Thursday, May 20, 2021

What A Year

It has been almost exactly a year since I last posted on my blog. I can guarantee you that this was not intentional. It has just been a super crazy year, as I'm sure you all can agree. Add to that the fact that Facebook and Instagram and SnapChat all make it easy to post quick little snapshots of my life and this poor blog has taken a backseat. Still, I have loved having this blog to document my family's life and I'm sad that I have not kept it up. So, this is my attempt to get this blog up to date. 

The last I wrote I had graduated from nursing school. Right after that my mom had into the hospital at St. Luke's in Milwaukee (about an hour from my house). Mom needed a valve replacement but it was tricky because of calcium deposits that had built up around the valve. Specialists went back and forth as to whether or not the procedure could be done. My mom was in the hospital (by herself because of the no visitor policy due to Covid) for close to a month as doctors decided how to proceed. It was rough, to say the least. In the end, mom had the valve replacement and was back home on June 6th. She is doing well as doctors continue to monitor both her heart and her cancer (that she has had for the past 15 years).

On June 8th I began my new job as a nurse in the Emergency Department at the hospital near my house. Starting as a brand new nurse in the emergency department is tough. Add to that the fact that I was starting in the middle of a pandemic and you can imagine how hectic and stressful it was. It was crazy. Baptism by fire, so to speak. Still, I had an amazing preceptor and I managed to survive and thrive. I passed my NCLEX exam at the end of June, officially becoming a Registered Nurse. My orientation lasted for 6 months (and I had to work full time during orientation regardless of the fact that I was hired for a casual position) and then I was on my own. I am still looking forward to the time when I am confident in all my skills and trust myself completely. I am not there yet. But my coworkers are supportive and wonderful and always there to help. I am very lucky.

My boss kept trying to get me to accept a full time position but I didn't want to lose my casual status. With casual I can set my hours, no weekends or holidays. But there are no benefits. My boss actually created a part time position for me, which I ended up accepting at the beginning of this year. The insurance is amazing and is a huge help since Todd and I always had to buy our own insurance since he is self employed. But I have to work some holidays and weekend now. Oh well. Life is a trade off.

In July, Joe decided to sign up with the Marines. He had been working out with the Marine poolees for months and wanted to be the squad leader. The only way he could qualify to be squad leader would be to enlist with the Marines. Joe was still only 17 so Todd and I both had to sign. It was tough but we did it. Joe has ALWAYS wanted to join the military and we have always been supportive. Joe is a planner and really wanted to get going on the process. We decided to support him.
However, we did not anticipate everything moving so quickly. After Joe enlisted he decided he was going to graduate high school a semester early so he could leave for the Marines early. I was not happy about this as I have always wanted to hold on to my kids as long as possible. I have dreaded my kids growing up and moving away since the moment they were born. However, I also know they need to live their own lives and I will NEVER get in the way of their dreams. So I got on board. I tried to be enthusiastic. Joe would graduate high school in January and most likely ship out in March or April.

We tried make the most of our time together as a family of six. We spent as much time together making memories as we possibly could. We went to all of our favorite spots.
We went swimming together and took a lot of family walks.
And of course we went up north to our cabin as much as possible.
Tommy got his first deer bow hunting. It was pretty exciting.
And Grace decided to try and give hunting a shot this year too. She got her first buck in one smooth shot. A ballerina and a hunter. She is quite a girl!
We had a nice Halloween even though it was socially distanced. We went to the pumpkin farm, went trick or treating, and of course, carved pumpkins.
This year since we couldn't get together with family we had Thanksgiving up north at the cabin. It was actually really nice. 
We were happy that Todd's mom was able to join us up north for Thanksgiving. 
Thanksgiving was up north but Christmas was still at home. The whole family even wore matching pajamas for me. They weren't happy about it but they did it. It was our Christmas card this year. I love it SO much. My favorite. 
For Christmas we didn't buy a lot of Christmas presents. Instead we decided to take a family vacation. We figured with Joe leaving for the Marines this would be our last family vacation together for a long time. We decided to do something we'd never done as a family. We went to an all inclusive resort in Punta Cana. 
It was AMAZING. The kids' minds were blown. They couldn't believe that they could just ask for a soda and they would just get one. They could walk into a cafe and and just ask for food and get it. Add to that the gorgeous beach, the pools, the catamaran we went on, the awesome weather, and the beautiful rooms. We were in heaven.
They had super cute Christmas decorations. It was so weird for us Wisconsinites to see Christmas decorations with palm trees.
Outdoor life-sized chess!
Ping pong!

Beach volleyball

The only downfall was my neck. I had a bulging disc in my neck and was in a fair amount of pain the entire vacation. I tried to be a good sport but it did put a damper on my vacation. I was not able to participate in some of the fun but I still had a great time. 

We were back in time for New Years Eve at our house. We had our traditional New Year's Eve feast. One last time with all of us. I tried my best not to think that every time we did something together but it was tough. This entire last year that thought was in my head constantly. "This is the last time we will all..."

The year 2021 didn't start out much better than 2020. I was still in a bunch of pain from my bulging disc (it took almost 3 months to heal). Strangely enough Todd's neck started to hurt too. Except his pain radiated down to his fingers. He had had issues with his neck before so he immediately went to the doctor. Turns out he had some serious issues and ended getting a spinal fusion of C6 through T1. Yikes.The surgery went well but the healing process takes time. A short time after Todd's surgery his mom tripped down some stairs and broke her hip. I tell ya, our family was the walking wounded!

