Farewell, 19th Street

This past Tuesday, our lease ended on our apartment on 19th street. I remember when we first toured the place. We looked at each other when we left and we knew it was where we wanted to be. We walked back to Zach’s apartment on Arch Street discussing our other options, making sure it was a good decision. When we arrived at his place, the landlord called and said someone else was interested, but if we agreed to sign a two-year lease, the place was ours.

Wow, two years. It sounded like a long time. One of our original plans was to sign on for a place for a year and if we liked it keep it going. Signing on for two years up front seemed like an eternity. I can remember Zach looking at me and asking if we should do it. The start of many big decisions we would make in our relationship.

“Let’s do it. Let’s go for it,” I said.

It was our first place together, our first home as a married couple. The night of our wedding, we stayed at the Union League, so our first night at the apartment as a married couple was the day after we got married. We walked back from the Union League, our wedding gear in duffel bags. We walked up the steps and opened the main door. Zach turned to me and said, “I have to carry you over the threshold!” I of course responded, “I hope you can lift me.”

He carried me through the first door, up the few stairs to our entrance. We opened the door to infinite possibilities. I remember the surge of excitement we both felt. This was OUR place, our 1,100 square foot palace, our first big financial responsibility we would share together. We felt so grown up, so accomplished, so confident that this was where we were meant to start our marriage. The first thing we did was play a few games of Super Smash Brothers to christen the apartment. Obviously, that’s how you properly start a marriage. Zach won, I am ashamed to admit.

That first weekend set a tone for all the fun we would have at our new place. We went out with friends that Saturday night and stayed up late. Sunday we watched the Eagles play the Patriots and the Eagles won. Again, I reiterate the infinite possibilities. Living downtown was a dream come true. I often told Zach when we were dating that I’d love to spend a few years living in center city. When we got engaged, it was a no brainer that we would rent an apartment down there. Zach had already lived various locations and was well acquainted with all the best spots.

One of my favorite things was being able to walk everywhere. We’d walk to the grocery store together a few blocks away. We walked to bars, restaurants. We walked to meet up with other friends who lived nearby. Zach walked to work. We rarely needed the car, which was a change for me. Sometimes if I was out for a run while Zach was walking home from work I’d ask him which route he was taking so I could “run into him.” We’d run together to the trail that was just a few blocks away. The late nights walking home together after being out with friends were some of my favorites, laughing together at how silly we were and feeling like we had no limits on time and that the city belonged to us. It was our playground.

There’s a bar on 19th and Chestnut called Drinker’s that became our go to spot for tacos. We started going there on Wednesdays, because apparently we are too cool to eat tacos on Tuesdays like everybody else. Their tacos aren’t even THAT great, but we love them anyway. The waitress who worked on Wednesdays started to know us. She’d wave us down as we walked in and always made sure to be our server.

Cherry Street Tavern on 22nd and Cherry was our favorite spot to go. Zach introduced me to that place when we started dating. Walking in there is like Cheers, everybody knows our name. We’ve spent many times in there with countless friends listening to countless songs on Touch Tunes. Touch Tunes is an app that allows you to connect to the jukebox in a bar through your phone. I’m certain we have spent a small fortune on Touch Tunes. After we got married, there were a few times Zach and I were there by ourselves and he’d play our wedding song Hooked on a Feeling. We’d get up and dance together in the middle of the bar. Another favorite spot was Bar bar. Yes, a bar simply called Bar. I love it because they have a bubble hockey game there and it’s one of the few games Zach isn’t very good at.

One weekend recently, Zach discovered Uber Eats and we had McDonald’s delivered to us for a late night snack. You would have thought we discovered an unknown land. We relished in the late night burgers and watched Rick and Morty while we indulged.

Our place had a roof deck too where we spent many nights grilling, hosted family members and friends, drank mimosas while listening to music on a summer day. We hung out with our neighbors a few times, getting to know the “dudes who live above us.” It was a spot we could sit and watch the sunset, side by side, just me and my husband, and the beauty of the city sunset.

Yes, we have had our fun, a lot of fun. It is well known that Zach and Kate know how to have a good time together. But this apartment is also a symbol of our growth, both as a couple and as individuals. It’s a place we have learned how to live together. As I mentioned in a previous post, we didn’t live together until we got married. It’s been fun getting to know each other’s quirks better and how we operate being with each other most of the time. It was a rather easy transition thankfully. No major faux pas.

This place taught us how to be more open with each other. If we had a disagreement or we were upset over something, we couldn’t just leave and go home. We were home. We had to be open about whatever it was that was making us upset. I can remember when we were dating, if I got mad at Zach for something or vice versa when we were hanging out, we could deal with it later. Or if we were texting, I could put the phone away and think about it on my own. When you live together, you can’t do that. Sure you can go out and let off steam, but when you go home, the person is there waiting for you to express your feelings.

It’s the place we decided to try and start a family. It’s the place we found out I was pregnant both times. It’s the place we found out I lost my pregnancies. It’s the place we learned to lean on each other more than we had ever had to. It’s the place we both were at our most vulnerable. It’s the place we learned how to better comfort each other. It’s a place our love grew stronger.

This past year has been a pivotal one in our relationship and we experienced it in this apartment. As the time of moving out came closer, I thought to myself I am so ready to get out of this place. I hate the things that have happened the last eight months here. As I reflect on it now, I feel badly that I thought that. I got caught up in my grief and I took it out on our apartment. The apartment didn’t cause our strife. If anything, it was a safe, comforting environment where we could be comfortable to talk to each other, really talk to each other. We have shared so much within those walls; love, laughter, and hurt. As much as there were nights of non-stop fun, there were also nights of sadness and stress. There were nights I cried in Zach’s arms and then again there were nights we both cried from laughing too much.

I will always remember our 19th street palace fondly. The ups and downs we experienced there have been a positive in our relationship. I am so grateful for our time in the city.

I’ve gone on about what this place meant to us but I have failed to mention where we will be living. Well, that’s a whole other blog post. I’ll give you a quick summary. Right now, we are staying at my parents’ house because we are waiting to close on a house! Yes, a house of our own. A four bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house. A new palace for us to make our own. There will be more to come once we settle everything with it.

Here’s a teaser, we became interested in this house in January. We put in a bid in February. It’s a called a “short sale.” My suggestion is they (whoever they are that make up names for these sales) should change it to an ETERNITY SALE. It’s September right now, in case you all forgot. Yup, it’s September and we are still waiting. I’m totally not stressed over it. Nah, not at all. Totally okay with it. Ask Zach.

So dear readers, join me and Zach and as we say farewell to our 19th street palace. Join us as we take yet another step in our life long relationship. Help us say hello to our future home…hopefully….sooner rather than later…..love my parents dearly but we can’t live with them forever…….sorry mom.

