Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Reflection on the past and hopes for the future

Happy New Year!

It's been aaaages since I've written anything here, but let's not talk about that.

2015 is coming to an end and it's time for a little reflection. It's been a year of tremendous growth and change for me and while some of it was challenging and painful, overall it's been an incredible year. 

I discovered the local Buddhist centre via Facebook back in 2013 before I even moved to Preston but felt apprehensive about just walking in. But this past January I found they were doing a talk at a local health spa and took the opportunity to find out about it and that was when I met the lovely Pagpa, the man who would become my teacher and my friend. In May I became a vegetarian again (after 10 years) and I took my Refuge Vows, officially "becoming" Buddhist, which was not my intention at the beginning of the year!

I got to know my Instagram friend, Damon, much better and formed an incredible friendship with him. He's someone I admire and look up to and see as a positive influence in my life. I was fortunate enough to get to meet him in person over the summer when we both attended the summer Buddhist festival and I know that I've made a friend for life. I've not felt that way about many people.

I lost a lot of weight. A lot. I'd previously been a UK size 26/28 but started January at a size 20. By the summer I'd dropped to a 14 (US10) and it's felt amazing. That also ties into my running. For several years I attempted the Couch to 5k program and never succeeded. Until this year. And in September I ran my first 5k race (and didn't take last!) and felt so good about what I'd finally accomplished.

I finished my college course in Health & Social Care with a Distinction!

I got accepted to university and began my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing, officially becoming a Student Nurse.

I donated blood three times, potentially saving a total of nine lives. Totally worth giving up a few hours of my time and experiencing a little bit of discomfort.

I became a British citizen! I'm now a dual citizen of the UK and the US, putting me in a very privileged situation of holding two different passports.

I also learned to open up to people again and to talk about things. Something I had not done for a very long time.

And, I enjoyed a lot of very beautiful sunsets.

As 2016 is about to begin, I'm thinking about what I want to accomplish over the next year. I haven't set a lot of goals. Mostly I want to continue to grow spiritually, personally, and academically. I want to continue on this path that I've started and maintain happiness and a sense of inner peace as much as possible.

My other plans include:
  • Lose more weight
  • Run a 5k race
  • Run a 10k race
  • Run a half marathon (21k)
  • Run a sub 30 5k
  • Do the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge--23 miles (37km) in 12 hours over Yorkshires 3 highest peaks
  • Keep donating blood
  • Increase my Buddhist practice
  • Go abroad
  • Do more for others
  • And, I want to be able to do one of those amazing hand stands that I see all over Instagram so I have a lot of core strength training to do! :)
There were some low points this year. Some struggles. But I'm happy. I loved 2015. And I'm going to love 2016. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Losing my mom

My mom. Where do I start?

My mom was dieting my entire life. I think she was dieting most of her own life. She was a bit overweight from quite a young age and it seemed to get worse after she had my sister and me. She would go on a diet and lose weight, then gain it back and go on another diet, then gain back more, go another diet and gain back even more.

Finally, a few years ago, she was approved for Kaiser's gastric bypass program. Kaiser makes you work your way through a program to help improve the success rate. So you have regular meetings to discuss the surgery and you have classes you must attend about nutrition and life after the surgery. You are also required to lose a certain amount of weight (I think this is pretty standard) and be doing regular exercise.

Shortly after starting the program my mom developed a hernia. It got bad but the doctors said it would best to leave it until after the bypass and after some weight came off so that it wouldn't re-herniate. She was doing good with the program but as her last meeting approached she landed up in the hospital because her hernia had become really bad. She missed her last meeting because she was in the hospital so they suspended her surgery. She was gutted. She'd worked so hard for it and she was so close. She continued with the program but eventually her hernia got so bad that she couldn't manage the exercise anymore. She was in so much pain, and still working full time as a cook. She was in and out of the hospital on bowel rest due to the hernia.

To make a long story short, it came to the point that she felt stuck and she began to give up. The doctors wouldn't operate on the hernia until she had the gastric bypass and a significant amount of weight came off and the hernia surgery wasn't going to happen until she could manage the exercise Kaiser wanted her to do but the hernia was making it impossible.

