Monthly Archives: August 2015

My Kid- The Guest Blogger

The following is my daughter’s paper for English. I am posting with her permission……

Who I Am: A Personal Narrative

At the age of 14 a lot changed for me, and it wasn’t for the better. Things started going downhill fast and I was scared. No one could help me; I was going down this road alone. It was terrifying and there wasn’t a second that I wasn’t wishing it for all to be a nightmare. Wishing to wake up and go back to my simple, worry free life. I didn’t cope well. Depression, anxiety, and paranoia constantly haunted me. Life didn’t stop for me to get my act together or to process what was going on. I had to get up and had to keep moving forward.

In August of 2014 my life was changed forever. I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. Being diagnosed with anything at any age is scary but there is something about being diagnosed with a chronic disease at such a young age that changes you. Having a doctor tell me I’m going to be sick for the rest of my life was horrible news. I understand it could be worse. I could have a terminal illness. I’m lucky that I don’t. Still, being told I was going to be in pain forever and that there was no cure or no medicine was gut wrenching. My heart sank, my stomach turned and I went numb. I wanted to curl up in a ball on the floor and cry and scream. I could almost taste the tears that were about to start rolling down my cheek. I wanted to shout “Why me?”, “What did I do to deserve this?”, “Please fix this!”. Instead I sat there staring at the wall. I didn’t speak. I didn’t even move. Instead I sat there thinking about all the other kids at the hospital that day and how their lives’ were being flipped around. I wondered what their reactions were. Did they cry? Did they scream? Were they speechless like me? I thought about my future. How it would be affected. Could I still have kids? What if my kids get this? Will I even live that long? What if I get worse? I thought about the pain. I knew it was never going to go away. Not any of it. All day everyday for the rest of my life I will be in pain. After that hospital visit getting tested for cancer and hoping it comes back all good was a new normal. I always think of the possibility of it coming back positive. Ultrasounds are now normal and I’m familiar with seeing the wavy lined images and hearing the beeps of pictures being saved. How I will handle it. Will I have to miss a lot of school? Will I have to quit cheer? The thoughts are always repeating through the back of my mind making my anxiety go through the roof. Having needles plunging into my skin and taking 10 vials of blood isn’t scary and doesn’t hurt. I don’t even feel it the smell of rubbing alcohol bothers me more. I’m even good friends with my phlebotomist and have conversations and laugh while she takes my blood. No matter how hard it gets everyday I try my best to keep smiling. I always remind myself of what Dory says in Finding Nemo “Just keep swimming.”

It has been a little over a year now since that day. I am coping a little better. Surprisingly blood tests, doctor visits, and ultrasounds are becoming a normal thing. Days I feel good and I’m not in pain are rare. This has definitely been a big change for me. I still think “Why me?” I think that question will always be in my mind. My life could be worse and I try to remind myself of that. Yes I might have more challenges than others but I try and stay positive. Life goes on and I need to keep moving with it.


Maddie N. 🙂

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DEAR HIGH SCHOOL

Dear High School,

She was literally JUST born. I swear. We were so excited. After many miscarriages and the realization that I may not have a child she came along. And our entire world changed. Our. Entire. World. You can tell people what its going to be like. To be a parent. But you have no idea. You have absolutely no damn idea until you are one. I spent many years in the beginning worried something would happen to her and I would lose her. I’d lost so many pregnancies pretty late term I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that she was mine. Alive and well and healthy and happy and mine. For now. I’ve slowly let go of that worry over the years. I will always worry. Every parent does. But she was here for 15 years in this house, under our rules, under our guidance and mostly influenced by us. OK…let’s be honest…she’s MY child so she’s pretty much had a mind of her own since birth. And for that- I am grateful.

And now High School you get her. You get to have her 8 hours a day. With your soda machines and snack bars and fancy lounge areas and tech center and career counselors and college planning team and boys with mustaches and muscles and football players and boys driving cars and parties and decisions I cannot help her make and your lockers in big hallways and advanced classes and teachers who do not know she suffers from Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos. Who do not know she is always in pain. Who do not know she worries about her Dad and her grades and Cheerleading and college and me. You get her but you don’t know her like I do. I carried her. I wiped her nose and her butt. I drove her to doctor appointments and spread eagled across her toddler body to hold her down while they stuck needles and immunizations in her leg while she screamed and it took every ounce of my body not to punch the doctor square in the face.

I stayed up many long, LONG nights with no sleep and vomit and accidents and nightmares and worry. Many cartoons at 2 in the morning to get through fevers. Many tears from torn stuffed animals by the dog. You were not there High School- but I was. And now you get her.