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In the words of our niece, Sadie, “Buh bye! Buh, bye!!”

Try Again

You’ve all been with me on my emotional journey thus far this year. The blighted ovum miscarriage in January was jarring, but as the months have slipped away, I have become more in tune with my body and my feelings on the situation. But, just because you are coming to terms with one lesson, doesn’t mean life is done teaching you.

August 9th, I went out before Zach got home and I bought a pregnancy test. While waiting for Zach, I mulled it over in my head. The last week and a half the all too familiar pregnancy symptoms were creeping in. I tried to contain myself and convince myself I would get my period, it was just going to come late. I stashed it in the bathroom and talked myself out of taking it.

When Zach arrived home, I revealed to him the symptoms that had been increasing. He smiled that wonderful smile of his and told me to take a test if I wanted to verify my suspicions. His excitement fused with mine made me unable to wait. While we were watching TV, I snuck upstairs and took one.

Positive.

The instant joy and excitement that I remember experiencing in December surged through my veins. I looked at myself in the mirror and I smiled, but the longer I stared the more I could see the doubt in my eyes. I shook it away best I could and kept the smile steady as I went downstairs to show Zach. We embraced in a hug and laughed to ourselves with tears. I could not hide the feeling of uncertainty that lingered and I expressed it to Zach. He convinced me this time would be different. This time would be okay.

The next day I could hardly contain myself. We told my parents at their house and the following night we called Zach’s parents. That weekend we went to the shore and, rather than keep it from my brothers, which would be impossible for me, we planned on revealing the news down there. After the miscarriage in January, I had gone back and forth with what I would do when I got pregnant again. Should I hide it from my immediate family? Should I wait it out and not tell them until I get an ultrasound? Zach insisted we not do anything differently than before. He reminded me it is in our nature to share good news, so we were going to share with our families. Since the first miscarriage, I have made an effort to believe that we cannot let fear of the unknown dictate how we live our lives. It’s become a mantra of mine.

Our families were thrilled, as expected and it made us more excited to tell Zach’s sisters. We had a nice weekend at the shore and when Sunday rolled around so did the Sunday blues. We went to the beach that day with everyone. I was sitting in a chair catching some sun while watching the kids play with Zach in the water when I became overwhelmed. I began to cry, right there on the beach. My sunglasses and fedora masked my emotions, but I could not understand why it was happening. Is it my hormones? Am I being overdramatic because I don’t want the weekend to end? I excused myself from the beach and went back up to the house. I went inside and I searched around to make sure nobody was there. I sat on the living room floor and I cried. I was unsure of where it was coming from, but it came full force. After ten minutes or so had passed, I heard the back door open. I wiped my face and blew my nose. It was Zach. He asked me why I left the beach and I collapsed again. We went downstairs to the basement for privacy and I sobbed. I had no control over it. I was afraid. I was afraid of what was going to happen. I didn’t know what I would do if something went wrong again. He reassured me and comforted me the way he always does when I am down, which seems to be more often than not these last few months. Again, we hashed out my fears and Zach reassured me that no matter what it was going to be okay.

The day wore on and it was time for us to leave. I went upstairs to my mom to say goodbye. The waterworks began again. I sat in my parents’ room with them discussing my doubts. They too reassured me it’s going to be okay. My mom urged me to focus on the good things and to stop thinking about what could go wrong. I appreciated their advice, but it is so much easier said than done. The feeling of dread came from deep within me. It could not be shaken.

Monday afternoon I arrived home from work. I was very tired, so I took an hour nap to try to boost my energy before Zach got home. I woke up and I cried. I couldn’t stop crying. I was surprised I had any tears left from the day before. I paced the apartment, unable to settle myself. What was going on with me? I was pregnant, I should be happy. I shouldn’t be thinking negatively. I should be googling baby stuff and thinking of ways to tell all my extended family and friends when the time was right. When Zach got home, I collapsed again. That night I hardly slept.

Tuesday morning I felt different. The symptoms I had were gone and new, unwelcomed ones had arrived. Later that morning at my desk, my stomach began to cramp. I stared hard at the computer screen, willing myself to hold back the tears, attempting to hide my feelings from those around me. I went to the bathroom and faced my fears. I was spotting. I immediately texted my mom and she reassured me that spotting in the first trimester is common and I would probably be okay. My brother Brian texted me the same thing. “I’m sure you’ll be fine. This is normal. It could be implantation bleeding,” he said.

I threw my mind into work, trying to forget about it, but my body wasn’t letting me forget. The bleeding increased. I called my doctor and they said they could squeeze me in that afternoon. I called my mom and she told me she would come pick me up. The office was down the road from work, so I sat with my dad while I waited.

“I know what’s happening,” I said. “This isn’t good. I don’t feel right. I didn’t feel right this morning.” He tried to remain positive, but I couldn’t accept it. My body told me the day before. At least this time, I would be somewhat prepared.

I had texted Zach and told him to come back to the exam room when he arrived. I sat on the table in the room with my mom and I felt a strange calmness. I felt disconnected. I felt as though I was watching myself go through this rather than actually experiencing it. Zach arrived and stood in the corner of the room. It was the same room we were in when we found out about the first one.

The doctor did her exam and told me she saw nothing in the uterus. I was only 5 weeks, so seeing nothing shouldn’t be alarming. She then explained I needed to get labs drawn that day and then 48 hours later to measure my HCG level. If the level continued to go up, there was a tiny glimmer of hope this could turn out to be a normal pregnancy. If the level decreased, it meant I was miscarrying. I nodded and said thanks. Before the doctor had come in, my mom tried to prep me and told me to ask questions. I had no questions as to what was happening. As much as I wanted to hold on to the “tiny glimmer of hope” that this could go on to be a normal pregnancy, I couldn’t. I couldn’t lie to myself. My body wouldn’t let me.

The next few days were painful and exhausting. I took off work for two days, spent the afternoons with my mom and some of my family and the evenings with Zach. I napped a lot and ate way too many Yodels and Oreos. That weekend Zach’s family was in town. We spent an enjoyable and relaxing weekend with them.

Every day, Zach and I were surrounded by the people we love most. It was such a comfort to have them around and we so appreciate it, but at the same time that awful feeling of isolation crept up inside me. I felt different than everyone. I didn’t have the energy to be myself and the feeling of disappointment overtook me. I kept saying sorry. Sorry for not being myself, sorry for crying, sorry for being tired, sorry for once again letting them all down, especially Zach. Of course I was told I was being silly and to stop feeling that way, but I can’t. I can’t make those feelings go away. There are times I don’t have control over my feelings. Just like I don’t have control over these miscarriages. That’s one of the hardest aspects to handle, the reality of the lack of control I have over my what’s happening in my body.