At the end of May 2013 she ended up in the hospital due to her hernia again. I phoned her in the hospital as I always did and couldn't believe it when she told me the doctor had said she probably wasn't going to make it back out but that if she did, she'd end up there again and wouldn't make it out that time. I was in shock. They told her she was going to die because of a hernia?! Why weren't they operating? I couldn't get my head around it. I told her I was flying home as soon as I could. Meanwhile, my sister and I talked about trying to get her down to a hospital in Portland for a second opinion on the situation. My mom agreed but the doctor had a go at her saying "if" she could find someone willing to look at her they would just tell her the same thing. We contacted OHSU in Portland and they agreed to look at her case and asked for her files to be faxed to them. When my mom requested that the doctor do it he became angry with her and she told him to just forget it. When he left she told my sister she'd ask the next day when that doctor wasn't there.

But the next day I phoned the hospital to speak to my mom and instead was transferred to the nurses station. They told me my mom had gone into respiratory distress and was on a ventilator...things weren't looking good. They did an exploratory surgery (because NOW they decided to do something?) and discovered her small and large intestines were both beginning to die. They removed a portion of both. They also found that because she'd had the hernia for so long that the muscles in her abdominal wall had retracted and there had been nothing protecting her internal organs for quite some time. My mom was on life support and I didn't  know what to do with myself.  I was distraught and had to wait another day for my flight.

We arrived in America on Sunday, June 2nd. My mom was in surgery again when we arrived at the hospital. The surgeon came out with very grim news. Gangrene was rapidly spreading inside her. They had to removed the remainder of her large and small intestine as well as her uterus and ovaries. The surgeon said it had all died and gangrened and that he'd never seen anything like it. They had to cut away a large portion of skin from her abdomen to stop the infection. At this point they had no way of closing her up.

The surgeon said he'd do what he could to try to save my mom for as long as we wanted him to. I still don't understand how it went from her doctor on the ward telling her they weren't going to do anything for her and she was going to die, to being in ICU with a surgeon saying he'd do what he could to save her.

The situation was this: she no longer had any intestines or colon. She would never be able to eat again. She would need to be fed via IV. Her anus would be sewn shut. The end of her stomach would need to be rerouted to exit through a hole in her upper abdomen and into a bag that would need emptied into the toilet when it became too full. There would be a permanent central line entering her neck or upper chest to receive lipids. The liquids would all drain by pump so she'd have a bag and pump attached to her 24/7. Eventually that neck port would be moved due to scar tissue and then moved again and again. She would be highly prone to infection and there was a high chance it would kill her within three years.

Her life was going to be substantially shortened and it was going to be very low quality. This was all IF she survived the numerous surgeries it was going to require. She would also need to spend several months in a nursing home IF she survived all these surgeries. It was clear to me that the surgeon did not believe she would survive this.

My mom had always been vocal on this kind of thing and there was really no discussion. We all (my sisters, stepdad, and me) agreed straight away that she would not have voted for this option so we made the decision to let her go. It was one of the easiest decisions I've ever made and one of the hardest. I certainly did not make that decision for myself because all I wanted was my mom ALIVE. I wanted to hear her voice again, see her blue eyes again, hug her again... I would have taken any chance to have to have her back. But she wouldn't have wanted it.

I had never watched someone die before. I've heard loads of people talk about watching someone pass away. I even heard my own mom talk about my paternal grandfather pass away. I've heard people talking about how peaceful it is and how the person just takes one last breath and then they're gone. That is what I was expecting. That is not what happened.

No one prepared us for what we were about to see. When the nurses and doctors spoke with us they said they'd remove her from the ventilator and then allow us in. They said for some people it can take hours but that they suspected with her it would probably happen quite quickly. My sisters and I agreed to let my stepdad go in alone first as he said he didn't want to see her die. He just wanted to be with her for a few minutes first.

My stepdad waited outside her room while she was removed from life support and we all waited in the conference room. Suddenly a nurse came running in and said, "You'd better hurry!" We passed my stepdad on his way out, sobbing. We ran in and found my mom in her hospital bed, eyes wide open to the ceiling, gasping for air and making horrible noises. Her tongue was slightly protruding from her mouth and I thought I could see terror in her eyes. I was in such shock. I was not expecting her eyes to be open. I thought she'd look like she was passing away in her sleep. But this was not that. This was not peaceful. This was ugly. This was frightening.

