The Day We Both Passed Out

By Natalie

One morning I was taking a shower minding my own business when I heard grunts and groans a few feet away. Brandon was standing at the sink in the bathroom. There was a bit of clanging, and more groans. I kept my ears open for more insight. B began to faintly mumble under his breath “Well that was a bad idea” he said. Seconds later I heard a thud. I peeked my head out of the shower in confusion to see B lying there on the bathroom floor. His eyes had rolled to the back of his head, and all the color had left his body. I called his name in confusion as I scanned the room.  Pliers, and a pocket knife sat on the counter. My eyes wandered downward to find a small trail of blood from the counter to him. What could he have possibly been doing? He came to within a couple seconds looking up at me. He claims he was about to say “What? I’m taking a nap.” then he realized he was on the bathroom floor, and that didn’t make sense. “Woah.” he laughed. “I just passed out!” I ran to grab him some water, and helped him to the bed.

Brandon had this menacing wart in his finger. He tried every kind of over the counter medicine, home remedy you could think of. Nothing worked, the wart kept growing, and becoming more of an annoyance every day. So he had the brilliant gutsy idea of cutting, and pulling it out. Who knew that seeing surging blood flow from his finger would cause him to feel faint. Unfortunately, only a small piece of the wart was actually removed in this amateur procedure.

I sat on the bed trembling as I watched him. It was such a scary moment to not have known what had happened to him. He was so pale now, he nearly looked green. My fingers felt cold and clammy. “I don’t feel good now. You’re making me feel nauseas.” I told him. I stood up and walked toward the bathroom. Within the next couple minutes I found myself opening my eyes slowly. I looked up into a spotty haze. Brandon was over me. “Are you ok?” he said. “Sure, I was dreaming.” I said. “You just passed out.” he laughed. I looked over. Yup, I too passed out on the bathroom floor. I suppose with so much shock, and seeing B so pale made me a bit queasy causing me to repeat the act. We wriggled ourselves back to the bedroom, ice waters in hand. We laughed, we hugged, and we thanked God for each other that day. We spent the rest of the morning in bed, tending to one another when needed. There’s something about your spouse not feeling well that makes you extremely grateful for them. We don’t know what tomorrow brings. The day we both passed out put that fact in perspective for me.

We continue to be hopeless when it comes to blood and fainting. I’m not quite sure how we will be able to handle one another when something more serious comes along. Last year B donated blood, and it was a mess. He started to feel faint, so they called me over to sit next to him. He lay there looking deathly ill. I held his cold hand, but had to turn away. He spoke slowly, lips turning purple. I apologized, and laughed. “You’re just so pale, it’s making me feel sick again.” I told him. I grabbed the orange juice he was sipping on, and the woman taking his blood rolled her eyes. “You too?” she said. I was so embarrassed. What a horrible wife I am taking my faint husband’s juice for myself. Brandon finished his pint of blood with pride that day, but I’m not sure he’d ever really wish to relive that experience again.

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Parents of Children with Special Needs

By Natalie

To the man waiting in line of the busy store: Your son moans, and presses his hands to his ears. His ears are so sensitive, he feels closed in. He feels confused, and you hold him gently. You kiss the top of his head and calm him. I saw you.

To those of you who are in public with your children: I’m sorry for the people who stare. I’m sorry for the people who scrunch their faces and scoff. I’m sorry for the people who roll their eyes. I’m sorry for the people who point. I’ve seen you, and I am just as frustrated.

To the parents who take their children to therapy: You smile at your child’s progress. You watch in amazement as they are able to do things you never thought possible. I watch you, and I am joyous with you.

I feel the need to apologize to you for the ignorance of others. They do not understand. They don’t know the tears you have shed for your children. They don’t see the mountains of doctor’s bills, or insurance loopholes you have to jump through. They think your child is rambunctious. They think your child is a disturbance. They think your child should be able to walk or speak. Shame on them. I’m sorry for every finger that has pointed, every rude comment you have overheard. It may not be much, but may I tell you that you are beautiful people, and I admire you so. Do you know that you are built to be stronger than most? Do you know that I see you, and wish to express my understanding? There’s more of me out there, so keep your head up. Keep loving your little one, even through the heartache. In a world full of selfishness they need you.

