Thursday, May 5, 2016

Living With a Spouse Who is Living With a Disability

This picture illustrates how I like to remember my husband, when he had spirit and was in decent health. Zach and I met in 2006, before he took his first decline. Once Upon a Time… we went places on the weekends, we had energy to spare and figuratively, the world was at our fingertips. My children have never known this person. My oldest daughter (Nina, age 8), remembers, at the most, a year or two of who her father was before the severe deterioration began. With the stresses she faces, I don’t believe she remembers that time anymore. As a family, we have been forced to explain the downward spiral of my husband’s health to my children. They are so young, yet they have come to understand that every day we have with their dad is blessed, no matter what activity or lack-thereof occurs.
I have been by Zach’s side every day since we met. In 2007, the symptoms of his illness started slowly with insomnia and sleep deprivation due to discomfort. It directly affected his job to the point that he was almost always late (more than once per week) due in part to sleep dread, anxiety, and pain. At the time, we didn’t understand; this was just the onset of the illness. In 2007, his primary doctor prescribed him Vicodin for his pain. Even with the medication his work was adversely affected. No matter how much he tried to wake up before his deadline, the fatigue caused by his condition interfered with his ability to perform required tasks. Zach went on to work until February 2008, when he was finally forced to resign his position under the threat of being terminated over his late appearances. Within a few months, I was able to locate a job in a climate more beneficial to his health, so we moved to Arizona in May 2008. At this point in time, Zach was barely able to be a stay-at-home parent.
From the start of my instructional design position at the University of Phoenix in Arizona, I had to acknowledge to my work colleagues and boss that my husband had a disability. At that time, it was essential because I would use my lunch break to go home to care for him and our daughter Nina. We were very lucky that our oldest daughter was obedient and independent. I would find him at least once a week, with our daughter preoccupied, still stiff in bed after I had completed an entire 8-hour work day. As his illness progressed, we noticed other side effects such as headaches and iritis. Some side effects, in part, were due to the multitude medications that he was prescribed. In 2009, the headaches became worse and we had to ask our family for help. My husband’s sister, Tessa Williams, came to stay with us for a month to help with watching our daughter because the migraines became so bad that Zach couldn’t be left to care for our daughter on his own. Since we had moved to a house farther away from my job, I was unable to come home and check in as often as I wanted to. Thankfully after some medication changes the migraines got better.
In 2010, Zach’s health took the most significant decline yet. This is when he could no longer care for himself. At the time I had to request my schedule be changed, so that I could take a 2-hour break midway through the day, to be able to go home and help. I started to go in at 6am, drive 30 minutes home, just to deliver his medicines to him. I had roughly an hour to help him take care of our daughter and then drive back to work. Even though this extended my work day, knowing that I delivered the medicine to my husband and had taken care of my daughter’s brunch, I felt a little less anxious about the situation.
In an effort to improve his quality of life, under the recommendation of his physician, he took on an increased risk for cancer by trying several types of injectable biologic medicines know as TNF inhibitors. Unfortunately, none of the injectable biologic medicines improved his condition. He began infusion treatment with remicade. When he began treatment with remicade, Zach received 3 starter infusions over the first 6 weeks—the first at the start of treatment, another 2-weeks later, and one more 4-weeks after that. After the first 3-treatments, he began maintenance dosing, which means he received an infusion once every 6-weeks (as recommended by his physician). Each infusion took 4-to-6 hours to administer and affected Zach’s ability to drive, therefore I was required to drive him both to-and-from the appointments. The remicade infusions helped Zach a lot when he first began the treatment. The infusion helped by reducing the number of days spent primarily in bed from approx. 15 to 10-12 out of 30 days on average. Zach continued the remicade infusion for approximately 18 months. This risky treatment only delayed the progression; it had no impact on daily pain or fatigue levels caused by inflammation. His body rejected the treatment after multiple attempts to reduce effects of the reaction.  His doctor insisted that he discontinue the infusions because the risk of systemic allergic reaction outweighed the benefits of treatment.
In December 2010, my supervisor left and I was assigned a new supervisor and he did not approve of my departure in the afternoon for more than an hour. So as we entered 2011, I had a great deal of anxiety over my husband’s health because I knew that management was not going to support my needs to care for my husband and daughter at a moment’s notice. I spent the next 2 years using all my vacation time (60 hours annually) in half day increments because I had to either go home to take my husband to his infusion appointments or to care for him.
In December 2012, my supervisor terminated me from my position at the University of Phoenix because I no longer had enough vacation time to use to care for Zach. In fact, several of the weeks leading up to being terminated, I had been forced to use unpaid time off in order to care for him. After losing this job, I was not able to regain full-time employment with benefits anywhere because of the amount of time required to care for Zach.
By 2013 and on, I could only participate in employment if it was only a few hours per day (teaching only one or two classes.) I was forced to take a position teaching part-time as an adjunct at Mesa Community College located at Red Mountain because it was only 6 miles from my house and in the event of an emergency, I could cancel class and be at home within minutes. All my other employment is online (work-from-home) contract based jobs. To support my family, I teach for three online colleges (University of Phoenix-online, Brookline College and Valley College.) I am required to complete “daily tasks”, but those “daily tasks” are not associated with a specific time. This unique and tedious schedule enables me to be present for Zach and our children’s needs.
At this point in the progression of Zach’s illness, I had become the receptionist, accountant, and immediate go-to-person for all of Zach’s health needs. This includes, but was not limited to: managing Zach’s medicines - I delivered his prescriptions to him twice per day at the necessary time. I renewed his prescriptions which involved driving to pick up paper prescriptions from the doctor’s office and multiple trips to the pharmacy.  I scheduled/transported him to all of his doctor appointments and necessary treatments (infusions). I completely managed our family financial obligations because any illness flare could interfere with paying a bill on time, so in this sense, I cannot depend on Zach for critical thinking tasks. I also managed our family health insurance, which was/is the Affordable Healthcare Act Marketplace. We are lucky that we have health insurance from the Marketplace, if it wasn’t for the Affordable Healthcare Act my husband would be considered “uninsurable” and the out-of-pocket costs would have already bankrupted our family. Managing my husband’s healthcare needs requires many hours of dedicated time, almost every week.
In the summer of 2014, my husband’s childhood friend, Paul Hrinda, came to live with us to help out with Zach’s declining health and to watch my children in my absence (even though it was only a few hours a day). Both Paul and I were able to alternate our schedules to accommodate having someone at home to care for Zach and the children 24/7.  Even though I was not able to return to full-time work, I was relieved to have someone at my house during the day time hours to watch my children.
So, after reading this – you are probably wondering does Zach ever have a good day? Yes, he does. Typically, 1-to-4 days per month, my husband is able to push through the pain. On these days (since they are so far and few between) my children often overwhelm their dad because they long to play with him and do fun activities. 
I wouldn’t wish this illness on even my worst enemy. In 2004, I lost my mom to terminal cancer. I watched her deteriorate in less than 3 months. At the time, I thought it was the most terrible way to die; To lose your life after battling every day, for just one more day. Now, when I reflect on that event, I realize my mom was lucky to live with a terminal illness for only three months. I have watched the person I love slowly deteriorate into a broken mess of daily prescriptions just to be able to be present a small portion of the day. I can’t shed this deep feeling that I can’t help Zach, other than to deliver his morning medicine to him, so that he might be physically able to get out of bed by at least the afternoon to spend time with his children.
This illness has become the dictator of our way of life. A lifestyle that involves me and another adult caring for my husband’s needs to ensure his survival. This is the sad truth of how we have lived for the past 3 years, moment-to-moment. Every morning, I take Zach his medicine, so he is able to get up physically by the afternoon. I teach one or two (on ground) classes and never leave my home for more than 2 hours, so that I can care for Zach and my children. I struggle to clean my house because it has been years since my husband was capable of doing so. It has been years since he has been able to cook, go shopping for groceries alone, drive any distance above 5 miles and even enjoy a hobby. All of these activities he once was able to do, are now out of the question for him. Zach can't go to the grocery store because he struggles with memory and concentration, due to excruciating pain. Even to get a couple items from the store, it is necessary for him to write them down entirely otherwise he forgets why he went to the store. He struggles to care for his personal hygiene, often only showering once a month. It is very difficult to maintain a conversation with Zach because he loses his train of thought so easily. I do laundry and fold it, because the bending and folding required is too much for him. If I let him try to do these regular chores it leaves him nearly bedridden for days.
I wish for better days, but based on the progression of Zach’s illness, I know I won’t see them. Each day, I pray and teach my children (pictured) to be thankful that their dad is still here even though he is debilitated by ankylosing spondylitis.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Transforming Your Life by Asking the Right Questions

