Friday, December 26, 2008

Time for a Fresh Start

Well, Christmas is over now, and so I'm turning my thoughts to 2009. Of course, that means New Years Resolutions. I usually try to make a few resolutions, and usually start out well and then, after a few weeks, lose my motivation. I know that this is the typical pattern for most people to follow, but I would really like to break that pattern this year. I do have a few things that I've been thinking of that I definitely want to accomplish in 2009.

First, I'd like to graduate from college, but, if you've been reading along, that should happen as long as I pass my last four classes! Next on my priority list is to lose some significant weight and get myself into better physical shape. I need to do this for my physical health, to ward off any pre-diabetes stuff. But, of course, I'm not really comfortable with the weight I'm currently at psychologically, I've become very self-conscious and self critical, and I'd really like to be happy with my physical appearance. I would really like to be back into the double digit weight range, but I'd happily settle for the low triple digits, hopefully somewhere between 100-115 lbs. So, major diet and exercise plans are underway and need to be launched soon.

I would also really like to simplify my life this year. For me, that means I need to get rid of a ton of crap that I don't use that is taking up the limited space in my small home! I really need to learn to let go of "stuff" and I need to better organize the remaining "stuff." So, part of that is organizing mountains and mountains of generations of family photos (which I inherited from my mother), and making permanent digital records of them, so that my brothers and Dad can also have copies. I need to clear out all of the useless paper that consumes me too. Hopefully I can sell a lot of this extra junk and make some money as well.

Perhaps the most important of my goals this year (aside from losing weight for my physical health and mental well-being) are my financial goals. I just finished reading Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover, on the recommendation of a friend, and am really excited and fired up to follow this plan to get out of debt and build wealth. I totally and absolutely recommend this book and plan to everyone! I hope that I can pay off my debt and build an emergency savings fund as quickly as possible, so that I can actually use my hard-earned money, instead of sending it away every month. I also would really like to have as little debt as possible before I start nursing school, since I won't be able to work during that year. This includes paying off my car and all of my credit cards. I'll move on to the student loans and mortgage after that. I'm really hopeful about the life changes that this will bring about, though I am worried about creating and learning to stick to a budget. Sadly, I'm a little impulsive sometimes when it comes to money, I have decided that this will change.

I also hope that 2009 will afford me the opportunity to travel a bit to celebrate my graduation from college, and catch up with some family and friends that I haven't been able to visit for a long time. I'm planning a cruise for a graduation celebration. I would also like to do a long weekend in Las Vegas with some friends from out of state. Most importantly though, I really want to make the time to see my Dad, who I haven't seen in at least 7 years, so a trip to Oregon is in order.

So, I think this is a lot to accomplish in one year, five big goals, and of course numerous smaller ones. I hope that I'm able to really focus my energies and get these things rolling. I hope everyone, myself included, has a happy and productive New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I LOVE Christmas Music!!

I'm that person who doesn't mind listening to Christmas music for months straight, well actually, I don't just not mind it, I love it! (Yeah, I know, I'm that person everyone else hates) I was the girl in choir who wasn't even remotely bothered that we were singing Christmas music from October until January. I just never get tired of it, I could probably listen to it all year. I might even love Christmas music more than everything else about this season. I, of course, love the reasons why we celebrate this time of year, why we are kinder to others and focus on the true spirit behind the season, but for me, Christmas music embodies all of those wonderful things. I love the familiarity of the traditional old Christmas carols. It makes me feel like a child again, when all of the thoughts about Christmas and Santa Claus truly were magical and so exciting! My boyfriend finds this endearing about me (or so he says), and that more people should feel the way I do. I think he's just being nice...

I truly love the Christmas season though. If it weren't so cold outside, it might be my favorite time of year. I really enjoy buying gifts for my loved ones and trying to surprise them and make them happy. I love all of the cooking and baking that goes on. I always hope for a white Christmas, even though I am usually disappointed. I love to see everyone wearing their sweaters and scarfs and hats. I love putting up the tree, and those peaceful moments when you can just sit in front of the twinkling lights and relax. (I don't like taking the tree down, but then, that's after Christmas) I love that my favorite animal is a big feature of this time of year: penguins! I find it hysterical to see my cat under the tree, trying to play with her gifts through their packaging, or peeking out from a very sneaky hiding place. And I love that it means that a new year and a fresh start are coming.
So, call me crazy, but I love Christmas-time! And this time of year would mean so much less to me without the soundtrack of the season.

Here's a picture of my very own tree, my first tree, covered in penguin ornaments!