I swear we just brought her home from the hospital. Clueless. I swear we just dropped her off at Kindergarten and I cried through the door window watching her with Mrs. Hartman and crying with the other Kinder Moms. I swear we just moved to Colorado and I shook & cried as I dropped her at a new Middle School and hoped and prayed she’d make at least one friend. And now I hand her to you.

And she asked if she could ride to school with friends her first day of school tomorrow. And my heart stopped and my voice cracked as I said “sure”. And so it goes. And so she goes. Through doors, big doors. Big doors that she will never turn back from again. I know what you do High School. You make kids grow up. You make kids spend more time with friends than family. You make kids go to parties and make sometimes bad decisions and maybe bury sign posts in the practice football field out back…oh wait…that was MY HIGH SCHOOL.

But I also know you make kids independent. You introduce them to friends that will last a lifetime. You get kids involved in Cheerleading & other activities where she will find her best friends. You teach her way more than there is in a textbook. About sharing and empathy and unfairness and reality. You are the first place she drives to. You are the place she spends most of her time. You are the place that will help her decide where to go to college and what to do with her life. Tomorrow my baby starts High School. Tomorrow that little girl in her velcro Keds and green lacy back to school dress will wear a CHEER UNIFORM TO HIGH SCHOOL. I hand her to you and hope that all we’ve taught her STICKS. That at that party that night….and there will be one….she will make the RIGHT decision. That on those tests she’ll do her best. That she’ll kick every boys ass she can. Take care of her High School. She’s a good one!

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BECAUSE YOU ASKED ME TO

What do you get when you climb Pikes Peak? I think that was my question before. My goal. My destination. My whole purpose (so I thought) was to climb that beast and get some answers. Whether it comes across or not I do believe in God. I am not religious- never will be. And I don’t do “the God thing” like most. I used to care what others thought about that. Some people certainly let me know I wasn’t “doing it right” in their opinion. And I certainly do not care any longer. So maybe I thought God was going to magically fling down some answers at me. “Speak” to me through the mountain. Let me know WHY. WHY I had so many miscarriages. WHY my Dad was killed so young. WHY my daughter has a chronic condition. WHY my husband got brain rot. WHY my second Mom, Lynda has cancer. WHY. I needed answers. And I thought the mountain would shout them to me.

Let me talk for a minute about the climb. I am in decent shape. My Beachbody workouts, eating well, drinking Shakeology and hiking often got me in pretty darn good shape. Better than in my 20’s. But there is nothing. NOTHING. That can prepare you for climbing Pikes Peak. I live at 7,400 foot elevation. So the trail begins at around 7,500 feet and the summit is 14,110 feet. That’s a HUGE elevation gain and would prove to be the biggest obstacle for me. I pulled my groin muscle around mile 3 and at mile 4 the cracked vertebrae in my neck were screaming. It was horribly painful. Every damn step it hurt. A LOT! I teared up a few times from pain. And let me tell you- a mile on the ground is one step compared to a mile climbing up the side of a mountain. I have never, ever, done something so physically difficult in my life. The last 3 miles above the tree line were the hardest. Treacherous man. Scary and hard and very little oxygen and slippery rocks and it looks like the top of the mountain is forever away and you are just out there. You are a speck on the side of an enormous structure. You feel like nothing. And I realized something at one point when my partner asked me to just “stop”. “Just stop Jennifer and look back at what we’ve done, how far we’ve come….YOU DID ALL THAT”. It makes me cry even typing it. I was so focused on the pain, and the miles and miles of height and rock above me I had not looked back at all. That view. I cannot – I wont even try to find words for it. But all of the symbolism on the many miles of path behind me is not lost. Magnificent views 360 degrees around me. Water and rocks and green trees and desolation and a height you cannot believe surrounded me. I could see snow while I was sweating. I felt exhilarated and motivated while completely physically exhausted. I never had a doubt I’d summit. But I had no idea how hard it would be. And looking back is sometimes necessary because you focus so much on GETTING there, reaching the top, finding a solution, finishing, how much MORE you have to go……that you forget to celebrate all the way you’ve come.

So thank you Susie for reminding me to stop and look back. And be proud. And know how far I’ve come.