Even though I am disheartened, the way I feel about this miscarriage is different. I felt better physically quicker and I am having an easier time emotionally. That’s not to say I haven’t broken down, but I am strangely more optimistic most days. After my lab results came back, the doctor called me and confirmed what I had thought. It was a chemical pregnancy, an early miscarriage, much different than the first one. She said it was so early that in these situations people don’t even know they’re miscarrying and they think it’s just a late period. If I hadn’t taken a test, I may not have known. I didn’t quite believe that, because I knew I was pregnant before I took the test. The symptoms were strong and I knew what they meant. The difference in the two was a comfort. I’d be more worried if it was two of the same thing. She told me she didn’t think that the first one caused this one. She explained that she can’t 100% guarantee this won’t happen again, but she honestly thinks that I’ll be okay. She assured me that I have youth on my side and it hasn’t even been a year of trying yet. She said women often have two of these and go on to have a healthy pregnancy. She reiterated once again, this is more common than people think.

She then went on to explain what it means for me going forward. In the past, once a woman had a 3rd miscarriage, that’s when worry would begin. In today’s world, with all the advancements in technology, women who have two miscarriages are opting to get blood work to see if there is a reason for them. She told me it was up to me what I wanted to do. I don’t know where the positivity came from, but I told her I wanted to keep trying. There is something in me that thinks a 3rd time could be the charm. I don’t want to go searching for a problem just yet when there might not even be one. Sometimes doctors do extensive lab work and still can’t find a reason for these things. My doctor sounded encouraging and agreed with my decision.

I think I am more okay with this one because of how it occurred. The first time was shocking. To go nine weeks thinking something is growing inside of you and get all the appropriate symptoms along the way, then to find out there is nothing in there, is just, I still can’t fully understand. I can’t figure out why my body didn’t react appropriately. This one though, I bled. My body naturally cleared everything out.

Having two miscarriages makes me feel like I’ve been given a special knowledge about what can go wrong in life. At least that’s my way of trying to think positively or give a reason for these. It’s not a knowledge anyone would ask for, but I was chosen to experience it. I am constantly searching for my purpose in this world, constantly reevaluating what it is I am supposed to be doing. I want to have a purpose and I want to make an impact. Maybe this is one of the things I am meant to do, I am meant to write about my experiences to help others. Even though it hurts, even though I can’t bring myself to understand it fully, maybe that’s why this is happening. Who knows though, right? Things happen in our lives and often we truly don’t know why, but we stick a reason to it to make ourselves feel better, to make ourselves okay with it. But in reality, we just don’t know.

I have to be at peace with the unknown. I struggle with the unknown. I have to be at peace with a “higher plan.” I’ve been struggling with faith and prayer since the first miscarriage. People keep telling me they’re praying for me and while the sentiment is greatly appreciated, some days I don’t think it’s worth it and that it doesn’t work. Then again, some days I have all the faith in the world. Saying these feelings are a roller coaster is not descriptive enough. It’s a loop de loop roller coaster, with sharp turns and tight curves that’s close to going off the rails on occasion. It’s a rollercoaster that would fail every safety inspection if it was actually built.

It’s been just over two weeks since I was at the doctor. Physically I am feeling well again. The human body heals and gets back into its own routine so quickly. My heart and mind however, I know they will take longer. They were getting back to normal and now they are faced with another loss, another disappointment. This time Zach and I as a couple are wiser and stronger, and we are more willing to understand. What will we do with this new wisdom, strength, and understanding? We will chin up and we will try again.

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Perspective

Working in an oncology office has been a soul opener. Is that a saying? I think it should be a saying. As a refresher for you all, in the last year, I have been primarily working as a patient navigator. We assist the patient in making any and all appointments they need, which I might add is a rare perk in a doctor’s office. Consultants in Medical Oncology and Hematology offers the best patient care. We’re nationally recognized in case you wanted to know.

Practice plugs aside, I can’t help but be affected by the conversations I have had with patients. It sounds cold of me to say, from time to time when it’s really busy, I get caught up in the hustle and bustle and don’t pay much attention to what they’re saying. I get frustrated like any office worker would and I need to remind myself who I am doing these tasks for. I am helping a sick person in need. When I remind myself of this, I am able to open myself to experiences. Just the other day I had one of those “put life in perspective moments.”

There’s a patient who I have become familiar with in the last year or so. He’s an older man. He’s pleasant when he sits at my desk and he’ll crack a joke or two. The other day he was telling me that he’s doing really well. I told him how awesome that was and he thanked me. He said, “You know how I deal with this? I laugh. What else can we do? We’ve got to smile and make light of some things. Since I’ve been diagnosed, I never wanted to be that guy that people say, ‘oh, here he comes, he’s going to talk about his cancer.’ I don’t whine about it. It’s something I’ve got to face. That’s life.” “It’s true,” I said. I nodded and smiled at him. “Take care of yourself sweetheart,” he said as he left.

The remainder of the week, that short conversation stuck with me, so much so that I felt the need to blog about it. What I took away from it was, we are not our struggles. How we handle our struggles, that’s who we are. No matter the weight of the struggle, remember to laugh. Remember to put effort into finding the joy in the mundane and in our interactions with others. As hard as it may be, we must face our battles head on. When we need help, ask for it. Wallowing in self-pity will only isolate us.

My miscarriage was a natural occurrence and, overall, I am a healthy, young person. This old man who has lived a lot more life than me, is now fighting to live it longer because of cancer. He can find the strength to laugh and fight his battle, so we should all be able to do it. I can be dramatic. Those closest to me will have no problem telling you that. At times, I have been known to dramatize the simplest hiccups and I know that’s a flaw I need to work on. Working on that can ultimately help me handle bigger bumps in the road, such as my miscarriage. The past seven months have been a lesson in learning to focus better on the good in my life. This patient reaffirmed my quest to be a more positive thinker even in times of distress. Occasionally, I need that kick in the right direction. Maybe some higher power knew I was struggling with something in my head that day and that patient came to me for a reason.

All of the patients that pass through are an inspiration to me and I am constantly reminded to life into perspective. They’re an inspiration in how to fight battles. Their determination and will can be applied to any struggle, both big and small.

 

The Bottom Bunk

Stone Harbor, NJ. It’s a ninety-minute drive, but it feels like a world away. There’s something about the salty smell of the air and the ocean breeze that awakens the soul. Time moves slower. All the worries and responsibilities of home are left behind. It’s true when they say life is better at the beach.

I’ve been coming to Stone Harbor for most of my life. Growing up, summers here lasted a lifetime. We had a routine of hitting the beach around 10am and staying till 5pm. Most nights we’d cookout on the deck and maybe go down to 96th street to shop. Mini-golf, the boardwalk, boat trips, we never had a dull afternoon. Each night we would lay our heads down and fall fast asleep dreaming of all the fun we had and of all the fun soon to come.