Of Houses & Homes

By Natalie

I have a pet peeve, and it’s a silly sort of thing. I am very intentional when saying “We bought our first house” rather than our first home. I know it’s silly but it’s the truth. It’s the first house we’ve bought together. It’s not our first home. Our first home was our apartment. That was the first space we shared together, and made our own.homeGrowing up we moved several times. Which was not necessarily a bad thing. I owe my willingness for change to this. My need to redecorate and keep things fresh also derives from uprooting. It’s also the reason why I can randomly purge ridiculous amounts of items at any given time. Alright, purging mostly had to do with my cleanly aunt who can’t handle clutter. Every time we moved it was time to gather the troops. My aunt would come over and help my mom with packing. Somehow every time we settled down somewhere my mom seemed to be able to collect huge amounts of.. well stuff, just lots and lots of stuff. Thus making moves rather difficult. We would be sitting among massive amounts of my mom’s precious possessions, secretly tossing them when my mom turned her back. My aunt would look me in the eyes, trash bag in hand, and say “Natalie don’t collect junk, you learn to throw it away, or give it away.” I could see she was really trying to instill those words in me. For fear that I would end up the same. It was great advice, and I’m happy to say that I followed in my aunt’s footsteps. How many sentimental items are in your basement collecting dust? How is that even being enjoyed? Find something creative to do with your sentimental items, or toss them. Before you know it they will be closing in on you!

My point is, that I never felt like I had a home. We were either living with other people, or in a rental for a short amount of time. Nothing was ever permanent.

When I shared my first space with Brandon it was the first time that I actually felt like I was home. Purchasing our first house was a big step, and I am in love with it. But it was not our first home, it’s our current home. It wouldn’t matter where we lived or what house we owned. Wherever B is, is my home.

DIY: Family Tree

By Natalie

image (1)Many families choose have a gallery wall of family photos to display. I wanted to have something that incorporated our family in our home, but also fit well with our rustic theme. I came across this simple family tree on Pinterest. FamilyTree The best part about this project was that I didn’t have to purchase anything for it. Those are the best kind of DIYs. I have so many empty bottles and vases under my sink that I’m saving for some important purpose.Always good to save, you never know when they can come in handy.

Here’s what you’ll need…

  • Vase or bottle
  • Twigs from your own back yard
  • Yarn or String
  • Pictures, or Card stock to write names on.
  • Adhesive
  • Book Pages (Optional)
  • Pebbles (Optional)
  • Clothespins (Optional)

Decorate your vase however you’d like. I added a small piece of lace around mine. Toss your twigs in the vase, breaking off any small pieces that don’t fit right. I added small pebbles at the bottom of the vase to help the twigs stay as upright as possible. Then decide whether you want to cut out pictures of your family or write their names on paper. I preferred the uniform look of names on paper. Yes, I am that OCD. The book pages at the bottom of the cardstock was a last minute decision and I love the way they turned out! Old books are also a great thing to keep laying around. There are so many crafts that can be given a vintage touch by adding book pages. If you don’t have any books you want to tear the pages out of find out when your library is having a sale. Usually you can fill up a box or bag for chump change. Hit up Goodwill or a yard sale in the spring. My sister is a 4th grade teacher, and she was organizing her classroom’s library when she came across a beat up version of the Wizard of Oz. She was about to toss it as I looked on eagerly. Well if you’re going to toss it then I’ll take it! I said. A nice classic book is always nice to have for craft projects like this because if anyone gets close enough to read the page there won’t be anything odd on the cut outI’m speaking from personal experience of course.. If you are using book pages, cut them to fit the cardstock, and glue them together. Then punch holes through and attach the yarn. I used little clothespins I had from when I made my front door frame decor. If you don’t have clothespins you can always glue or tie your string to your cardstock or photo. All you have left to do is tie the string to the top of your twigs and voilà! You have yourself a family tree. image

How to Get Out of the Grocery Store Alive

By Natalie

Once, I watched this terrible movie where a woman was abducted from a grocery store parking lot. Just packing her groceries in her trunk, and within seconds she was snatched up. I now refuse to go grocery shopping alone, especially at night. I much prefer for Brandon to be with me for many reasons.

  1. Protection (Don’t judge me. I have been hit on at the grocery store by meat packing men, true story.)
  2. To keep me accountable from buying junk food.
  3. So he can pick out all of the desserts and juice he wants. (Many a time I have come home with 2 juices in tow.) “Two juices that’s it!?” He’ll say. “I’ll finish that in two days!” The boy has low blood sugar I’m sure of it.