Joe ended up graduating at the end of January. It felt so anticlimactic. I felt badly. Because of Covid we still couldn't have any party. He had no graduation ceremony. He said he didn't really care, but I did. We tried to make it special anyway.

Shortly after Joe graduated we got word that he would be leaving for boot camp much earlier than anticipated. Joe would be leaving around the middle of February. Before he could even turn 18. I tell ya. That was tough news for me to take. 

We celebrated Joe's birthday on February 19th. About a week before his actual birthday.
On Sunday the 21st Joe was scheduled to leave. We all tried to prepare to say goodbye.

We mostly tried to be happy for Joe. He was so excited to begin this journey. He had prepared and waited for this for so long. It was a really nice day. We took Joe down to the main recruiting center, got instructions from his recruiter, and then were able to hang out with him for the rest of the night. We had an amazing family dinner together at Olive Garden. We spent the whole time laughing and reminiscing about all our favorite family moments. It was an amazing dinner. One of my all time favorite moments.

Then we had to drive Joe back to his hotel to say goodbye. The moment I had been dreading since he was born. It was one of the hardest things I've had to do.
Needless to say, I cried the whole way home. Joe stayed in the hotel overnight and left early in the morning for his flight to San Diego. Once he got to San Diego he was put into quarantine for two weeks. He basically had to sit in a hotel room by himself for two weeks. No cell phone, no personal items, not even his own clothes. He got two phone calls home during the entire two weeks.  At the end of the two weeks he was again tested for Covid and once he was cleared he was taken to the base for boot camp. We received a scripted call from him when he arrived at base. That would be last time we heard his voice in months and months.

We tried to get on with life. It was hard. I know people go through this all the time, but man. It was TOUGH. Joe left such a void in our family. He is such an amazing big brother. The day before he left he spent the entire day with his siblings, taking them out for ice cream, going on a long drive, playing basketball with them. The kids were feeling so lost without him. We all were. 

The thought of going on a vacation for spring break, without Joe, was not appealing to any of us. But sitting home staring into space wasn't a good option either. I decided to take the kids to Wisconsin Dells for a few days. Todd couldn't come with us because he was too busy with work. I think that made it a little less weird, in a way, that Joe wasn't with us. We had fun. But it still felt odd.

The kids' schools were trying to find their new normal too. Fall sports had either been cancelled or postponed. Ben didn't get to play basketball or football. It really stunk for him because he was on two amazing teams that would have absolutely dominated if they had been able to play. He really felt like he got ripped off not being able to play. Not only that but this is his 8th grade year at the school he has attended since preK. Normally, the 8th graders go on an AMAZING trip to Washington DC. They spend all 7th grade year fundraising for the trip. However, this year's trip was cancelled because of Covid. Ben would have no sports, no field trips, and no Washington D.C. It was a super bummer.

Tommy's football season was pushed off until spring. Tommy's football team dominated last year. This year most of them were moved up to the Varsity team. Tommy was not only moved up to Varsity but he was also a starter and made All Conference. 
It was a tough transition, however. Tommy's team had played together since they were in 4th grade and learning to play with Juniors and Seniors they had never played with before was a learning process. Still, the Varsity team had the most successful season they have had in almost a decade. This scoreboard is from a game against their crosstown rivals. The game started poorly. Our team was down 0-21 and halftime and ended up coming back and scoring 33 unanswered points to win the game. It was crazy.
Tommy was a starter on defense and special teams. And he was even asked to play running back for the last game. He saw a lot of playing time as a sophmore. This pic is one of his nice tackles. Great shot.

Just last week Todd and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We went out to a really nice dinner and then came home and promptly fell asleep on the couch together. Ha! It was actually really nice.

Which pretty much brings us up to date. 

Today was a MAJOR day. Today Joe completed The Crucible. The final challenge recruits must face before they become Marines. Today, Joe became a Marine.

This is the candle we lit for Joe the entire 54 hours that Joe was in the Crucible. Countless prayers were said. It was a VERY emotional day. The last few hours of the Crucible take place in the wee hours of the morning, on 2 hours of sleep, with a 9 mile hike up a mountain carrying 50 pounds of gear. When they get to the top of the mountain they are officially Marines. We knew approximately what time the recruits would finish. We were counting down the whole time, barely able to sleep ourselves. At 8 o'clock this morning (Pacific time) Joe became a Marine.
In less than two weeks we will see him graduate from Marine Corps. boot camp. Graduations have been closed for the entire past year. They have just been reopened. Each recruit only gets 2 visitors to graduation but we are grateful. The kids are sad they can't go but they are happy that at least Todd and I can attend. In two weeks I will see my boy. My Marine. I absolutely can't wait.

It has been a very emotional year. More than I can possibly explain in one blog post. I've struggled emotionally. I don't think I even admitted that to myself until this moment. I have been beyond exhausted and I think it is mostly a bit of depression. So much change, upheaval, in just one year. It's been a lot. But there is so much to be grateful for. And to look forward to. And I'm hopeful.

I hope you, my bloggy friends, are all well. And even though this past year has been a mess I hope you've made it through. With hope.

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson