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. “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.”

 

 

My Maine Summer Adventure

A few weeks ago, I embarked on another adventure with the Ells family. This year we visited Maine. I knew nothing about Maine, except for the fact that it is north of Philadelphia and it’s famous for lobster.

The journey began at Philadelphia airport. Zach and I had a 6:10 flight to Boston. We tried to carry our bags on but we were thwarted by security. Our bags were too big and needed to be checked. Let the record show I said they were too big but Zach insisted on carrying them on.

We got to the check-in kiosk and I decided to remove something from my backpack and put it in my luggage. Why? Because I’m an imbecile. We have matching rolley suitcases that my mom gave us for our wedding. They’re the same color, no distinction between the two. I thought I was wheeling mine. With the bag standing straight up, I pulled the zipper and stuffed the extra things in. I tried to zipper it back up with no luck.

“I think I broke it,” I said to Zach.

“Let me see it.”

Zach, being the problem solving engineer that he is, tried to solve the problem with which he was now faced. He tried for a few minutes, his face grew red, his brow furrowed. The zipper had won.

“Yeah, it’s broken,” he said.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry!”

He of course remained calm while I acted like the world was ending. The top of the bag had an opening big enough for any small thing to fall out of. What’s even worse, we discovered it was his bag.

“It’s just a zipper, no big deal. Let’s hope they have tape.”

We approached the check-in desk and thankfully they had packaging tape. We taped up Zach’s bag and continued on our way to Chickie’s and Pete’s where I lamented about my tragic bag incident as Zach laughed at me.

“Bad start for you on this vacation! What else could happen? You could cause our flight to be delayed, haha.”

Twenty minutes later Zach gets an alert on his phone, our flight was delayed over an hour and 40 minutes. Thankfully, the actual flight went on without a hitch and the remainder of our travel that night was a success.

Saturday in Amesbury we packed up three cars and headed to Maine. The drive was a few hours of which I mostly slept. A moving car is like a sleeping pill to me. Zach sang Taylor Swift to himself and took photos of me while I was sleeping. If you’d like to see that footage, you’ll have to ask him.

We arrived at a campsite in Acadia National Park. Note to reader, the last time I had been camping was with my family when I was very young. We “camped” out back of my aunt’s house. I remember waking up alone in my sleeping bag, wet. My single goal going into the Maine camping trip was to not wake up alone in a pee soaked sleeping bag. Spoiler alert, I did achieve that goal.

I had expected to be setting up the tent in the dirt, but this campsite had platforms. Zach and I set up our tent and secured all the equipment, so we were ready for four nights in the woods. The woods that happened to have a bathroom and shower just down the hill. This was my kind of camping. After setting up, we visited the water near us. It was a beautiful sound, but freezing and filled with giant crabs and hermit crabs. I resisted my slight urge to swim and we watched the crabs fight.

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The first night went well. I slept okay and we had a good breakfast the next morning courtesy of Mr. Ells. Camping really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Leading up to the trip, my brothers laughed at me saying I wouldn’t be able to handle hiking. As usual, I proved them wrong.

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The next day, we visited a trail that surrounded a lake and hiked a mountain called Beech Mountain.It was a beautiful 3 mile hike. It consisted of dirt paths and rocks, but a few parts had long rusted ladders with slim rungs that we had to climb. A bit scary, but I would soon find not the scariest thing I would encounter during the week.
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After a successful hike we went swimming in the lake, which to my delight was lukewarm. That night we retreated to our campsite, had a delicious dinner and slept as well as can be expected. Monday morning we arose at 4am. We took to our cars and traveled up Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunrise. Another beautiful sight! There were crowds of people covering the top of the mountain. Even though it was cloudy, the sun did not fail at giving us a good show. The remainder of the day was spent hiking around and we got ice cream sundaes as rewards.

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Cadillac Mountain sunrise. Elevation 1,529.