Over the past few years, I've learned the value of asking the right questions. When students are preparing for my classroom presentations I often drill them with the appropriate questions so they come to the correct conclusions prior to presenting their information. Often these questions involve the transitions of ideas and how those ideas are presented to the audience. 
Sometimes what we ask is just as important as the answers we receive. So recently while I was searching for how to interpret some impeding events which could entirely change the way my family lives (and where we live). I came across an article about finding more meaning and connection in your life.  Additionally, this article suggests you ask yourself one question a day for 100 days and at the end of the 100 days your life will feel happier and you will feel as though you have grown.
So today, I hope to help my friends, family and readers by sharing these very useful 100 questions. Challenge yourself by asking a question to your soul each day for the next 100.
1. Where is my heart guiding me?
2. What do I need to say that others have left unspoken?
3. Are there any skills or talents I'm not utilizing?
4. What is my personal blind spot; what have I been unwilling to look at?
5. Where have I been worrying too much about what others think?
6. What new patterns and habits can I invite into my life?
7. Where have I been more focused on how I look, rather than how I feel?
8. What concerns am I willing to release?
9. What am I committed to changing?
10. What is my body craving?
11. What commitments to my self can I honor?
12. What new habit can I start?
13. How do I want to feel?
14. What signs have I been misinterpreting or ignoring?
15. What lessons am I learning right now?
16. Where can I surrender?
17. Where can I take responsibility for my outcome?
18. What challenges from my past can I celebrate overcoming?
19. Where can I ask for help, and who can I let in?
20. What expectations am I ready to release?
21. How is life asking me to grow right now?
22. How have I let fear dictate my actions?
23. What can I remove from my life?
24. What have I been avoiding out of fear?
25. Where can I show more of my true self?
26. What area of my life have I become disenchanted with, and what is that trying to tell me?
27. What has my intuition been trying to tell me?
28. Where do I feel broken? What steps will I take to release this internal pain?
29. What am I learning on the way to reaching my goal?
30. What did I love to do as a child that I can do today?
31. Where have I blocked myself from feeling?
32. Where have I been focusing too much on the outcome?
33. Where in my life do I feel forced to take action?
34. What current situation in my life have I been resisting?
35. In what ways can I appreciate myself more?
36. What flaw that I hide from others can I reveal?
37. What long-term success am I working to create?
38. What healthier habits can I start?
39. What can I do with my current limitations?
40. What dream have I ignored, but keeps coming back?
41. What situation in my life turned out to be a giant blessing in disguise?
42. Where have I been settling?
43. And what actions step can I take to raise my standards?
44. What is my fear trying to tell me?
45. In what ways can I be kinder to myself?
46. What have I given up on that still wants to be pursued?
47. Where have I been forcing myself to heal faster than what feels right?
48. How have I been cheating on my future by thinking thoughts of my past?
49. What "flaw" can I accept today?
50. Where have I been hesitating to take action?
51. What has the universe been asking me to release?
52. What past situation have I been romanticizing?
53. How has my past hurt my ability to move forward?
54 . What plan feels forced or like it no longer fits in my life? Can I let it go?
55. What emotion have I been hiding?
56. What are my instincts trying to tell me?
57. What does my ideal life look and feel like?
58. What area of my life can I take more of a leadership role in?
59. Where can I be more unapologetic about what brings me joy?
60. Where have I been playing it safe?
61. What action step can I take despite my insecurity or lack of confidence?
62. How am I standing in my own way?
63. What stories am I telling myself that are holding me back?
64. What do I feel most guilty about?
65. When do I feel most alive?
66. What have I denied myself that I really want?
68. What relationship am I not feeling the way I want to feel in?
69. What am I avoiding right now in my life?
70. What have I stopped doing that I want to start again?
71. What do I need to say but have not voiced?
72. How do I measure my success?
73. What barriers do I create that keep me from what I want?
74. What in my life am I forcing?
75. What have I denied myself that I really want?
76. What insecurity can I love today?
77. Can I consider a more fun-loving approach?
78. What project can I give new life to?
79. What is the silver lining of my current situation?
80. What relationship can I remove myself from?
81. What patterns keep repeating in my life, and what can I learn from them?
82. What drama can I disengage with?
83. What miracle have I recently witnessed?
84. How can I be more honest with those who are close to me?
85. What dream have I been ignoring?
86. What recent situation do I blame myself for?
87. Where can I stop second-guessing my own judgment?
88. What desire do I need to revisit?
89. Where have I allowed "no" to stop me?
90. What act of kindness can I do right now?
91. What promise can I keep to myself?
92. Where can I be more courageous with my heart?
93. Where can I be more understanding?
94. Where has scarcity or lack-based thought prevented me from doing what I love?
95. When I listen to my heart, what does it say?
96. What payoff is no longer pleasing me?
97. What action step can I take today that my future self will hug me for?
98. What change can I make today?
99. What little act of kindness can I do today?
100. What new beginning am I being guided to?
Asking yourself key questions is powerful way to cultivate more self-awareness and happiness. I hope you find these questions as beneficial as I have.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