After only a few minutes my older sister couldn't cope and her husband took her from the room. I heard her collapse onto the floor outside the door in sobs. My little sister and I stayed there with my mom and at some point, my dad's sister came into the room. From start to finish, it took about 15 minutes for my mom to take her last breath. She exhaled and then was silent. I placed my hand on her forehead and told her I loved her and she suddenly gasped one last time. My aunt said, "I think she's gone now," but I knew even though she was no longer breathing, she wasn't gone yet. So I asked her to let my sister and I be alone with her. We stayed with her, holding her hands, rubbing her arms and stroking her hair, telling her that it was okay to let go. We both kept staring at the heart monitor and at one point her heartbeat picked back up again. Those were the longest minutes of my life. Finally when it flat-lined I confirmed with the nurse that she was gone and the nurse left the room.

I took a tissue to clean the jelly gunk from around her eyes that they had put on when she was in a coma and I closed her eyes. Heather and I sat in chairs beside her bed in silence for awhile but her body was changing rapidly. Veins were showing up in her face and I told my sister that we should go.

I cried alone in the bathroom of motel room every night for the remainder of our trip while my husband and little boy slept. I couldn't sleep. Every time I closed my eyes I could see my mom in that bed, gasping for air with that look of terror in her eyes. I couldn't look myself in the eyes in the mirror because, while I always felt lucky to have her eyes, they were suddenly haunting me and taking me back to that moment.

It's been a little over a year now. I am coping now but obviously miss her very much. I think about her several times a day. She's in my dreams every night. But I know she's still around. I can feel her sometimes.

She was one of the few people who knew about this blog and read it. It feels very lonely here now.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

It's been a long, long time

A year and a half, to be precise, since I updated this blog. So much has happened. So much to write about.

My life changed forever a year ago when I lost my mom. That will get its own post one day...or several.

I've moved a couple of times, as I do.

I've been back home to America.

I've made the decision to return to university.

My little boy has gotten older.

It's hard to know where to start. But I'm back, and I will be starting. I need this space right now. I'm ready to write it down. I'm ready to share.

Monday, 31 December 2012

Oh, dear. It's been awhile.

I've failed big time at keeping up with this blog. I do not want to abandon it though! Life changed and I simply fell out of the habit.

We got the house we were wanting in Carlisle and we've been here for close to two months now. It's beautiful and I love it and the location. But... we're moving again. Unbelievable, right? We are renting a fairly expensive place but we had no idea how crazily high the utilities were going to be. Our first gas bill came and it was £200 for one month! Electric was nearly £100 for one month! It's just way too much money to be spending on utilities and is going to force us to redo our budget and cut our personal spending by more than we're willing to. So, as soon as the lease is up we'll be off to another home.

It's exhausting moving so often. This is my tenth place in seven years and we'll be off to the eleventh soon enough. I'm so over it. I really am.

 Now that I know I'll be leaving this place in a few months I feel like I'm in limbo and can't be bothered with any more decorating. I was all excited to get my Biorb aquarium up and running again once the Christmas tree came down but now I can't see the point in that until we move again. It's things like that that do my head in. The same thing that happened in Glasgow.

I'm going to miss the beautiful details in this Victorian house!

When we do move we're going to see if we can find a place that allows pets. We're considering getting a dog, which is CRAZY because my husband and I are NOT dog people! But, Isaac loves them and if he can't have a sibling to grow up with then the least we can do is give him a best friend to grow up with. We have a lot of research to do into finding the right breed for us and I'm quite nervous about it but I think it'll be good for him. 

I still can't believe I'm going to be looking for a new place to live so soon.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A Sudden Life Change

We've only been in Glasgow for two months but we're moving away.

It's bittersweet.

My husband wasn't sure he wanted to attend the University of Glasgow. It was going to be more work than the English university he was accepted into and the course would last a year longer, finishing in four years rather than three years as is standard in England. It would involve moving away from his family and starting over in a lot of ways.