So we cranked on. We could not talk much those last 3 miles as we were gasping for thin air and it was hard to breathe let alone talk. So as the summit neared I felt excited. That the top, the answers, the ending, the finality of it all was so close. Just around the corner. And I cried a bit. Just a bit. I walked into a sea of tourists who were taking pictures and eating Pikes Peak donuts and mingling with their families and complaining about their “altitude headaches.” They had driven up here. They barely noticed me. I was one in a crowd. They had no idea I had just WALKED up the mountain they’d driven up. I hugged Susie and I stood there quietly. Waiting for the trumpets and the balloon release and the fireworks and the SHOUT of accomplishment from above. I’ve never been so physically exhausted in my life. My body was just about to give up. It had been pure will power, adrenaline and mercy that got me through that last mile. But there was no shouting. No balloons. No fireworks. And instantly I gained a lifetime’s worth of knowledge. I grew up in that moment. It hit me. Two things really. As Glenda the good witch in The Wizard of Oz said “it was in YOU the whole time”…there were never answers ON the mountain. They were in me all along. And damn it- it was never about what you GET from the mountain. The things you find out or the things you gain…..It was always about what you LEAVE on the mountain. Sometimes….sometimes the things you let go of are vastly more important than the things you grab on to. And you can let a LOT go at 14,110 feet on top of America’s Mountain. A. LOT. And I let a lot go. A lot of things I needed to let go of. And dammit it feels so good. So light.

My body aches today. The day after. I feel every bit of 42 years young. In so many ways. Do you know that sometimes there just aren’t answers to every question. There’s just not. And you have to let go. Let go and be ok that you may never know. And as cheesy as it sounds I TRULY now know its all about the climb. Don’t get me wrong- that SUMMIT IS AMAZING. Nothing like the feeling of that last step. Nothing. A pure raw joy Ive never felt before. One of the greatest physical accomplishments I’ll ever make in my life for sure. And my friend, Erika’s words to me rang in my ear “Girl you fight way bigger battles on the ground- that mountain is NOTHING”. It was never about the summit. It was ALWAYS…ALWAYS about the climb.

I can do hard things. I CAN. I have more tears today than I had yesterday. I think it just took a day to hit me what I’ve done. I cannot thank Susie enough. I cannot thank Patrick enough. I cannot thank those angels I met on the mountain along the way that encouraged me enough. I cannot thank you all enough for your support and encouragement. I gained and lost more than I ever dreamed I would up there! Dream BIG!

I did it, Dad.

“I went up to the Mountain…Because You asked me to. Up over the clouds, to where the sky was blue. I could see all around me. Everywhere. I could see all around me. Everywhere”. ~ Patty Griffin, ‘Up To The Mountain’

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MORE THAN A MOUNTAIN

Well I was wondering when it would hit me. Today is the day. The first week of August has sucked for 9 years now. NINE. YEARS. Shit that went fast. My husband is out of town all week. The kids have a TON of stuff going on with soccer and cheer and school about to start. I’m planning to hike Pikes Peak Saturday. Oh- and its the 9th anniversary of my Dad’s death. I was hoping this stupid August thing was over. I think it’s just a combination of nerves about the climb, worrying about the weather that day, not wanting to disappoint anyone, my husband being gone all week and the craziness of end of summer.

But I was rifling through some old boxes the other day that I had never unpacked since we moved here and found some CD’s. Music CDs. And they were homemade and had my Dad’s handwriting on them. I had never listened to them before. I guess it’s one of the things of his I took. I had never heard of the artists (Im ashamed to say) on these CDs so I listened to a few. BLUES! It’s blues music. Crazy. The dude who introduced me to Led Zeppelin and U2 and The Beatles and Pink Floyd liked BLUES music. Who knew? Kind of nice to discover things about someone you never knew. And I may never have known had I not come across these CDs. This week. Funny.

Im nervous and scared and worried and anxious today about my climb. I just want to finish it. And the weather calls for rain. Which would scrap our climb and that would suck. Lightening is a real danger at that altitude. And maybe its the fear of disappointing myself that is the most bothersome. I really don’t have anything to prove to anyone else. But I have something to prove to me. I HAVE to do this. I wont be that girl that cannot do scary things alone. I wont! The deaths and brain rot and Hashimotos and thyroid problems and joint disease and move across the country and all of the other bullshit did not happen so that I could curl up and cry and complain and wait for someone else to help me. That is NOT the person I am. That is NOT what I want my daughter to see. Funny—I don’t have any female friends like that. That curl up and cry. And that makes my heart happy. Surrounded by amazingly strong women who can do anything has been a blessing.

That mountain stares at me daily. I remember how much my Dad loved Colorado. He died here. And I get to LIVE here.

Im nervous and scared and anxious and excited and hopeful. Because I need to climb the mountain. And its so much more than just the mountain Im climbing. I think I know that. I think that’s what makes me anxious. But man oh man…the view. I just imagine the view in my mind if and when I reach the Summit. What an amazing view I will have. And what an amazing view my Dad will have! 4 Days!!

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