As I Prepare for our Phoenix Departure

When we first moved to Phoenix... Zach and I told each other (and our families), that it was the 5-year plan. However, life got in the way...Much of the time we've spent here has been good. From the students and colleagues that have fostered friendships and networking opportunities with.To the years, I've spent learning the beautiful dance traditions of Hawaii and the sisterhood of ladies who have helped me become a better version of myself.
The births of my two youngest daughters’ Zhenna and Fiona. The love my family has fostered for festival season in the beautiful sunshine weather during the months of February through April. To the friends I have made through learning and practicing Buddhism.
There have also been disappointments and sad times. When I was let go from my full-time job. The horrible car accident I was in 4 years ago. The time I’ve spent in the hospital for all the gastric issues I have dealt with.

Any way I look at it, I have grown as a mother, as an educator, as a friend, but most importantly as a
person. However, just as all good stories must come to an end, so must our time here.
My husband has been waiting 4 years for a disability hearing and it has finally been scheduled for May 2016. Whether that hearing finally puts our family back on track, or whether it becomes a disappointment is truly out of our hands at this point. Additionally, Nina will finish 3rd grade in May. So, all signs point to packing up our home and renting out our house, as we return to Pennsylvania.

We have missed our family and friends very deeply for a long time, but it is truly a bittersweet time none-the-less. However, many of the career opportunities we moved here for have been gone for some time.

So it is with some solace, I pack our belongings and the treasures we've acquired in the 8 years we've called Phoenix our home. I am still looking forward to new adventures in my future. The application of the lessons I've learned here, to where those lessons will lead us when we return to our home will be a worthwhile venture.