As a kid, one of my favorite things at the shore was my bunk bed. Probably still is one of my favorites. Growing up, Shane stayed in my room with me, even though he had a room down the hall with another set of bunk beds. I would sleep on the top bunk and he’d be on the bottom. We would laugh and laugh together before falling asleep. The topic of conversation mostly being complete nonsense about something we had seen on TV or something funny that happened at the beach. Or we talked about our crazy boat adventures like how we drove out to the ocean and Shane told my dad there was going to be a storm. Low and behold we ended up racing in a storm that afternoon. Shane always had a sixth sense for the weather.

The bunk beds served as a template for a fort where Shane and I and our cousins would hide out and tell scary stories and eat snacks. We’d hang a quilt down from the top bunk and put chairs under to prop it up. It was our special hangout and only the kids were allowed in.

As Shane got older, he wanted to sleep in his own room, which left my bottom bunk vacant some nights. Other nights it was filled with a friend of mine, or my aunt Clare, or a cousin, or our dog Nelly. As my older brothers grew up and started dating, my bottom bunk was reserved for whosever girlfriend was staying with us. There weren’t many, but I can remember a time or two going to sleep first when I shared a room with the ones I didn’t like, so I wouldn’t have to talk to them.

My current sister-in-law Shannon was a long time roommate. She was one I enjoyed talking to! We had so many laughs together before falling asleep. I think we shared a room for 7 or 8 years. I can remember we were chatting one night and she told me that she loved my brother. I felt so privileged to share girl talk with my older brother’s girlfriend. She and I became close friends because of those bunk beds.

One summer, she had the brilliant idea of purchasing the “clapper” so we wouldn’t have to get up to turn the light off. I am a big fan of devices that eliminate reasons to get out of bed. We unfortunately discovered the “clapper” isn’t as a great a tool as those commercials make it seem. That thing ended up in the trash.

No matter the guest, I always slept on the top bunk. My room my rules. I also had a slight fear of the top bunk falling on the bottom bunk, but anyway. After about 15 years, the original bunk beds grew old and we had to get new ones. These new ones have created the same kind of memories, but now my nieces and nephews use them. My niece Grace loves being able to sleep in “Kate’s room.” These days, I am a “grown up” now, or so I am told, so obviously I share a bed with my husband. While it is great to finally be able to share a bed with a boy under my parents’ roof, I do miss those bunk bed days sometimes.

Last Wednesday night, I snuck off to the shore for the night without Zach. I entered and the cutest little people tugged at me and urged me to play. I finished up dinner with everyone and then my parents and I took the kids to get ice cream, which was an adventure in itself. After arriving home from a successful ice cream binge, it was time for bed for the kids. Grace asked, “Will you sleep with me in your room?”

I got to be the inhabitant of the bottom bunk that night. The top bunk belonged to my niece and Goddaughter, Gracie girl. My brother told me, when he brought Grace up to bed, she told him to make sure to turn down the sheets on the bottom bunk, so it’d be ready for me when I came up. She also asked him to keep the door open. The thoughtfulness of her astounds me. She’s five and she has the heart the size of a person who has lived 100 years. When I went to sleep, I snuck in quietly as not to wake her. I brought my dog Nelly in with me and set up a quilt for her to sleep next to my bed. As I lay down, I smiled to myself. All the memories of the guests of the room flooded my mind. The late nights I spent with friends and family telling stories and laughing. And now here I was, with a new roommate. My oldest brother’s daughter. My Goddaughter. My friend.

At 7am, I got a wake up call. “Wake up! Wake up,” said a tiny, excited voice from above. My eyes rolled open and I saw the most perfect little face grinning back at me ready to face the day of fun. “Jump in here,” I said. She lay down with me just a few a minutes to tell me about her dreams. She dreamt she and I were mermaids and there were big fish jumping over us in the ocean. “Wow,” I said. “That sounds really cool.” I gave her a hug and relished in the moment with my niece. Moments like those are the ones to think back on when life doesn’t look bright. Those are the moments that make me realize how blessed I am to be able to watch my brothers’ families grow. I have lived in that room in the summers for over twenty-five years and new memories are still being made. I hope the room and bunk bed will serve her well the way they served me. I smiled and gave her an extra tight hug. She broke free, the excitement in her little body unable to be controlled.

“Let’s go! Let’s play,” she rejoiced. And off we went for a day of fun at the shore.

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To be honest

I feel like a hypocrite. I use this blog as an honest forum to share my life experiences. Although life is often hard, I continuously frame it in a positive light, no matter the situation. That is an admirable way to look at life and I have tried very hard most of my years to look at it that way. But doing that is harder than I have let on. I have lied to you all. I am human and sadness has been a present cloak in my wardrobe for the last couple months.

I saw some of my extended family this past weekend. A cousin of mine who I am close to asked me how I was doing. I told her I was fine, doing well, and I smiled. She then asked again, no, how are you doing? I knew what she meant. Not many people ask that anymore. The first few weeks after my miscarriage, the questions rolled in like breaths of air. Everyone I spoke with asked, “how are you doing?” Whether they wanted to know or whether they were just being nice, my answer was always I was okay.

She also asked me if I had been writing much. She and I both write and she expressed to me how she hadn’t been keeping up with it. I told her I hadn’t written many things worth reading lately, including my blog. I told her I felt blocked. I felt like I had nothing to say that people would want to read. She too admitted she hadn’t kept up with her blog and she expressed she didn’t know what to write either. This year marks three years since her father passed away, so she is all too familiar with loss. Her situation has more gravity than mine, but I felt comfort in expressing how hard it’s been. I felt comfort that we could speak freely to each other about how difficult growing up can be and how sad things happen to all of us when we we’re not ready for them. We hadn’t seen each other in over a year because she lives in London. It was such a comfort that even after a long period of time, we go back to where we left off and we can lean on one another.

She asked if I have thought about writing more about my experience and I said I didn’t think people wanted to read it anymore. She expressed how it’s hard to get a major loss out of your mind and we both agreed how it can be consuming. She encouraged me though and told me that she appreciated the blog post I wrote about my experience. Reflecting now, I regretfully did not give her the same encouragement. I know she’s reading now, so this goes out to you. Keep writing. Keep writing about how you feel and your experience with loss or happiness or whatever it is you have in your heart. We’ve got to keep sharing our stories.

So here I am again. Writing about the experience that has changed my life forever. I have reread the post I wrote in February a few times. There was a lot about hope and having a positive perspective. To quote myself, “The more time that passes the more I become comfortable with the fact that it’s okay that it’s taking me time to process all of this.”

While I still do believe in what I wrote, that was written only a few weeks after it happened. When you are fresh from a loss, you feel like you’ll be okay because it hasn’t fully set in yet and because that’s all anyone tells you. “It’ll be okay. Don’t worry.” But what else are they supposed to say?