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Bubble Mountain 768 ft. above sea level

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Bubble rock. It’s been like that for over 2,000 years!

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Penobscot Mountain. Zach and I climbed this one ourselves. Elevation 1,181.

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Reward. Popover Sundae at Jordan Pond restaurant.

The roughest night of camping was when we had a thunderstorm. Our tent, which was an old tent Zach used during his Eagle Scout days, gave up on us and started leaking during the storm. Zach, being the devout Eagle Scout he is, made every attempt to stop the leaking. He frantically tried to patch things up while I sat covered in my sleeping bag laughing. We ran to one of the cars and stayed in there to wait out the storm. I told him he better remember I’m the best wife ever for not complaining.

On our way to town for dinner one night, we visited Thunder Hole, which is a neat rock formation on the ocean. It was low tide so we didn’t experience much thundering ocean, but we got to climb all over the rocks which was fun. Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.04.09 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.05.08 PM.png
After Thunder Hole we ate at a lobster place on the water in Bar Harbor. People have asked me since I got back, “Oh, you went to Maine! Did you get lobster?!” Let the record show, I went to Maine and I ate a burger. The rest of the family had seafood and I stayed true to my carnivorous ways. I did however try a piece of Zach’s lobster. It was tasty. He of course ordered the most intense meal, the “Lobster Experience.”

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Zach having a good experience with the Lobster Experience.

On Wednesday, our camping expedition and our time at Acadia Park was coming to an end. We decided to do the daunting Bee Hive trail before heading to our Cabin a few hours away. My legs were shaking during this one. “Falls on this mountain have resulted in serious injury and death.”

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We completed it!! Without any serious injury or death, thankfully!

After defeating the beehive, we packed up our camp and headed to Millinocket, Maine where we settled into a cabin on the lake. It was a lovely change from sleeping outside and we were able to enjoy the amenities that being in a house offers, such as a few rounds of Mario Kart. Yes, Zach brought our N64.Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.23.08 PM.png

Wednesday night we relaxed and watched TV as we discussed our adventure for the next day. We were going to take on Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park. Zach’s mom had heard about the trail from a friend. I googled it and looked at some pictures, it appeared to be rather manageable. It did note there was a narrow trail called the Knife’s Edge that we all decided not to tell Zach about because he often wants to do the most frightening things. He of course spotted it immediately on the trail map and urged us all we should do it, but we decided we would avoid it.

The following day began just like any other day, we woke up around 6:30, prepared our packs and hit the road. We arrived at the parking lot just under an hour later. We each took our turn in the outhouse. We were hiking into the wilderness, the only bathroom options were bushes. If you’ve never been in an outhouse, I’ll describe it in one succinct sentence, it’s like being in the scariest scene from a scary movie.

We began our journey at 7:30am, thinking we would complete it by 1pm and be home by the lake by 2pm. The first 3.3 mile jaunt brought us to Chimney Pond elevation 2,914.

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From Chimney pond, we checked in at the ranger’s station. “Do you have flashlights?” They asked. I laughed to myself, it’s 8am. It’s not like we’re going to be doing this all day long. We said we all had cell phones that had flashlight apps. “Okay, you’ll use your phones then your battery will die and what will you use to call 911 if you have an emergency?” She did bring up a good point, but how bad could it be? Seemed like a nice day out and this group consisted of intermediate hikers. We thanked them for their advice and headed for Saddle Trail. About a mile into it, I could tell this wasn’t going to be as easy as a hike as we had thought. We encountered rocks, a lot of rocks and on either side of us was pure wilderness. These paths were different than any we hiked before.

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We reached the top of Saddle trail, but we weren’t quite finished yet. We still had about a mile to go to reach the summit of Mount Katahdin. During our climb up Saddle trail, the weather began to change. The air became cooler, it began to rain, and my confidence waned. As we reached the top, it was foggy, raining, and at least 2o degrees colder than when we started. We sat and had lunch to refuel for the remainder of the adventure. At this point, I was a little scared, sort of tired, minorly lightheaded. But I and the rest of the group knew we must forge on.