Thank you if you have been part of our Phoenix journey, we will remember these years fondly. Also, thank you to our friends and family that will be taking us back with open arms, as we start our next adventure.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Reflecting on Life and Accepting Change

It is less than often that I find time alone to myself to be able to think clearly and write. Having three children has taken its toll on my free time. So when I do get blessed with an hour to think to myself I try to really work through the week's (or month's events) with clarity and some overthinking.
We all lose our direction or way in our journey, even now and then no matter the optimist, everyone experiences bad days (or weeks, or months). I try to keep my eyes on the prize, which is not easy, because "happiness" is easily defined but not so easily attained.
When I lost my full-time job, approximately 3 years ago (2012). We tried to react rationally, because that's all you can do when your faced with heartbreak and sadness. You do your best to react to the events around you appropriately, then learn to grow from that experience.
But what do you do as war, hatred, poverty, greed, and negatively creep under your doorstep? For me, I try to recognize that this is just part of life's challenges and accept that the change is part of the lesson to be learned. 
One of the best communicators I've ever researched, William Ury, discusses how many of us are constantly waiting for our turn to talk rather than, listening to those who are speaking. As humans, we are reaction machines. We are ready, set, and go to speak about the things we are passionate about both intelligently and unintelligently. Yet, we often failure to actually put action where our mouth is. This is how we all lose, when you stop communicating with those around you, they can't help what they don't know or see.
But what do you do when the message or reality is hard to face? How do you preserve your dignity when your disappointed? How do you discuss what is hard to say?
In 2008, I moved my family to Arizona for an amazing job opportunity and a chance at a 'supposed' good 5 year plan. Well, 8 years later I find myself disappointed because the plan didn't work out. As I mentioned above when I lost that full-time job, our family reacted as best we could. I continued to work upwards of 6 part-time jobs to try to maintain the dream we originally had. I also tried to save face by not accepting defeat. Yet, each year after 2012, I watched my income become less and less and our struggles grew and grew. It was often, our family suggested we move back.
Why did we stay? One reason was because my husband was waiting in the neverending line to have a hearing for his disability and I had made a good life for us here. We are happy, and isn't that the most important? But the more I look at the things I have, the more I see the things I'm missing.
I joined an amazing hula hulau and have made friends with some of the nicest, most inspiring women I've ever met in my life. They became my ohana. I also  love my on ground part-time teaching job (even though it doesn't quite pay the bills). I love the students I've met over the years, and those that have become lifelong friends.
But, all good things must come to an end because otherwise how would they become fond memories?
As we approach my husband's eminent disability hearing, we have realized that no matter it's result - our 5 year (now 8 year plan) has ended and it's time to make the next 5-year plan.
Taking into account, the things we miss the most - it's become obvious that it is time to return to our home state of Pennsylvania. This decision was hard, but the one thing we have missed in our lives the most, has been the presence of family.
Despite our best efforts, it seems most obvious that the right direction to turn is to run towards the arms that have been open all along.
As much as I wish this decision was easy to come to, I've found myself grieving for the life I've come to know. I love the life we've built, I've had two children during that 8 years here and I grieve the loss of my hobbies. While here, I enriched my life by bringing faith back into it. I know that faith won't fit in as well back home. I've grown to love dancing with my hula sisters and I'm grateful of the lifelong friendships (ohana) I've made.
Where we ultimately end up is hard to say, a lot of that hinges on whether my husband has success with his disability hearing.
However, as I sit here weighing out our future I know a few things to be true. When I left Pennsylvania at the age of 25 with my eldest daughter and husband, we didn't know much but we had love. I know we will leave Arizona the same way, with 3 beautiful girls and love will still be guiding us.
And isn't that what it is all really about anyway, love and self-made happiness?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fiona's Birth Story

I was scheduled to be induced on Sunday, July 12th at 11pm at night due to health issues.

I came to the hospital, was dialated to 2cm but no contractions. I was given pitocin and around 2:30am had only progressed to 3cm.

Shortly thereafter, my dr decided to break my water to try to get things moving along. Having had 2 prior daughters' born in 4 hours or less labor time (unmedicated births) one can imagine by 4:30am, I was absolutely exhausted and gave in to receiving the epidural.

I was checked and still had only progressed to 6cm by 8am. After receiving the epidural, things were really different - I did not feel the pain of contractions at all.

At 8:30am I was overcome with the pressure that I needed to push. The nurse thought I was joking, so she checked me and I had gone from 6 cm to 10 cm in minutes.

The one nurse raced to get my dr and the other prepared the room and placed me in the stir-ups. My dr came in and in 2 pushes she was out.

Fiona T Williams was born at 8:39am, weighing 7lbs 1oz on July 13th, 2015. My longest pregnancy, largest baby and she completes our family.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Life is What Happens When Your Planning for the Future

Yesterday I got fresh strawberries and today I got an angel food cake and we met our family friends at their camper. Jim and Mildred Meeker have been friends with my parents since my mom and dad first moved into their first home. Sadly, that home was taken away during a tornado in May 1985.

However, my parents spent over a decade as next door neighbors to the Meekers'. But let me say, even when the Meekers' weren't our next door neighbors, they were close to our hearts. I remember visiting Gayle Pratt & her family when they lived in Florida.