The catch to having Brandon grocery shop with me is there needs to be a list. He speaks of nothing but the list. “Do we have a list?” (while we’re on our way) “Where’s the list?” (when we walk in) “I feel like we’re not getting anything on the list…” (in the store) Well… that’s because I just scribbled a bunch of things down so you’d think there was really a list. The majority of it is in my head. This was one of those moments in my marriage when I realized you’re spouse is around to keep you accountable, and they force you to be a better person. You don’t know how many loving discussions we’ve gotten into over chips, or string cheese. I finally bit the bullet and decided that if it’s important B, it’s important to me. I have now learned that the best thing for us to do before we tackle the task of grocery shopping is to communicate beforehand. Go through the house, figure out what we’re out of, and write down anything we think we’ll want. Steer clear of categories such as ‘fruit’ and ‘snacks’. You’ll be in those sections forever! This makes for a happy husband in the storeIf you’re as bad as I am, and had him come along., and a much quicker shopping trip.

We recently went to Wegmans when apparently there was supposed to be a snow storm. We had no idea about the storm as it was 50 some degrees outside and sunny. Thank goodness we had our list prepared because I have never been in such a crowded grocery store. At one point I was walking down an aisle and a woman was bent over. She began backing up… several steps… without looking… what on earth? Don’t people know not to bend over like that in public? You never know what some weirdo will do to you. IMG_8082

We later walked by a woman with her two preteen children in the cereal aisle. “Keep walking.” she said to the kids. They weren’t concerned about getting out of the way, they wanted their fruit loops. She proceeded to push the cart… into her children, causing that awful pain in the achilles. You know it, it’s happened to all of us. Then you look at the driver of the cartMost likely a family member. and scowl. Apparently the worst side of people is brought out during a ‘snowmagedon’ or ‘snowpocalypse’ (which are two words I despise for some reason. Maybe because it’s only 4-6 inches of snow and I will be driving the next day?) You are only snowed in for a day people. Do you drink 3 gallons of milk in a day?

Needless to say, we made it home where I was able to witness something once more. The attempt to carry every bag inside in one trip. Why can men not accept that there should definitely be 2-3 trips back to trunk? I can drop off a load of groceries inside, come back out, grab some more, and come back out again to close the trunk by the time he has loaded up one arm.

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That is seriously what he looks like. An accomplished smile crosses his faces while he trudges into the house. Don’t mind the trail of items that have wriggled their way out of that tangled mess. “Here babe.” I say motioning for the spot I cleared out on the counter or table. Nope, couch looks like the appropriate place to set them down. Then he’ll plop down beside it like “What? I just carried all of that in for you. Aren’t you grateful?”

Truth is I am grateful. The dynamic in a marriage is so precious to me. B has his antics, and I’m sure he could tell you mine. Sharing your life alongside someone is such a gift. So the next time your man carries all of those groceries in at once smile at him, and say thank you.

The Story of Samson

By Natalie

All my life I had longed to have the companionship of a dog. Believing that dog’s were simply too much responsibility my mom always seemed to settle with cats. The cats were alright, but they just weren’t what I had always wanted. Brandon had grown up with dogs around and promised that the day we got a house we could have a dog. Disclaimer: there is a certain quality in me that I’m not necessarily proud of, but I cannot deny. When I’m given hope for something in the future I want it as soon as possible. The closer it gets the more frustrated I get, and beg to have it sooner than anticipated. B calls it ‘light at the end of the tunnel syndrome’.

When the offer was accepted on our house we began our search for our new family member. One sunny Sunday afternoon we decided to go to Petsmart where the Orange County Animal Shelter was holding adoptions. That’s were I fell in love with our Samson. I had taken a particular liking to him, and the volunteers must have noticed, as they asked us if we’d like to take him for a walk. We stepped outside and this big goof of a dog strolled about like he was the happiest dog in the world. There was no doubt in my mind that he was the dog for me. I couldn’t resist his adorable big head that I could kiss all day long.

We went home and thought about our decision to adopt him. The closer we came to closing on our house the more we felt like he was the dog for us. Immediately after signing papers to close on our house we drove to the Orange County Animal Shelter to adopt our boy. The whole time we were there I was giddy with excitement.

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Our first family photo  was taken the day we closed on our house. I couldn’t have been more delighted. He was my first dog in our first house.

Dog ownership was even better than I had envisioned. I loved having Samson around when B was out so I didn’t have to be by myself. I loved the way he had to lay behind me while I cooked and washed dishes. I loved seeing his excitement when we arrived home from a long day. I loved how cuddly he got when he was sleepy at night. I loved waking up with blurry vision and seeing him there laying beside me, not a care in the world. You could see in his eyes that he was grateful to have a new happy home.