I am four months out from that experience now and it’s not as easy as I claimed it would be. I’ve had lots of days where I am fine. I go through the day with a positive attitude and I feel like myself. Then I have random days where I think about it a lot. I think about the disappointment in myself. I think about how my own body fooled me. I think about how far along I’d be in the pregnancy if I was still pregnant. I think about how everyone is moving on with life and I feel stuck. I’ve cried a lot in the last few months. It comes on in waves and I break down and let the waves wash over me. I cry when I’m alone, which isn’t often. But when I am alone I am faced with my thoughts and I get sad. I get mad at myself for messing up my plan. I get mad at myself because I have been so blinded and so accustomed to things going my way. Who am I to have a perfect life? Did I expect nothing to ever go wrong? I get mad at myself for my ignorance.

This journey of grief has been hard but also enlightening. I have learned that I need to work on how I handle my grief. I have learned how to lean on others even though I think it’s silly for me to or I feel like I am wasting their time. I have learned to communicate better with my husband. I shouldn’t get mad at him or my loved ones because they don’t understand fully. I should be patient and explain myself to allow them to comfort me. I have my husband by my side forever, he already agreed to that. I need to allow myself to be open to him and stop these thoughts that I’ll bring him down if I talk about sad stuff. I am not weak if I feel sad. I am human.

When struggling with a loss, it’s important to continue to remind yourself you can be sad, that others will be there for you if you go to them. You can’t expect people to read your mind and know what you’re feeling. That is something that I naively expected. In my first post, I urged how important it is to talk about things that aren’t discussed much, such as miscarriages. And here I am now telling you how I became afraid to talk about it. People don’t know how you are feeling or what you are struggling with unless you tell them. Thank you to my cousin for the kick in the pants that I needed to start getting things out again. A simple conversation with someone who cares can give you the boost you need.

The more I write about this, the better I feel. The more I am able to comprehend why it happened. I have told myself that others don’t understand what I’m going through, but I think for a while there I didn’t fully understand.

 

Where Did You Go?

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 11.08.45 AM.pngWhere did you go?

Why did you leave?

I was preparing for you. We were preparing for you.

You were a special idea. The greatest we had ever had.

We talked about you a lot before we decided.

We talked about what it’d be like to have you, to hold you.

We talked about what to name you and what you would look like.

The idea of you was inspiring.

You brought us closer together.

You strengthened our love.

Science tells us you didn’t have much of a chance to grow.

But they’re wrong.

You grew in our hearts.

You grew in the hearts of our family and friends.

That is where you are destined to live.

And that’s okay.

Because I know we will always have you with us.

We love you.

 

 

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul”

On December 16th, we were preparing to go to the shore for an epic weekend. The final Sprandio was getting married. That Friday, I was packing up while Zach worked. He would be home at 12:30 and we would jet off for a weekend of fun.

In previous months, Zach and I had begun discussing the exciting prospect of having children. The day we were leaving for the shore, I was about a week late for my period. I had a pregnancy test stashed in the bathroom, so I thought what the hell. I’m probably not, but I’ll take it.

It said, “YES.”

I was pregnant! I began pacing around the apartment, jumping up and down. “Oh my God, oh my God.” I decided I would go to get two more tests just to be sure. I took … “YES” and “YES.” Oh my God. I could not contain myself. I took to my phone. I thought a million things: should I send Zach a picture of the tests, should I call him, should I run down to his office and scream from the street I’M PREGNANT!? The plan was for me to pack the car, pick him up, and go to the shore. It was 10:30. I had two hours to process the most exciting information ever. I texted him that he had to come home first because we needed to talk.

When he walked in, I had the pregnancy tests set out on the table. The look on his face when he saw them was one of pure, uninhibited joy. It is right in line with how he looked when he proposed and how he looked when we got married. As long as I live, those smiles will be etched in my memory. We cried and we hugged. We were going to be parents!

We kept the secret to ourselves all weekend, only discussing it when we were alone. Through the weekend events, I pretended to partake in drinking. Zach would announce, “Here is your rum and coke, Kate.” All the while I was drinking plain soda. We giggled to each other at our inside joke. It was fun that we were the only two who knew the secret.

The wedding was, of course, amazing and beautiful. The love between Shane and Nina was so evident. That love inspired every guest. Everyone was dancing. It was the perfect way to end an era of Sprandio weddings. Zach and I of course danced all night. In typical fashion, I ended up on the floor a few times. One of which involved a head thrashing air guitar session with my newest sister-in-law. I was drunk on life that night. I watched my baby brother get married, surrounded by family and our closest friends, and I was pregnant. Happy isn’t a strong enough word to describe how I felt.

A week later it was Christmas and we began sharing the news with our immediate families. The reactions were beautiful, everyone jumping up and down with excitement. Hugs, kisses, happy tears streaming down faces. This would be the seventh grandchild for my parents and the first grandchild for Zach’s parents. It was the perfect Christmas announcement.

As the weeks continued, my pregnancy symptoms began. Morning sickness struck me and I was on a diet of Gatorade, ginger ale, and peanut butter crackers. I was wiped out at the end of the day and I wasn’t sleeping well. Zach was of course an all star, cooking for us and getting whatever we needed. I felt that everything was progressing normally. People would say, “If you feel sick and tired, then everything is going right!” Ask Zach. I was definitely feeling sick and tired. But I tried to not let it get me down. My mom would say, “Just think, you might feel bad now, but you get a prize at the end of this! A wonderful, beautiful prize.”

On January 19th, we had our first doctor’s appointment. I was 10 weeks. The excitement and nervous energy between Zach and me was palpable. The doctor introduced herself and we went through the motions of a doctor’s visit. After the conversation, it was time for the ultrasound. I was lying on the exam table and Zach sat in a chair behind me. I bit my lip in anticipation, imagining how the little one would look. I watched the doctor as she surveyed the screen. I studied her face. It was stern and her brow was furrowed. My heart began to sink, something wasn’t right. She continued to move the ultrasound stick around.

“This doesn’t look like a normal pregnancy,” she uttered.

All I wanted to do was hold Zach, but I couldn’t leave the table. I was frozen. I stared forward in disbelief and faced this moment in front of me. I felt so alone in those few minutes. The doctor turned the screen towards us and showed us an empty womb. I didn’t understand. Of all the education I have had, of all the things I thought I knew about my own body and how it works, I didn’t understand. I didn’t want to understand. We went in there expecting to see our little baby that was supposed to be the size of a green olive and instead we saw a perfectly formed womb, with nothing in it.

“Okay,” I responded to the shocking news. My voice shook. Even though I couldn’t fully see Zach, I could feel him. I could feel his sadness.