I remember my mom crying when she found out they weren't going to be our next door neighbors and were moving to Colorado. But that didn't mean they didn't spend years together as neighbors and friends. Tonight, Jim and Mildred shared with me memories I had heard, some old stories I hadn't and reminded me how simple life once was. When sitting out back on my deck with my mom happened. 

Mildred told me about her last phone call with my mom, "My mom told her, Mildred, I don't regret not ever getting to Hawaii. Honestly, I can't think of living my life any differently than I have. I have enjoyed every meal, every moment, and I've learned something new everyday. My only regret is to not get to see Jennifer finished her Masters degree." My mom never once said this to me.

The thing is, when my mom got diagnosed with only 3 months to live. I had just finished my first Masters level course which I took in the summer of 2004. I remember coming home that Friday, my mom had gone to the doctor on Thursday because she thought her sciatic nerve was bothering her. They got a call in the afternoon Thursday (after my mom's early morning appointment) and the doctor requested my mom to return to her office. She needed to order additional tests right away. According to my dad, my mom just said to the nurse, "just tell me the diagnosis, my nerves can't wait until tomorrow." The nurse said she couldn't say for sure. My mom insisted to speak to the doctor on the phone, the doctor did actually come to the phone (knowing my mom's anxious personality) and said, "I'm sorry its terminal cancer Nancy, but we can talk about options." My mom returned to her office that Friday, to learn she only had three months. My parents decided not to tell me on Thursday because they knew I had the final and they didn't want to affect my grades.

When I came home Friday to say I got an A, they met me in the living room with this life altering news. My mom said she didn't expect me to attend school (first time ever in my life had she said that) but I was so stunted I didn't know what else to do but to continue as planned. So I did, I took on full-time school and work as I always had. But I never knew my mom thought I would make it. I mean, I realize that is what she hoped for but from the moment of diagnosis, she treated me as though - I didn't have to earn her love in any way.  But what she had always taught me was school should come first. I don't regret getting my masters degree, I can't say I even regret not being by my mom's side every moment of that 3 1/2 months she had.  What I regret is not having her here now to share in these moments, not being able to really explain what an amazing person she really was.

I've been crying for a little while now, trying to work things out in my head. How my mom could've just known I would finish my masters degree or how you never really know when its the last time you may see someone. What I am grateful for is every moment I get to share and I am going to be more grateful moving forward. I'm reminded why I love the words carpe diem (seize the day) because life really is what happens while you are planning for the future.

Monday, December 30, 2013

To Gina, my Best Friend

(To crowd) I’d like to thank everyone in attendance tonight. I am the matron of honor and my name is Jennifer. I’ve known Gina since she was 16. We both worked at Serafini’s restaurant and started our first week together. Even though we had different jobs, we clicked as friends right away.  Gina is crazy awesome and we have always shared spontaneous fun together. 

(To Gina) In fact, you are the only person I can carry on multiple simultaneous conversations with.

(To crowd) I cannot say there is one particular funny story or heartfelt moment - I could share with you that would accurately depict how much I love Gina as my best friend. She is more than my best friend.

(To Gina) You are the sister I never had. I remember the vow we made one night while working late at Serafini’s… that if we weren’t married by the time you turned 30, we were just both going to move to Ft Myers Florida, buy a condo and become cougars. I am sort of glad we didn’t have to do that.

(Face crowd) I tried to think of one event that has defined our friendship and I just couldn’t. It’s far beyond a friend who answers the phone in the middle of the night.  Gina is the only friend I could ever rely on, even if it meant her explaining to her mom why there was an extra car door in their garage, which resembles Jen’s car.  There hasn’t been a moment that Gina hasn’t had my best interests in mind. (Pause, give Gina love sign)

(Face crowd) She voluntarily attended my lengthy graduate thesis presentation to support my attaining a master’s degree.  I feel blessed to call her the Godmother of my two daughters’ including Nina who was the flower girl this special evening. 

(To the Cooks) I feel blessed to know her parents, Leslie and George.  Gina is the only friend I shared a vacation with during my youth. Her parents graciously invited me to join them on their vacation in Fort Meyers one year.  I fondly remember us renting small scooters and getting stuck because we tried to drive through sand. 

(To Gina) I also fondly remember when we rented the 4-wheel pedal driven cart because I wanted to take Lara, my ten pound Shih-Tzu puppy, for a ride around the peninsula.

(To crowd) Gina is the only genuine friend I have had through what I would call the most challenging years of my life including losing my mom to cancer.  Gina accompanied me to my daughter Nina’s first Christmas Eve mass in 2007.

(To Gina) Gina, We have both laughed together, cried together and spent countless sleepless nights doing so.  I am beyond grateful to be part of your life and your wedding party tonight. I would travel to another country just to share this beautiful moment with you.

(To Steve) Steve, I’ve known you since you both met and you are both just the perfect match for each other with all of the crazy awesome spontaneous fun.  There is really no one more perfect for Gina.

(To crowd) I want to wish the bride and groom a long happy marriage, let us all raise our glasses to them both because tonight has truly been a wonderful New Year’s eve that I know most of us won’t forget anytime soon. Best wishes to you both.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Zhenna Lee Williams is born <3

Birth story: I had been in early labor since Saturday, October 5th at around 8pm at night when the hospital sent me home and tried giving me a shot of morphine and ambien (glad I declined otherwise this story would have not ended the same).