We gave Samson a chance, which is more than most people would have done. We did our research, and we found that we were up to the task of caring for a fun loving muscular dog. That’s one of those things that I continually try to remind myself. We rescued him, and loved him with no judgement. I wouldn’t ever change that even if I was granted the opportunity. I had my sweet boy for under a month when he was taken. It’s a wonder how in under a month I was able to grow so fond of him. He had a chance to meet family and friends. He had numerous nicknames including Sammy Sosa which just kind of came out one day, and stuck. He was spoiled by my friend Chloe who saw no fault in him. He enjoyed multiple firsts with his new parents. Moments I’ll never forget like his first bath, which was more of a wrestling match between the three of us…

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Look at that smile!!

So often we read the news articles and sympathize with the victim, with good reason. The innocent deserve to be sympathized. It is rare to ever hear the other side of the story. I feel as if it’s time to tell it. Not just for me, but for all those who are on the other side. We sit in shame, and guilt, all the while accepting punches from others for fear of what they might say if we defend ourselves. Samson ripped a metal stake out of the ground right before my eyes, and bit another dog. It was a moment that will forever be stained in my memory. I understand the victim. Trust me I do. But I’m tired of pretending like I wasn’t hurt in this situation. As B put it “How must the parents feel of the children who orchestrated terrifying school shootings, and threats. Parents of the victims are angry, and grievous. but the parents of shooters… how must they feel?” Will you sit back and deny the fact that they are grievous as well? For losing their own children, and feeling responsible. What I went through was so minuscule in comparison. I don’t expect you to understand, I honestly don’t. It’s a difficult thing for people to accept the fact that those people are suffering as well. I do however urge you to take these words to heart.

We enjoyed every bit of this dog leading up to that traumatic day. My mind is full of ‘If onlys’ . It is full of regret. Not regret of adopting Samson, but regret for bruising his breed name. Regret of being in the front yard that day. Regret of not protecting Samson. Never did I ever believe I would have to go through such a difficult series of events. Until I find the strength to capture the memory of that day I will leave you with all I have left of him. My memories.

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Minestrone Soup

By Natalie

I’m a huge fan of one dish meals, which makes soup one of my favorite easy go to dinners. I just so happen to be making this soup tonight, as it’s an excellent soup to have on a rainy day with a sick hubby.

Ingredients:

  •  1 can Great Northern Beans
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 Carrots (peeled & chopped)
  • 3 Celery Stalks (chopped)
  • 1 Onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 oz Bacon
  • 3-4 Large Potatoes
  • 1 Garlic Clove (minced)
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes
  • 3.5 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 cup Water
  • Fresh Pesto

min

 

Serves 6-8

Heat oil over medium heat in pot. Add carrots, celery, onion, and bacon. Cook for 10min or until onions begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and garlic (Zucchini, Cabbage; optional) stir. Add chicken broth, tomatoes with their juice, and 1 cup of water; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; Cover and simmer 30min or until veggies are tender.

Meanwhile prepare pesto. My pesto recipe is here.

Blend 1/2c beans with 1c of soup until pureed. Stir salt, bean puree, & remaining beans into soup. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover & simmer 10min. Garnish with dollops of pesto. This soup pairs well with fresh bread. If you’re feeling up for it this is the recipe I use.

Bon apétit!

My Top 10 Suggested Reads

By Natalie

If you asked me where I was when I read a certain book I could tell you. If you asked me how I felt at a climactic moment in a book, I could tell you. Books have this way of capturing a point in time, almost like any other sense that brings you back to a moment. A sound, a smell, a taste, a feeling, a story. I owe my love for reading to my sister Nadir. It started with her offering to help me read a book for school. The very next day she admit to me that she had finished the book because it was so captivating. Of course I had to see what she was talking about. I made myself comfortable in our big wingback chair and cracked the book open. For the very first time I fell in love with reading. When I say I fell in love I mean I fell in love with all of it. I love cozying up with a book, not knowing what to expect next. I love turning each page, and getting excited for how close I am to the end. I love the first sentence, to the slow middles, to the satisfying endings.

Oftentimes I would find Nadir entranced in a book. Once she really got into one you wouldn’t see her for a while. If it happened to be a Nicolas Sparks book forget it, don’t speak to her until it’s over. I knew she was nearing the end when there were soft sniffles coming from her room. When she was ready she would emerge, clutching a few tissues, with glassy tearful eyes. She would wrestle with that moment when you feel so accomplished for finishing your book, but so sad that it’s over.