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We devoured our peanut butter and fluff sandwiches, strapped on our packs, and moved on. The rain got harder, it felt like hail. The wind picked up and the fog was so thick you could barely see the people ahead of you. My feet were literally barking at me and my shirts were soaked through.Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 3.03.53 PM.pngThe rocks were loose and slippery. The team morale was low, but the desire to conquer the mountain urged us on. At this point, I think I was punch drunk. I was hopping from rock to rock, shaking my head as I climbed. I slipped a few times, but Zach was always nearby to make sure I didn’t completely wipe out. The group got separated through the fog, but we stuck to the buddy system so we each had our partner. Reaching the top was unreal. We had climbed summits earlier in the week and we had done it two years ago in Yosemite. Maybe it was the thick fog and rain, the elevation, or the rocky path, but when we got to the top I felt like we truly conquered a monster. Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.32.42 PM.png

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Zach at the beginning of the Knife’s edge trail. The fog was really bad that way.

We celebrated and took numerous photos, reveling in our accomplishment. But, as they say, what goes up, must come down. Leaving the summit seemed pretty quick. Not sure if it was the adrenaline from making it to the top that gave us the extra push or if we were coasting down because of the slippery rocks, but the mile down to Saddle trail went fast.The fog lifted and the rain stopped. We were able to turn around and see what we just did. When we were climbing it, we didn’t get to really see it because of the fog. It was like a new day and we had about another four hours of hiking ahead of us. We took it slow down Saddle Trail, making sure nobody twisted an ankle or broke a leg. We stuck together as a group, slowing down so others could catch up.

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Yup, the drop on the right side of the photo was our way down.

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We completed Katahdin in just about 9 hours. It was an 11 mile hike. In the words of Kathy Ells, “That was totally insane!” It was insane. It was an insanely cool experience. It was hard, but we did it. Growing up, I never hiked. I didn’t hike until I met Zach. It was always something I wanted to try, but I was never with people who were interested. Life is short and experiences like this are what make it enjoyable and fascinating. When I returned home, my family was amazed at what we had done. They all gushed, “Wasn’t it exhausting?!” It was. It was tiring and crazy, but it was worth it. Standing atop mountain peaks puts life into perspective. To be physically able to climb these rocks and admire the beauty of nature is a blessing. Zach’s mom promised our next family vacation would be more relaxing, possibly a beach. Sounds pretty good to me, but I’ll do another hiking adventure if everyone wants to. After conquering this, I’m game for anything.

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Gotta Catch em All

Two weeks ago was a defining moment in my relationship with Zach. We took an unusual step together and our lives have changed because of it. I know our marriage is still young, but we have already learned that in life you make decisions that may alter your current reality. Every marriage has these moments. This was our first one.

Yes, it’s exactly what you are thinking. We downloaded Pokémon Go.

Saturday afternoon we spent two hours roaming the streets of Philadelphia catching Pokémon. What is a Pokémon you say? If you are asking that, then you should stop reading and go back to the rock under which you currently reside.

When Zach told me about it, I thought it was a hilarious notion. Catching Pokémon in real time, this is awesome! I felt a warm blanket of nostalgia wrapped around me. I dabbled in Pokémon back in the day. I played the GameBoy game a little bit and I also loved Pokémon snap for N64. I am most familiar with Pokémon because of the coveted video game Super Smash Brothers, a game that Zach and I still frequently play on his N64. Yes, that’s right. My husband owns a working N64.

As I walked down the road staring at my phone screen more than usual, I realized what I was doing and the blanket of nostalgia grew hot. I am a 28-year-old married woman. Is this really what I am doing with my Saturday afternoon? Running around “catching” imaginary creatures?