I woke up Monday, October 7th early morning and I was groaning and rolling around on... 

I get in the tub because it was so intense, I look down and five huge blood clots float by, I get out of the tub and I'm panicking (Zach was awoke by me yelling) he tells me to call the doctor, he didn't want to go back to the hospital over a little blood. So to prove to the hospital they should care, I put on one of the adult diapers. (Good thing for my carpet...)

I wait for the on call doctor to call me back, I tell him contractions are two minutes or less apart, but with the low lying placenta I'm worried because I'm bleeding like a period. He suggests to go to the hospital or his office. Zach and I discuss going to the hospital, me missing work, all to be sent home again.  Zach proceeds to take the dogs outside and within 5 minutes everything went from tolerable to intolerable fast.

I tell Zach that he needs drive me to the college so I can direct my students for my 9am class. He says to me, "you are yelling... How are you going to teach a class? We are going to the hospital, try calling Sally to come get Nina."

I call my friend, Sally, she answers with "are you in labor? I haven't slept all night and I've been dreaming about you in labor, at one point I delivered the baby?!?!" I'm having trouble formulating sentences (without yelling at this point) so I say I'm bleeding, so yes I'm going to the hospital.
I wasn't off the phone 3 seconds and I have this massive contraction (I'm screaming bloody murder, takes me from standing to my knees and it’s followed by two coughs while simultaneously two gushes)... My water had broke… labor was already going on very fast now.

Zach comes in and I'm screaming "we need to go my waters gone... It wasn’t a little either, it was a huge gush of water and blood. If we aren't at the hospital ASAP you will be delivering a baby in the car." (Thankful for that diaper.) So he's on the move, we make it outside Sally arrives running into the house and we go. 
Frankly the 20-min drive felt like eternity... I was screaming bloody murder the whole way. Zach keeps telling me to breathe. (He did like 100 the whole way, shared that after... Even commented I knew you weren't cohesive or you would have been pissed. But I did not want that baby coming out in the car.)

Arrive at the hospital 
So they force me into this dinky children's wheelchair (no adult size?) and are wheeling me up stat. I'm screaming the whole way and Zach says to the nurse, "yeah you want to take the short cut... She isn't a screamer, normally..." By this point my legs are buckling and I'm crying for an epidural.

Nurse says she has to check my cervix and I'm still demanding an epidural... Nurse says I'm 9cm and she says the epidural specialist is in an ER c-section ... So there’s no I'm almost done anyway. I was so mad. They run to call my midwife.

I'm screaming I want an epidural, my midwife rushes in and checks me "girl you are already at 10cm you are having a baby there is NO time... YOU can do this!" 

She's saying it’s time to push, you can do this and I'm still screaming I can't do this. I hesitated twice but finally in a chanting fury I gave everything I had and she says, ok her head is right there... One big one you got this...

Zhenna Lee Williams was born at 9:02am on 10/7/13... The midwife let us do delayed cord clamping (hooray!) 
Unfortunately, I lost about 1/2+ liter of blood. Zach said it was messy; my prior doctor would have sectioned me for sure. 

She was born weighing 5lbs 15oz, 19 1/2 inches, she's beautiful.  I will say I would have never thought I was strong enough to do it without medicine.  We are elated with our family of four. J



Saturday, May 25, 2013

Gender Reveal Experience

I paid a private licensed ultrasound tech come to my home to do an in-home ultrasound while my family in Pennsylvania logged in via Skype. Today, May 25, 2013, James arrived to make the official gender determination.

At the beginning of our appointment, our television was set up, so our family could watch. My daughter insisted on holding my hand and as he begins the sonogram. He says: for fun, that he usually checks to heart rate to see if the old wive's tale about a baby's bpm holds accurate. 

He mentioned, in his experience, its 95% accurate. He continues to say that a boy's heart beats per minute is most always under 150 bpm and a girl is most always above. He says that only in about five out of a hundred, is it usually off.

The bpm was 137. Note: I've been saying that the site always tells me boy... After he says this and shows the heart rate, our family on the webcam gets louder with excitement.

My daughter gives me this terrified, sad and confused look. She was positive it was a girl.

At the start, the baby is straddling the umbilical cord and he says he has to get the baby to move. Baby was literally hugging the placenta like pillow. (So cute.)

While doing so, he explains that typically girl's show three lines (he explains the logic) and while trying to get baby to move he says, "We'll I think I know what it is but I want to be sure before I say. I just want to get her to move to be certain."

Everyone on the webcam caught it too. "Did we just hear 'her'?"

I spoke up and said, "I heard 'her'."
My daughter flashes me a look of excitement and relief.

James laughs and says, "we'll let's just watch her then and here you will notice  there is no penis, its definitely a girl..."
My 5-year old niece, Riley and her younger brother, Gracin, (who are presently watching/listening on the webcam) hear the word "penis" and all the children in the room squeal with giggles

James then says, slightly embarrassed says, "Oh kids, that is just the technical term for berries and a stick." 

We were all laughing hysterically at this point. While we are giggling, the baby is acting funny on the screen. She even scratched her butt, which we caught a 3D photo of. I'll remind her I still have that photo when she's fifteen.