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What I love most about reading is that no reader will have the same top 10 List. The books we choose change within different stages of our lives. This is why I stress suggested reads. These books may have been my favorite, but they certainly are not for everyone. For example The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold may be on someone’s Top 10. I however have never been more aggravated or disturbed by a book like that one, and would never suggest it.

My Top Ten:

  1. Memoirs of a GeishaArthur Golden
  2. The Time Traveler’s WifeAudrey Niffenegger
  3. The HobbitJ.R.R Tolkien
  4. The HelpKathryn Stockett
  5. Water for ElephantsSara Gruen
  6. Secret Life of BeesSue Monk Kidd
  7. Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandLewis Carroll
  8. Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen
  9. The Bean TreesBarbara Kingsolver
  10. Esperanza RisingPam Muñoz Ryan

Happy Reading!

A Humerous Email

By Natalie

I often feel the urge to write when I’m at work. It’s much like feeling a craving come on that needs to be satisfied. So what am I to do when I’m at work and feel the urge to write? I look for inspiration around the office, and occasionally express my writing in email form. The following is an email I typed up to my manager.

Subject: Potential Heart & Soul Award goes to… Kristen Suchocki!

Alison,

While you were away it came to my attention this Thursday night that around 5:30pm Kristen was really getting into her therapy. I stepped out of the front office to find another thing to add to our burdensome Thursday. A broken stool. She has been so dedicated to her patients, wheeling all around them.. Stabilizing them, mobilizing them, making them feel all better, you know. She thought all was well in the world of Kristen until suddenly to her dismay the wheel of her stool broke off! Shattered might I add. It’s ok, don’t fret, our beloved PT was just fine finishing her session in crouch position. However, we can’t stand aside and expect her to be able to meet her full therapist potential in uncomfortable positions. She is a bride to be! You remember the stress, right? We must make her comfortable.

Our poor Kristen now desires a nice new long lasting stool. We know the expenses for Stafford are great. We also want you to know that we greatly appreciate all of the therapy materials you have provided us with. Do you think that maybe there would be any way we could get our poor Kristen a new stool?

Sincerely,

A very bummed out Kristen, and Natalie

Wasn’t that much more entertaining to read than Kristen broke the stool? Ok now go run out into the gym and take a look at it!

Happy Friday!

Coping With My Sister’s Illness

By Natalie

In the fall of 2012 I discovered that my oldest sister Nem was diagnosed with Lupus. I hadn’t heard much about the auto immune disease but I knew it would be something very difficult for her to live with. All my life my sister has been this high energy, tightly scheduled, organized woman. She has always eaten healthy, and taken care of her body. How on earth could some illness come in and fight against her body the way that Lupus does? It’s called the invisible illness, with good reason. She appears to be just as normal as anyone else, but inside she feels pain, weakness, and fatigue. She may not feel able to smile much anymore, or laugh as often, which breaks my heart. But I know that she is trying.

I will admit that I have been a selfish sister. Questioning why she no longer has the energy for small outings, or spontaneous get togethers. She has always been someone I looked up to and love dearly. How is it that this person I care for so much can be in so much pain? Through all of my questioning, and frustration with her I began to realize that she is strong enough for this. If anyone were to cope with Lupus it is her. She is selfless in her sacrifices. She has enough strong will to fight. She has enough discipline to keep the healthy lifestyle her body needs. When God places obstacles in our way it’s so difficult to understand why. There is no doubt in my mind that my sister was chosen to fight this illness because she is strong enough. She has always been an inspiration to me, and that will never cease.

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This past year I have struggled with finding a way to support Nem. What words would be pressing enough to give her comfort? There is not much that I can say to make her feel any better. She has had to sacrifice her diet, lifestyle, and put her future dreams on hold. . The best thing I can do, and anyone can do is teach people about this illness. Spreading the word is just the beginning. Last year our family stood around Nem in the busy streets of D.C. at the annual Walk to End Lupus. We raised money for the foundation to help find a cure. I’m happy to say that we had a blast last year, and we will be walking again this April.

My sister, I know you struggle in your classroom, grasping any bit of energy you can to teach a pack of 4th graders. I know you struggle as a wife, which carries so much weight and responsibility in a home. I know you struggle as a sister, and daughter feeling as if you have not given us enough. But let me tell you today, you are most possibly the strongest woman I know to date. You have never been more inspiring, or beautiful to me. I nub you!I love you in our sister language. Yes we have a language that only the three of us understand. We are extra special.

To learn more about Lupus visit this webpage.

 

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