I looked over at my husband who was grinning like a jack-o-lantern while he flicked his finger across his phone screen to capture a Doduo bird in the middle of 19th street. Right then, I decided, yes, this is what I am doing. This is hilarious.

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We continued on our adventure towards Rittenhouse Square Park. Here, we found many others like us. People between the ages of 15-35, shouted names of Pokémon and laughed as they attempted to catch them all. There must have been at least 50 people scattered about the park. Zach and I looked at our phone screens and quickly realized the park was a gym. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of the game, a gym is where you can train your Pokémon to get stronger and also have battles. If the team you are on owns the gym, you can train there. If it is the gym owned by an opposing team, you can fight to take over said gym. We made the discovery that we lived just a few blocks away from one of center city’s Pokémon hubs. How could we not join in this frenzy?

We circled the park and caught some more Pokémon, becoming more familiar with the game and gaining more experience points. Pidgey, Rattata, Squirtle, Seel, Staryu, are just a few of the Pokémon we encountered that afternoon. We only called it quits because we had to prepare dinner. We were having my brother and his fiancé over. When they arrived we gushed about our newfound obsession and had them playing with us through the night. We went to a bar and the waitress saw us laughing with our phones up, our fingers flicking at the screens as imaginary creatures danced on the table across from us. “Are you playing Pokémon Go?” She laughed as we said yes in unison.

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It sounds crazy, but the simple game has brought people together. There are groups of twenty-somethings wandering around the city laughing together. Zach and I have had funny conversations in our travels with random strangers. On the other hand, it is making us more attached to our phones than normal, which is a downside. It brings people together, but are we really socializing if we are standing in a group of people staring at our phones? I guess this is the way our world socializes now. Maybe the most important thing is people aren’t sitting alone in their houses glued to a TV. There have been reports about how people are trespassing because some of the Pokémon are located in no trespassing zones and you have to be within a certain distance of one to catch it. I also saw one report that a person used the app to lure another person to a certain area in order to rob them. No matter what, there will always be the guy who has to ruin it for people. Just like with anything there are “dangers” of playing and you need to be aware of all of your surroundings. That’s just common sense. Don’t blame an app for getting hit by a car. That’s your fault. Do we automatically forget the “look left, right, and left again” lesson we learned growing up? Come on people.

In the general idea of the game, it is fun. With the state of the world as it is right now, any game that can bring us together should be embraced. As of late, our society is disconnected. Maybe it will take augmented reality games to help us see our actual reality more clearly. We do have common interests, we do laugh at the same silly things. We all have an inner desire to catch em all.

It’s hilarious to me how much attention this app has garnered, especially hateful attention. There have been some angry posts about Pokémon Go players. People say it’s a waste of time and the people that play need to get a life. All apps and games could be considered a waste of time. It’s also a waste of time to construct a ten sentence status about how people are stupid for playing a silly game. This is just like any other fad. Let the Pokémon players have their fun for now until the next fad comes around the corner.

Until then, I’m gonna go catch em all.

Smile

We all know what our ultimate ending is. We wake up each day knowing this information. We go to work, we interact, we eat, we play, we laugh, we cry, and we go to sleep. For the most part, none of us think or speak about death on a normal basis. Some people only hear or read about it in the news and do not experience it much in their own lives. Sometimes I think the people who never encounter death are lucky. But are they? Are they lucky or is it beneficial to us to experience sadness at some point?

Every day I go to work and I am faced with life and death. As I’ve mentioned before, I work in an oncology office. I’ve blogged about this before, back in November 2013. I blogged about how working in the office has affected me. When I wrote that first blog, I had only been working there 2 months, now it’s been almost 3 years. I have hopped around to many different positions in my time at this office. This past fall though I started working mainly at the check-out desk. I used to fear the check-out desk! Check out is responsible for scheduling tests and follow-up appointments for patients. I think I was most afraid of messing something up or not knowing how to explain things to patients.