My daughter Nina gives me a high five that its for sure a girl.

The entire experience was so positive and exciting for all. I am so blessed to have to shared it with my (grandma) Craft, (mom) Tina and (other dad) Pat, (sisters) Tessa and Kali and (my extended family) Nate and (niece) Riley and (nephew) Gracin. 

It was just a wonderful experience, definitely worth it. ~

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Life's Unexpected Turns for the Best

It's been months since I've added to my blog. I went through a dark time in my life. Losing a job that I worked my heart and soul in, all of it was unnoticed again. It reminded me much of past experiences where I've put everything into something and it didn't work out. As this was not the 1st time I got burnt by a job, I luckily had account assurance for many of my bills, college loans, credit cards amongst other securities. At first, I wanted to run away from my problems and moved 1000 miles north, only to encounter an unanticipated situation which brought us back to Phoenix. 
What I've learned is to appreciate the things I lost while working 80 hours a week. I have family time, I have a wonderful family that I desperately needed to spend more time with. I was lucky to have the opportunity to remain at home with just enough temporary but part-time opportunities to make ends meet. Amongst help from family, I still own a home, have transportation and spend much of my time with my family expecting an addition in October. I still have bad days, I still struggle to make ends meet but I'm so much happier to just be teaching online and on ground. I feel like I do make a difference and the lowered stress has helped me to remain healthier this pregnancy. Now reaching 4 months, I'm really getting excited about having a baby for my daughter. I always wanted a sibling and I'm so happy my daughter will have one.
I'm very appreciative that I'm still surviving and we are happily together. I'm excited to join dance again and be a stronger part of the practice. I love watching my husband be a dad. Life can always be better, but its the perfect moments in between that get you through the tough times. <3

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Forget-Me-Not: October, November, December 2012 and January 2013

I will explain soon, the deep darkness I have lived in over the past few months...  Almost a Prelude of Leading a Double-Life...

With every journey you encounter, you can only make judgment based on the knowledge you have gained up until that point in time. 

Sometimes we choose the wrong road for the right reasons, even when we know it is wrong. Walking down that same road... coming from an increased self-awareness, can lead you down a dark path from the past.  One you might have thought... you had overcome. However, that is not always the case.

I retitled my blog to "Forget-Me-Not" not merely based on a beautiful flower, but more because of several other quotes and my new understanding of their application to my life.
I know my increased self-awareness will someday, indeed forget these deep journeys.

Forget-Me-Not: (def) My conscious effort to remember who I was, who I am and whom I aspire to be.

Words of Wisdom
"The mystery of human existence lies not just in staying alive, but in finding something to live for." -Fyodor Dostoyevsky

"Be the Change You Wish to See in the World." -Mahatma Gandhi [However, more accurately translated: "I
f we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do."]

In closing, my own words: My writing is my way of becoming a forget-me-not.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Cycle of Life and Dodging Bricks to the Face

It’s been a long week starting with Wednesday, there were 250 lay-offs at the University of Phoenix based on an 5-year auditing by an independent company of each position within all areas of the work force, nationally. (I don’t like surprises and I hate to feel like a statistic.) All in one day, I lost friends, managers and learned 56% percent of my colleagues/me were being dispersed to all the college divisions (10 Schools), only 19 would remain with our department. It was also announced another 550 individuals were losing their jobs before 2013 because 112 campuses and/or learning centers were being closed and all students transferred to online.

My job classification within my department got a band-aid, “if your new (unknown) manager or Dean allows telecommuting, you can get one-day of telecommuting as compensation if you continue your employment with them after 90 days. If you decide to stay with IDD, you will also receive the same opportunity.”

However, there was no mention of where the mysterious 32 laptops for those “non-senior employees” would come from. I am 1 of only 12 people who have a laptop and I’m not handing it over like it’s a piece of bread. I became a senior employee over two years ago by earning it through countless hours of giving 300% and I’ve maintained the top being in the top 25% for over two years… you are going to pry this piece of plastic from my lifeless fingers. In fact, you can only have it, if you hand me something better.

I digress.

Next, was the instruction to fill out a preference sheet #1-11. You have to decide your “preference” based on which college division you thought would pick you or if you really wanted to stay with our department. It’s hard to consider doing this without knowing which college division values your work enough to pick you for as their preferred #1 or #2 new positions allocated to their teams (and they could only pick 2-3 people out of 44… without contacting you directly.)

I should have called my dad on Wednesday when I first got the information, but it coincided with my mom’s death, I was overly emotional and I just didn’t want to make his day even more of a burden. At least I had Zach’s birthday to be happy about, right? Well, except I was so demolished by the day, I didn’t sleep that night and just worked through the night because I need to not obsess about impeding doom.

I won’t lie… Thursday morning, I went into strategist mode like it was survivalist mode. I qualitatively surveyed random samplings of my competitors/non-threats, just to figure out that the advice my dad gave me at 6am that morning was the best strategy. Sigh, I wasted four hours determining I just needed to be straightforward. I have tip-toed around Deans and Executive Management for 4 years and that was not who I am. I know who I want to work with and they are the best, or it’s not worth the risk of losing what I already have. Should’ve done what dad suggested that morning, because 35+ years at General Electric playing the politics of being a smart and experienced man, without a piece of paper, makes you a darn good strategist.