But, it's one of the ancient universities and they have high standards for being accepted, so it was a big deal. We were both afraid that if he didn't go he would regret it. And, there would always be the opportunity to change to the other university if he didn't like it.

We both love Glasgow. We've really enjoyed our time here and we really enjoy living in a big city. But, the truth is, my husband was really beginning to doubt his choice to attend the university here. It wasn't just one or two things; it was a lot of things.

He's 32 years old and the majority of the students in his classes were 17 and 18 years old. Besides studying psychology (the subject he's getting a degree in)  he also had to choose two other subjects to study. In the English university you only ever study one subject. He couldn't find a third subject he was happy with (options were quite limited) and ended up with something he really didn't like. Not only this, but it was loads of extra work for subjects that were essentially pointless in his education. Add on several other issues and it was quickly becoming clear that he'd be happier at the English university.

So, he contacted them to see about getting an application in for next year. Because they were only two weeks into the semester they sent him an email and said they'd still consider him for this year.

So, in one day we made the decision to move back.

Last week was incredibly stressful. It involved staying in a hotel one night, driving back and forth between Cumbria and Glasgow several times, viewing houses, and working out how much money quitting our lease here early was going to cost.

We've found a beautiful Victorian house that has been converted into two places. It's very modern but is full of original features. It's so beautiful. The final checks are going through today and we should be able to sign the lease by the weekend. If the moving boxes I've ordered arrive in time, we could be moving this weekend.

I will miss Glasgow and I'm sad that I didn't get more time here. But, I'm also looking forward to being around my in-laws again and being back to where my friends are. It was a little bit lonely here but I'm good at lonely so it was never going to be a major issue. My sister-in-law just found out she's pregnant this week too, so being around for that will be really cool.

So, busy times ahead! But I am looking forward to the new house!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Creation Station

I've just discovered The Creation Station and I love it! They appear to have classes all over the UK and I found a local one to our part of Glasgow. I took Isaac yesterday for our first session to try it out. I'm used to taking him to loads of free things back in Carlisle run through Barnardo's and Sure Start so when I heard this was £5 per 45 minute session I thought to myself, "It better be good!" Well, it was and next week I'll be dropping £50 for 10 weeks.

It was held at a local church and run by a really nice, friendly woman. She was great with the kids and the adults as well, engaging us in conversation that never felt forced or uncomfortable during the session. I say that because I can be a bit awkward around people I don't know, especially being in a new city and a new country where I don't know anyone. So this helped me enjoy myself, too.

The session started with everyone sitting in a circle and making waves with a parachute and then lifting it up and pulling it down over us, like we used to do in P.E. as kids. I remember parachute days being the best! The session revolved around autumn leaves so a box of leaves collected from outside was dumped onto the parachute and we made them bounce around and fly all over.

Next we sat at tables and did chalk rubbings of leaves. Then we painted leaves to do prints on some construction paper. After that she passed out paper plates with the centers cut out and a hole punched in the top to make a wreath. We glued down leaves and were given other things to embellish them with (like confetti, pom poms and feathers). Lastly, we got to sprinkle some silver glitter on them.

And finally, she had some cardboard binoculars to put together and then decorate.

We were constantly doing something and it all moved along quickly so Isaac never got bored. I was impressed with all that was packed into that session.

Yesterday I got out a cotbed sheet and told Isaac it was our very own parachute. Daddy joined us and we made waves with it for awhile. Then we added different sizes and colors of pompom balls to bounce around on it. The joy he got out of that was awesome. Then he decided he wanted to be bounced on the parachute! So we very carefully gave him some rides in the sheet. I think it's his new favorite thing to do.

I can't wait to see what we're doing next week!

Friday, 5 October 2012

An update!

I currently have 12 drafts sitting on this blog. That means there have been 12 different times that I've sat down to write an entry and abandoned it before finishing.

Do you know why I suck at blogging? Because I'm lazy. Simple as that.

There won't be much for me to look back on if I don't write entries.

I'm not going to make any bloggy friends if I don't write entries.

So, I'm back at it!

Really, I am.