By the time they get to me, they’ve already gotten their news, whether good or bad. Every day is a lesson in how to react to people, how to comfort them, how to be kind and happy even when it is hard. Sometimes I want to cry for them, but I hold it in.

These people are undergoing treatment to save their lives. Some end up being cured, some get treatment to improve the quality of their lives, and some get treatment to help maintain a life long illness. Every day these patients with life threatening diseases wake up and actively know that there is a monster inside of them trying to destroy them. They wake up every day and they fight.

I was speaking with a patient the other day that I have known for a while now. I am familiar with both her and her husband. She is typically one to come out with a smile on her face, a bubbly personality despite the journey she is on. She sat down and I asked her how she was doing. That day she kept her head down and her husband answered most of my questions. I had to schedule a test for her to make sure the disease was not spreading.

“So when do you want to do the MRI?” I smiled as I often do, attempting to make the appointment making process easy and quick.

“I don’t want to do it, but if I have to, any day is fine,” she said and rolled her eyes.

I called the MRI department and set her up. I also gave her the time for her follow up appointment for the next week.

“Have a good week, okay?” I said. It can be hard to convey that I care without showing too much emotion. I don’t want them thinking I’m giving them an empty auto-generated “have a good week” response, but I also don’t want to cry in front of them.

“I promise I’ll smile more next week”, she said. “I’m sorry I’m so grumpy. I’m not one to let this get the best of me.”

I didn’t know what to say. I stared at her with a half smile on my face. Her husband caught my eye and smiled and said thank you. They continued on their way, to face another day of their journey.

I wake up every day, roll over and groan as I attempt to pull myself from bed. The first face I see is my husband’s. He smiles in his sleep. He’s always smiling. I on the other hand act like waking up in the morning is the end of the world. I drag myself to the shower and quickly prepare myself for the day because I am consistently running late. I drive to work in a huff, stuck in traffic almost every day.

Traffic and waking up early, these are the things that make me angry? Really? That’s pathetic. I roll over in the morning next to a smiling husband. I wake up every day free of pain and physically able to do whatever I want with this world.

That patient who is suffering from cancer and just got news that it might be spreading apologized for not smiling. That hit me. A lot of things have hit me since working in this office, especially since working at check-out, but that got to me that day. If anything, she has every right not to smile. She has every right to be angry with this world and whoever or whatever it is that decides our fates. She is allowed to frown all she wants. But she doesn’t. Why does she smile?

I see these people who are actively fighting for their lives and many of them are smiling and laughing. They tell jokes and they make the staff smile and laugh. How can they smile and laugh when they know what they know? They know there’s a good chance they won’t make it to their granddaughter’s fifth birthday party. There’s a good chance they won’t make it to their nephew’s wedding next year. But they keep smiling. I think they smile because they can. They smile because they are still breathing. They are still surviving. They smile because they are alive and when you are alive even if there are reasons to frown, you have to will yourself to keep smiling. Every day can be a struggle, but knowing that you still have that day to experience life is comforting. I hope that the staff is also part of the reasons they smile. I strongly believe our staff is a group of some of the nicest people I’ve met. I’ve seen every staff member go above and beyond for our patients.

Death scares me. I won’t hide that. Working in this environment has forced me to come to terms with a fear that I have always stuffed in the back of my mind. I have experienced family funerals as I have noted before in other posts. But it is easier to face death when it is not in your face every day.

This environment has not only opened my mind, but also my heart. Even those who are closer to death than I am are smiling. These patients that I encounter each day remind me that every day is a gift. No matter our situation in life, we all need to strive to find reasons to smile.

 

Never a Dull Moment

 

Hello earth, it’s been a while. I haven’t written in a few weeks, not for lack of content or inspiration, but for lack of concentration and motivation. I go through ebbs and flows of wanting to write my blog and teetering on the edge of giving it all up. Well, today I decided to keep it up for now. Hopefully you enjoy what I have to say.