The doctor explained the womb was at 10 weeks development, but the fertilized egg didn’t grow. She expressed how sorry she was and she told me to get dressed and meet in her office. I climbed off the table and Zach embraced me. Anger overcame me. “This is ridiculous. I want to get out of here. I don’t understand.” All the while, Zach gathered strength and held me telling me everything would be okay.

In her office, the doctor explained I had a blighted ovum miscarriage. The fertilized egg implanted in the uterus but it stopped growing in the early weeks. My body recognized there was a problem and took care of it. Meanwhile, I had no symptoms of a miscarriage. I had all the symptoms of pregnancy. All the expected physical changes were happening. Ten weeks of preparation and there was nothing in there. The house was being built but the tenant was not moving in. My own body duped me.

The doctor explained that this was common, that I should not feel alone in this. She stressed that this was not my fault. But how could I not think it was my fault? I was in charge of making sure it all went right, but it went wrong. This is what a woman’s body is made to do. Self-doubt and disappointment washed over me. I couldn’t help feeling stupid and completely responsible. How did I not feel that this went wrong so early? How did I not know that my own baby was not growing? Why did this happen to us?

She told us to go to the hospital to get an additional pelvic ultrasound done in case she was wrong. If the additional ultrasound confirmed her thoughts, she would schedule me for a procedure the following morning to remove the remaining pregnancy tissue. We went to the hospital and the tech did the ultrasound. The radiologist told us what we didn’t want to hear, but we knew we were going to.

“I’m sorry. This was a blighted ovum miscarriage. There is nothing in the womb.”

All we could do was cry. One of my brothers was nearby so he met us at the imaging center. He comforted us with his words and hugs. He ensured us that we would be okay. It was nice to hear, but at that moment I didn’t believe it. We got in the car and went to my parents’ house where we were comforted with hugs and kisses. Zach called his parents. The texts and calls began to flood in from family members. The love and support was endless.

We went home that night feeling defeated. Two of the happiest people in the world couldn’t smile. We held each other and talked through our feelings. We felt comfort in knowing we had one another and we had families that would support us.

The next day we went to the hospital, January 20th, the day of the presidential inauguration. I’m not about to get political here, but I could not believe two things: I could not believe who was becoming president and I could not believe I was watching it happen from a hospital bed. I wanted them to hurry up and sedate me so I could completely forget this horrible reality for at least an hour.

Thankfully all went well and I was in recovery before I knew it. I woke up and a nurse came by and told me to go back to sleep, but I didn’t want to. I sat there alone in my hospital gown, staring at the wall, an IV in my arm, drugs still affecting my brain. The nausea that made me sick just hours before was gone. That feeling that something was growing inside was gone. That excitement I felt just a few days before, euphoric excitement, had melted away. I didn’t feel pregnant anymore. I felt empty.

I could feel that my body had already started the process to heal itself. But my heart, my heart didn’t know what to do. My heart was experiencing something new. This was a different kind of loss than what it has experienced before, a different kind of sadness. I lost part of me. While this little part was only there for a very short period, it still made a lasting impression, an impression on me, on Zach, and everyone we told.

Zach and my mom came back to see me. One of my first questions was, “Is Trump president yet?” Zach said yes. I said I wanted to be put to sleep again. At least my sense of humor hadn’t left me.

These last few weeks have felt very long to me. While my body is getting back to its normal self, I am not my normal self yet. The more time that passes the more I become comfortable with the fact that it’s okay that it’s taking me time to process all of this. The other night I was sitting with Zach and I began to cry. “I don’t feel right. I’m supposed to start feeling better by now. I was feeling so good earlier this week, but today I feel bad.” He said, “Kate, it’s only been a few weeks. Give yourself some time. There’s no rush.”

He’s right. They say that time heals all wounds. But I feel like when something happens to women, they are hard on themselves if they are not back to normal right away. I have this feeling that I should get over it and move on to the next thing. Why do we make ourselves feel that way? Taking my time and being easy on myself is a new concept that I am just starting to grasp.

My sister-in-law told me she tried to explain to her kids what happened to me. Their response was, “Why did God do this?” What an excellent, smart question. Why did God do this? Unfortunately, we don’t know. This event has reinforced the lesson that life doesn’t go according to your plan. But, the important thing to remember is, there is a plan. You have to believe there is a plan. Bad things happen to good people and we don’t know why. What we do know and have control over is how we can handle the bad things. I could be a grouch and get depressed and shut myself off from those I love and seal all my hurt and pain inside. But I can’t do that. I don’t see a point in doing that. That only makes the hurt worse. I have found that talking to someone when you’re sad and sharing your story are good ways to heal yourself emotionally. One of the worst feelings, that I have felt, is feeling as though you are completely alone in a situation. You never know who you are going to affect with your story. Even if you think it’s not worth sharing, if you feel comfortable doing it, share. This world is filled with people who have stories to share. Chances are, somebody has gone through what you’re going through.

One feeling I had was maybe I shouldn’t have told all of my family as early as I did. I expressed this feeling to one of my brothers and he said, “Don’t ever regret that. That’s one of the great things about you and Zach as a couple. The two of you have a joy for life and you share that joy with everyone. Don’t ever regret sharing your joy.” He’s right. We do jump at the chance to share our joy with others. I struggled with if I should share this experience with my blog. After much thought, I decided I am so comfortable sharing my joy that I shouldn’t be afraid to share my sorrow. We all have joy and sorrow through our lives. Sorrow is nothing to be ashamed of. I am confident that I am not alone in this. I have so many who are willing to listen, willing to back me up, willing to love me.

Countless people have said to me, “I know how you feel. This happened to me.” I wonder if they ever had a chance to share their story. I wonder how they dealt with it.. I hope I can comfort them and anyone else who is going through this. My advice is to be strong and believe that you will be okay. This isn’t your fault. It’s nature and while we do not understand why it happens, we must have faith and believe it was for a reason.

I think I believe now more than I ever have. I believe we have experiences to make us stronger and to allow us to become more understanding, to allow us to see life from another perspective. To allow us to more fully appreciate what we do have and to never, never take it for granted. Sorrow, like joy, can bring us closer together. Zach and I have been fortunate enough to not have experience with personal sorrow in our relationship yet. Our tactic thus far has been to focus on the good we have in our lives. We will not forget what happened, but we will embrace it. It is part of our story now. We are trying to learn from it. We are letting it help us grow stronger and closer together.

The other day, a good friend of mine gave me a card. In it was a quote that has resonated with me:

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the songs without the words and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson

My wish is that my experience can give hope to others going through rough times. No matter what kind of sadness you are experiencing; please try to maintain hope that it will all be okay. Thank you to my family and dear friends for giving us hope.