So sent an email, met with the director, met associate director and said the truth. I got truth back, they already had a list from the college divisions who their 2-3 picks were and their placement is based on when the numbers are a match. With the email already sent, the play was in motion.

Then wait, anxiously.

I got an email at 7:51am Friday morning confirming a match in numbers. So, all I can say right now is if it’s true: my life, my daughter’s life and my husband’s life, got a whole lot better overnight. I will still contribute the same, spend the time, and even work harder... but be in an environment, where I will be respected and trusted based on my performance. I won’t actually say anything officially until Wednesday when it is announced because… I am sort of in disbelief and feel like it’s too good to be true.

My Brookline class felt a little more secure that they would still see their Professor every Friday, same time, same place.

So being high on life, chanting for it to be true,
I get a brick to the face out of the blue.

A former student calls my phone, I answer knowing the number and he is screaming in the phone at me (now I haven’t seen him or talked to him months) and only continued to answer his calls because I was trying to be pay forward the favor, similarly as one Professor did by just believing in me, when I hit rock bottom. So I know he has several severe “emotional disorders” and at first, I was more worried about what he might do to himself… so I tried to talk to him.

He goes off on a rant, saying he is going to blackmail me… but couldn’t answer the question – what is it I did? or exactly how blackmail would work? (When you know you haven't done anything wrong it's kind of impossible to get blackmailed and more impossible for someone to logically answer the question.) He was seriously talking crazy and in circles (without me even able to speak) then hangs up.

So I call him back, calmingly asking him, please talk to me, tell me what’s going on. Then he says, he is going to call the cops and tell them I sell drugs. At this point, I was so confused and alarmed because the law enforcement in Arizona is intimidating even when you know you are innocent… because I was speechless, he hangs up.

So again, I call him back and proceed to try to get the screaming, raging, lunatic to stop and ask him to please just tell me what’s going on. He starts bawling over the phone, saying that I needed to call his girlfriend and make her let him in her house. So I persuaded his to disclose his location, he is apparently outside of his girlfriend's house, found her with some other guy, and she won’t let him in and somehow this is all “my fault… not hers, not his. Mine.

At this point, he threatens to hurt me and my family and... hangs up on me again. So, I relocate myself and my daughter to our “safe room” because the student does knows where I live. Then, I start searching online to find out what the official policy is for Maricopa Community Colleges if the professor receives a threat. At one point, before class a year ago, I had to talk him down because of the emotional disorders, so I didn't call 911 because I believed that I could do it again.  However, I went into accountability mode - I didn't want this lunatic showing up or hurting anyone, so I try to contact Maricopa Community College Safety.

I called six different numbers including Maricopa Emotional Safety’s number……… over twelve times. No one ever answered. Glad I am so safe as a faculty member. (Sarcasm.)
Zach is aware of the situation and decides to go buy smokes. (He is seriously never alarmed by anything, with I was that confident.)

My phone rings again, it is the student again. Now I am directly pissed because he's affected my evening with my family (after obviously a long emotional week).  So he got an unexpected verbal whiplashed, I proceed to tell him how he has two choices to make on how the rest of his night is going to go. 1) He’s going to stop acting like a crazy person, leave that location immediately, shut up listen to me and apologize to my daughter for ruining her night or 2) I’m call 911, the cops are coming for you, not me, and your going to jail for threatening me. Concluding with, choose what you do next wisely, because a Professor with no criminal record is a lot more reliable than a person who is screaming crazy talk in the middle of the damn street.

There’s silence.

I say, “well…” He says ok I will go home.

So I say, “I will call you in 15 minutes and you better be ready to listen and fucking apologize for this shit.” I hang up.

10 minutes later….

He calls me, says he’s home, and proceeds to bawl and apologize a million times… he had biked to his girlfriend’s house, where he found her not alone, she wouldn’t let him in because there was another guy there and he thought if he could get me to call her I could persuade her to let him in her house.

He bawls some more. I am silent.

I tell him what he needs to hear “If you ever do this shit unprofessional again, I will call the cops on your crazy ass because I have only ever tried to help you with kindness and respect. If you need to talk because shit happens, you manage your damn rage and make a civil phone call because I am not your enemy... but pulling another stunt like this, will make me your enemy. 

The only reason, I continue to give you guidance, is to help you through your problems in a positive way. You do not want me as your enemy. You get what you give, your actions are mirrored, when you involve others. Negative actions will only ever get you a negativity response.

I will not tolerate you bringing me or my family, into your personal matter. I will not tolerate threats of violence or whatever you lie you rationalize during your emotional rage, in an effort to blackmail me because you think I can convince someone to take action.  I also will never take action on anyone over anything on your behalf, especially when I know you are emotionally enraged and unstable.

He apologizes to the room while on speaker and says he knew it was wrong.  (This lasted for 30+ minutes, while I listened with bleeding ears.)

So after the craziness, Zach went to bed, Nina and I watched tv… I decide to vent through writing until 2:30am because I’ve dealt with a bit too many surprises this week and I am a little shaken.

I just hope that everything next week goes better than this week, because I'm not sure how many more bricks to the face I can take, without having to take a time out for sanity.