I’ll start with my family updates, duh. There are a few life-altering events occurring in the house of Sprandio, one being the impending nuptials of my little brother Shane. Yes, you read that correctly, Shane Sprandio is getting MARRIED. That’s 4 Sprandio weddings in 4 years. My parents need to go on a very long trip after this one.

Yes, the youngest Sprandio is taking the plunge. Shane, the one who willingly spent hours playing Barbie with me and joined me in numerous tea parties, the kid who used to have a high-pitched voice and wear Toy Story boxers. That kid is getting married.

Shane and I have been buddies since we were little. I think I probably mentioned that in an earlier post, so pardon me if I seem repetitive. Just ask Zach. I repeat stories quite often. At least you guys only have to read my stories every few weeks! Looking back now, when we were little, Shane and I were similar to Pinky and the Brain. Remember them? I think you can guess who was who. I was taller and goofier, Shane was smaller and much more intelligent. Now he’s taller, and still much more intelligent.

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Shane has been and always will be one to do what he wants. He doesn’t jump in on things solely because everyone else is doing it, unlike his sister. An example is when I sign up to run a 5k (because a lot of people are doing it), I’ll say to Shane, “Hey, want to run a 5k with us?” His answer is, “Why? I don’t understand the point of that.” He doesn’t understand the point, he’s not interested, so he doesn’t partake. Another example is, “Shane, have another beer.” “No, thanks, I’m good.” “Oh, come on, stay out a little later.” And guess who would have the hangover in the morning.

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I greatly admire my little brother, especially now as I watch him grow into an adult. He left his comfort zone in Philadelphia and traveled across the country to pursue his dream of becoming a professor of history. He applied to other schools, but this one had exactly what he wanted. He went where he needed to go. He has a lot of courage. I couldn’t have traveled that far away from home to live on my own. It took me until marriage to be taken out of Chestnut Hill. Now I’m 30 minutes away in center city and I feel like that’s far.

His fiancé did a similar thing. She came to Philadelphia to study at Villanova. She didn’t know anyone and has no family here. Little did she know, she’d end up meeting her husband. Taking a big step and venturing out on your own can take you on an amazing path. Shane and Nina are proof of that. Their decisions to attend Villanova for grad school led them to each other. Their story is adorable. They had class together, they became best friends, and fell in love. Since getting to know the two of them as a couple, I have been reassured time and again that Shane has found himself a great match. Their independence and drive to pursue their dreams is admirable. I can be protective over Shane, whether he sees it or not. I am happy to say I am overjoyed for him and I am excited to see what the future brings for the two of them. They bring out the best in each other, and that’s all a sister could ask for her brother. A kind, intelligent woman who makes him happy and makes him want to be the best he can be. They are getting married this December. I say that’s a great month to get married. I’ll pretend that they were inspired by me.

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Another big event is happening about a month before Shane and Nina wed. John and Mary will welcome their fourth child. Yet another niece or nephew for me to spoil. You all know how crazy I am about my nieces and nephews. I can’t wait to see what this one will be like. It’s been hilarious and endearing watching John, Grace, Leo, and Sadie develop their personalities. This year is turning out similar to last year, a baby and a wedding on the way. Last year it was Brian and Shannon with the baby and me with the wedding, this year John and Mary with the baby and Shane with the wedding. Since there are no more Sprandio kids to marry off, I guess it’ll just be Sprandio babies from here on out.

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I’d like to take this moment to thank and congratulate the five individuals who have agreed to spend the rest of their lives with the Sprandio kids. Mary, Lesley, Shannon, Zach, and Nina, the five of you are the smartest people I know. I must say you picked some stellar spouses. You are also brave! We are a tight knit group and each of you has fit in perfectly. You all bring out the best in each of us. My brothers and I are blessed to have found such amazing partners for this crazy journey we call life. Thank you for choosing us.