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“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”-Lady Bird Johnson

Kate’s Marriage Tips

To celebrate our success of surviving one year of marriage, Zach and I jetted off to Cancun, Mexico for a long weekend in the beginning of December. It was a beautiful getaway and something I think we needed, just the two of us, away for the weekend, with time to laugh and reflect. A few days after we got back, I was on Facebook (surprise, surprise) and I saw a friend posted a picture of a list of tips from a 1950s home economics book. The tips were how to look after your husband. Read below:

Tips to look after your husband (1950s)

–Have Dinner Ready
Have dinner hot and on the table by the time your husband gets home. This is a way to let him know you’ve been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs.

–Prepare yourself
Give yourself 15 minutes of rest so you can be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup and put a ribbon in your hair. Be interesting.

–Clear away the clutter
Clear away the clutter and run a duster over everything.

–Prepare the children
Wash the children’s hands and faces and comb their hair. They are treasures and he wants them to play the part.

–Minimize all noise
Eliminate all noise, tell the children to be quiet, be happy to see him.

–Some don’ts:
Don’t greet him with problems or complaints, don’t complain if he’s late for dinner.

–Make him comfortable
Suggest he lie down or sit in a chair. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange a pillow for him, talk in a soothing voice.

–Listen to him
You may have a lot to tell him, but the moment of arrival is not the time.

–Make the evening his
Never complain if he doesn’t want to take you out to dinner or other entertainment. Understand his world of strain and pressure.

–The goal
Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can renew himself body and spirit.

I got a good laugh from reading this list. I literally LOL’d. Can you imagine telling women of today to follow these rules? After one year of marriage under my belt, I think I have the knowledge to adapt these rules for 2016.

Kate’s Tips for looking after your Husband – 2016

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–Have Dinner Ready
In today’s society, when both members of the household are working, it’s tough to get home and have dinner ready before the other gets home. If you are both coming home from a long day, share the responsibility of making dinner. I am no iron chef and can’t come up with many creative dishes. But Zach is good like that, so we often cook together. And by together I mean I say he let’s have this and he makes it. Don’t make it a burden on each other. Make a mutual decision as to what you want and share the duties. After a long day, something as ordinary as making dinner can seem like an annoying chore. If you can’t decide, then order out. In the beginning of the week, try to plan out what you think you might want to have and get the food in then. You could draw straws and whoever draws the short one makes dinner. Or take the long way home to ensure he gets home first so he starts dinner before you get there. Not saying I’ve ever done that…

–Prepare yourself and clear away clutter
If you arrive home before your husband, sure you can tidy up the house and make yourself look nice. That’s a fun surprise on occasion. But after wearing makeup all day and work clothes, it’s nice to feel like you can unwind. Throw on your favorite sweat pants and t-shirt. They shouldn’t expect you to be dressed to the nines all the time. That’s a great thing about being married, your spouse loves you even when you’ve given up and put on sweatpants.

–Prepare the children
If you have children and you’ve been home with them all day, let them shower their father with love when he arrives and you can sneak off and have chocolate and sit on the sofa. If you both work and the children have a babysitter or go to daycare, muster some energy and be excited to see your spawn. They’ve missed you all day. Let them run around in their diapers and throw their spaghetti around. Have a dance party after dinner.

–Minimize all noise? I say crank it up
I believe in an exciting homecoming. When your man walks in the door greet him with a smile and a hug. I know it’s hard to smile if you have had a stressful day. We’ve all had to force ourselves to leave work at work, but try to do just that. Leave work at work. Play some music while you make dinner or put on a recorded episode of something. No need for the home to be a somber environment. You want your spouse to be excited to walk in each night. They’ve been working all day and may have been hunting Pokémon on their travels home. Make coming home the highlight of their day and yours.

–The Don’ts? How about the dos
As for the don’ts they suggested, make those into dos. DO tell your spouse about your day. Complain about the crazy person down the hall who bothers you. Regale him with the tale of how you had toilet paper stuck to your shoe all afternoon or how you missed a booger that was hanging from your nose. Contrary to popular belief, he wants to hear this nonsense. At least he’ll act like he wants to hear the nonsense. But make sure to in turn listen to his problems and complaints. Marriage avenue is a two way street.


–Make him comfortable
Obviously you want your spouse to be comfortable when he arrives home. No need to remove his shoes for him and prepare him a drink though. He’s a big boy. He can do those things. Let him unwind and check his fantasy sports scores, but insist he give more time to reality. And what’s up with talking in a soothing voice? Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. If you don’t have a soothing voice, don’t change it.

–Listen to him and make the evening his
Yes, listen to him as I said above. He has problems just like you do, even if they seem insignificant. Like he tried to catch a Pichu on Pokémon but he ran away. That’s tough for him, so try to understand. But don’t make the evening his, make the evening both of yours. This is your time together after a long day.  Make a mutual effort to go out to dinner once and a while or go see a movie or show. Make sure you do things that you like to do such as go for a walk and talk about feelings. Or do things he likes to do like hunt Pokémon or watch a meaningless game that he has no affiliation to whatsoever but still insists he’s a huge fan.

–The Goal
In the 1950s, the ultimate goal was to “try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can renew himself body and spirit.” Fair point. But a home should not be somber as I said. It is not just HIS temple. It is both of yours. For me, the ultimate goal is try to make your home a place of joy and relaxation where both you, your husband, and any other creatures in the house, can be your wild and crazy selves.

Thankful

I’ve been thinking about the sentiment of thankfulness as the Thanksgiving holiday comes closer. Real original, I know. Particularly, this hot political climate has got me thinking about it. Yes, I am becoming one of those people who is going to preach about what’s going on right now. Bear with me, please.

Our country is clearly divided. We all know this. We are fighting with one another so badly it’s come to the point where people cannot discuss their political views civilly and to the point where going on Facebook is like opening up everyone’s diaries. I guess people have never been able to discuss political views civilly. You know what they say, never discuss politics or religion. But here we are. This time around it is so publicized it’s hard not to notice, considering all the social media platforms.

If you support one candidate you are this nasty word, if you support the other than you are this nasty word. There have been many nasty words passed around, especially by the candidates, unfortunately, one of whom was actually dubbed a “nasty woman.” And the other who is, well, just plain old nasty and he’s now our President. Anyway, I digress. I’m not going to write about who I was in favor of, that’s not what this is about.

Due to this election, families and friends have developed grudges towards one another and everyone and their mother (literally) is posting about it on the Internet, myself included. Yes, people are free to express their opinions. Freedom of speech is one of the great things about this country. I am currently putting my freedom of speech into action by writing this post. But it makes me sad that these opinions are so hostile, so hateful. It’s become clear to me that this hateful rhetoric has come about because people have been unhappy for a long time. The way to solve our unhappiness is not to spread hate. Didn’t we learn this when we were children? The solution is to speak calmly to one another and express our concerns. The solution is not to sit behind our computers and bash people through the Internet. The solution is to physically get out into the world and interact with others. We need to lean on one another to make this better. United we stand, divided we fall. This statement means so much right now and we will definitely fall if we continue down this path of divisiveness.