Like, I mean it this time.

I'm totally going to do it.

Monday, 17 September 2012


I have been feeling a lot better about what happened at the doctor's office last week. Isaac is bright, he's hitting all of his milestones and I just don't feel like anything is off. If there is some kind of abnormality, it must be extremely mild but I just really don't think there is. We went back to the doctor's office last week though to try to get his files from the specialist sent up  here so he can be referred to the hospital here as I had no luck with them on the phone. The receptionist was very short with me and just answered, "We don't do that," for any request I made. So,  hopefully our new GP is sorting it out for us.

I went to the Salvation Army auction for that ball chair. As soon as I was there I spotted this two guys and girl who were very hipster looking and I just knew they were there for that chair. Sure enough, they were after that chair and it was clear that they decided it was theirs and they were going to get it no matter how much it cost them. In the end they paid £330 for it! So, no ball chair for me.

I love that Salvation Army though. The amount of stuff that goes through there is unreal. The back of the store is right across from my window so I see the truckloads going in and out every day. Yesterday I popped in and found an Ikea laptop table that seems brand new for £5. I was looking at getting that very one so it was a lucky find. I also paid £2 for a brand new skirt with the tags still on it. Now I'm watching out for a small table to go inside the hallway by the front door.

My mom is going in for a major major surgery next month. She's really scared and it sucks that I can't be there. So I'm trying to put together a care package for her but with no food items as she'll be on a liquid diet for several weeks after. When you think about care packages they are usually stuffed with food so it's not easy trying to think of things to put in it. I'm going into the city tomorrow and will see if I can find some bits for it.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

My flat

I'm slowly working on getting our flat decorated. We're looking to order two pieces of art for our living room walls. I'm going to choose one and my husband is going to choose one. We've decided to try to find something from the DeviantArt shop so that we have something different from the same old stuff we keep seeing in the shops. Some of them are really expensive and after browsing the online shop on several different days I still haven't decided on anything yet. I'm waiting for something that really speaks to me.

We've got beige carpet and dark chocolate brown leather sofas. We're going to go with red as an accent color. The Salvation Army across the road from us is having an auction this week and this awesome white with red interior ball chair was in it!

I've wanted one of those chairs since I was a teenager so if I can get that it'll be like a little dream come true for me!  I don't know yet how much we'll have to spend on it but they average £500 brand new and it is in immaculate condition as far as I can tell. So, fingers crossed! I'd love to be curled up in there with my laptop.

I've also got this lovely 60 litre BiOrb that I get to put up. It sat in a closet at our last two places so I'm looking forward to getting it running again and finding some fish to go inside. I'm thinking maybe just some guppies because they're really colorful and it'll hold quite a few. I think Isaac might really like them. I'm hoping to try out some live plants for the first time, too.

 I'm really looking forward to getting this place completely set up. Most places we've lived I haven't bothered with getting stuff on the walls because of how often we move but most of the walls in this place have picture hooks on them already so I won't be doing any damage. I can't wait until my husband gets through university and grad school so we can look for a house to buy!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

So What! Wedensday {4}

This week I'm saying so what if...

  • I have been eating more than my planned calories the past few days. I've been feeling extra hungry.
  •  I didn't go out for  a walk the past two days aside from going to see the doctor and going to the corner shop.
  •  It's rained at some point every single day since we moved to Glasgow three weeks ago. EVERY DAY.
  • There is an awesome Salvation Army across the street from me that sells furniture for insanely cheap prices. I go there every day hoping to find some awesome random things to add to our flat.
  • I still haven't tried out the American cafe across the road. I had hopes of going there for breakfast a few times a week when my husband starts classes but it's a bit too expensive for that.
  • I'm still playing Minecraft. It's fun.
  • Moving house got me hooked on caffeine again because I was convinced it would help give me energy while packing.
  • I still haven't been shopping in the city centre. There is plenty of time.
  • I downloaded a hidden object game on my phone and it's been taking over my reading time before bed. Why are they so addictive?
  • I'm wearing mismatched socks, as per usual.
  •  It's 5pm and I haven't woken Little Man up from his nap. The peace and quiet is...well, peaceful and quiet.