit isn't happening while at the hospital.  What is happening a lot of tuning in to Steve to help guide the doctors, a lot of comforting and wiping tears from Steve's eyes, a lot of advocating, and the growth is the most I've experienced in my lifetime.  Hospital visits are holding onto what brings comfort and surviving, for both of us.  

So prior to going in this trip, I would like to take the 15 minutes it's taking me to write this blog to send myself a little self love.  Because WE ALL NEED to be doing that.  In these days more than ever.  So take my cue.  Take 15 minutes today and give yourself a little pat on the back for what you are doing well with in life right now.  YOU DESERVE IT.