The day after the election, my sister-in-law Mary gave birth to a beautiful boy named Joseph. As I held Joseph in my arms, I watched his little nose twitch and listened to him grunt and make soft baby noises. There really is nothing more special than holding a newborn baby. It’s awe inspiring every time. I thought, wow, the night before I was watching slanderous election commercials and election coverage from multiple news sources. I was filled with all sorts of emotion, a lot of anger and confusion and, now, less than 24hours later, I was holding new life in my arms. The feeling of joy and love was bubbling inside me. How lucky is this baby, I thought to myself. Little Joseph is brand new. He has no preconceptions of this world. He doesn’t know the hate that has circulated in this country. How lucky is he that at this moment, all he knows is love. I looked around the room. Mary was in her bed smiling as John, Grace, and Leo hugged her and snuggled with her. My big brother was watching me hold Joseph, a smile so big on his face you would think it would crack. My parents and Mary’s parents sat nearby, proudly chatting about how beautiful their new grandson was. This was a room filled with love. The Beatles said it best when they sang, “all you need is love.” It’s so true! All this little baby needed to do was be there and he calmed us, made all of us smile, helped us forget about the craziness going on in the world. He spread so much love just by being himself. I felt so incredibly thankful, so thankful that I got to experience this again. So thankful that everyone was happy and healthy.

Joseph, without even knowing he did it, made me realize how maybe we have all forgotten how to be thankful. Sure the election didn’t go the way some of us thought it would and many people are scared and confused as to what we are as a country and what will happen to them, but let us be thankful that we have the freedom to choose our candidates. We have the freedom to fight for what we want our country to be. Let us be thankful we have air in our lungs, brains that allow us to think, and hearts that allow us to feel. But let us not let hate overtake our hearts. Let’s look at this in a way that allows us to reevaluate who we are as a country. I know this is easier said than done and others are struggling in more ways than I could ever imagine. I am living a charmed life thus far, and I really don’t have much of a right to preach on anything. But I truly think concentrating on what we are thankful for can guide us out of darkness and into light.

So here’s a thanks to baby Joseph and all the newborn babies out there. Thanks for sharing with us your innocence and love. Thanks for reminding us to be thankful.

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Age Doesn’t Matter, Unless You’re a Cheese

Ah, birthdays. The annual celebration we all have each year to remind us that we are getting old.

“Do you feel any different?” The age old question asked to most every year. As a younger person, I rolled my eyes at that question, but I began to ponder it recently. There are certain ages when, yes, one does physically feel different. When you turn one you start growing teeth, start walking, and talking. When you become a teenager, well we all know what happens to us in those magical years. From late teens to mid twenties things change, but not as noticeably. A body is always changing inside, but outwardly, late teens to early twenties seemed the same to me. I looked the same and felt the same. I could stay up late and wake up okay in the morning. I could party harder and still go for jogs the next morning. Detox jogs I called them in college. Sweat out the poison. I could eat junk food and not gain weight. I was able to pull all nighters and still function properly in class, depending on your definition of function. It was around my 25th birthday when I started noticing the mid to late twenties effects. It became slightly harder to recover from long nights out. My ability to eat excessive amounts of cheese fries began to wane. Having too much soda made my stomach hurt and actually started to keep me up at night.

26-28 the late twenties effects took more of a role in my life. It became evident some changes in my lifestyle were needed. I stopped eating Poptarts for breakfast and poptarts in the middle of the night. I started trying to drink more water instead of soda. I realized I needed to train better for races, and that I should sometimes refuse the things I so desired, such as the hot dog and cheese fries option on menus at restaurants. And as you are all well aware and I won’t let you forget, I changed my name at the age of 28.

This year I’ve turned 29, just in case you forgot what comes after 28. I have bittersweet feelings as I begin the year that marks the end of a decade. I had a pretty stellar decade. The late twenties effects are actively roaring in my 29th year. My knees crack a little more when I get up from a seated position. I look haggard in the morning if I stay up past midnight. In the morning for work, I can’t get ready in 10 minutes anymore. That of course doesn’t stop me from waking up later than I should. I keep my hair short because I know if it were long I’d never do it properly in the morning and because even though I am 29 I still have that teenage angsty attitude that I have to be different than everyone. On the weekends, I no longer have the desire to stand in a tight crowd in a small bar bouncing up and down to loud music for hours and hours. These days I’d rather sit at a bar in a semi-quiet area talking to friends or even sit in front of the TV with Zach, sip wine, and watch The Parent Trap OnDemand (that actually happened). Occasionally, the dance-a-thon outing that Zach and I are famous for is fun, but my body physically cannot keep up with my extravagant leg kicks, bizarre arm swinging, and my classic back bending air guitar moves EVERY weekend anymore.

I was at a wedding in the beginning of September for my friend Jess. There was a DJ at the after party and we danced like we were 17 again. At one point, I found myself in the middle of a dance circle. I did my classic air guitar move where I go down on my knees and lay all the way back while air guitaring. If you’ve been at a wedding with me, you’ve probably seen me do it and I’m sure you shook your head and said I can’t believe she’s doing that move again. Typically, I can get myself back up. Lying back on my legs, I put my hands in the air reaching for anyone and everyone waved their hands back, laughing. I shouted, “No really, I can’t get up.” Zach had to pull me to my feet. This was probably because the weekend before I was at a wedding for my friend Danielle and I did the same move more than once. If aging has taught me anything, it’s that I need to ration my air guitar moves.

At the end of September, we went to another wedding with some of my family. It was downtown near our apartment. The next day my sister-in-law said what’d you guys do last night? Did you go to the afterparty? Did you stay out late? She was probably expecting us to regale them with a classic Zach and Kate crazy night out tale. I replied, “We got a drink together after the reception then stocked up at Wawa and snacked the night away and watched the Steve Jobs movie at home.” Speaking of that movie, I am huge Apple fan and was rather disappointed with that movie.

A week ago I awoke in the middle of the night and my left big toe was throbbing. I ran to the bathroom in a scurry, trying not to wake Zach. I looked down and my toe was swollen and red. I resorted to my dad’s classic cure all, Motrin. In about a day, the toe returned to its normal size. Why? Who knows, but it’s fine now.

I think I am gracefully embracing the late twenties effects and adjusting certain quirks accordingly, even though in my mind I am still 24. Yes, I have accepted I’ll need to change my lifestyle with each passing year, but my heart is stubborn and refuses to move forward. I accept that it will stay a young twenty-something forever. Everyone is aware how I like to celebrate my own birthday and I think we should all do that. It’s not a depressing thing to turn one year older, it’s magnificent that we are lucky enough to be alive and able to lament together about the effects of aging. Ultimately, the key is to stay young at heart and keep reminding ourselves what Mark Twain once told us, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”