Sunday, December 21, 2008


I just finished reading Marley and Me, crying my eyes out like a big baby. It's a good read, it had me frequently and uncontrollably laughing out loud, until the end. While I probably would have cried reading this no matter what, it reminded me painfully of Sheba, who died six months ago.
I've been wanting to write about Sheba for several months now, but I never really want to drudge up the painful memories of her death. It was the last thing that I was able to write in my journal, and I stopped halfway through, in tears, and haven't resumed the writing since. So, I feel prompted to give her a little tribute, though unlike Marley, Sheba was never really a bad dog, in fact she was generally excellently behaved, although she had her quirks.

Sheba was a black miniature poodle, and I brought her home on April Fool's Day 1992, I was ten. I had picked her out of her litter of three puppies (after begging my Mom for months for a puppy) because the breeders said, "If you want a cuddler and one that will let you hold her and baby her, she's the one." They couldn't have been more right about that. Sheba always needed and wanted constant physical affection or just connection-she nearly always had to be touching a person at all times (until old age), which was at times wonderful and endearing and at other times, enough to drive anyone crazy. But she was perfect for a ten year old girl: I dressed her up, painted her nails, wrapped her in blankets, made her lay in a baby cradle for hours on end, and even had her drinking water from a baby bottle.

She was unbelievably smart, even for a poodle. She was housebroken quickly and never destroyed anything. She easily learned commands and tricks and had a wide vocabulary of human words that she knew and understood. She was fast, like lightening as a puppy- and would dash off at the slightest opportunity. From day one at home (her first bite of table food was a single pinto bean) she generally refused to eat dog food for meals, she reserved her always available dog food for an after dinner chaser, like after dinner mints, when she had given up hope of receiving anymore people food. This eventually progressed to her being served her own plate of whatever was for dinner that night, and her begging and stalking of the kitchen whenever she determined that it was dinner time grew worse throughout her life.

She would dramatically snatch up whatever you told her you, or worse, the cat, "were gonna get" and refuse to relinquish the items, regardless of what they were. One time this included a fully wrapped ice cream sandwich that my Mom was teasing her with, and another time a full roll of quarters. Sheba loved stuffed animals, the smaller ones for "babies" and the larger ones for illicit activities, if they were white, she was in 7th heaven. She truly loved her "babies" too, and would lick them and play with them for hours. She had a hideous and huge stuffed turkey (picture Gobbles from South Park) that was larger than she was that she would drag around by it's scraggly neck, it was carefully confiscated and disposed of, but she missed that turkey for a long time after it was gone. My stuffed, huge, white Klondike and Snow bears were a favorite target for her to steal off of my bed, any chance she got. One in particular- a little neon dinosaur- was receiving an exuberant shaking while she was playing with it, until it's leg was ripped off. Sheba was horrified by what she had done to "Dino," and from that time on she refused to ever look at him again, even after I sewed his leg back on. She always came to greet you, frantically searching for the nearest "baby" or random toy to show you (not give you), frequently peeing with excitement. She would grin too, pulling back her lips to show all of her teeth when she was happy or excited- or forced to eat a dropped salt and vinegar potato chip that had to be eaten, since the cat might be interested in it.

The word "biscuit" could not be uttered in her presence, unless you intended to deliver on that statement. Her favorite "biscuits" were, naturally, the most expensive dog jerky treat at the store and were not negotiable. She never went outside, to go potty or go bye-bye or just wander around, without receiving one upon returning home.

Even though I don't think I was ever truly her favorite family member, though she loved all of us, she preferred my Mom or Aunt, she knew that she was mine, and would never disobey a command that I issued- even when released from it from someone else, until I gave the okay. This included sitting the corner, nose to the wall, in time out- for inordinately long periods of time (horrible, I know, but I was ten and clearly teaching my dog a lesson). Despite being fairly well disciplined, Sheba was horribly spoiled by all of the family. She slept in bed, under the covers, with her head on a pillow, with whomever she wanted every night. She begged and received food-including desserts- from everyone. And would insist on extended belly rubs whenever given the opportunity, scratching and pulling your hand back to do it's job if you tried to quit too soon. This behavior, of flopping over onto her back, legs splayed, scratching at arms and hands, refusing to move like a lead weight, was confusing to some outside of the family. It prompted one dog groomer to tell us that something was wrong with her, "she just kept falling over and laying on her back." This woman was clearly not a dog owner, any idiot should have known the code for "rub my belly." She baffled outsiders with some of her behaviors though, not just the groomer. When she was at the vet hospital after having emergency surgery to remove her infected uterus, she refused to eat, and they refused to let her come home until she did so. The office called and spoke to my Mom, clearly worried about her refusal to eat. They had tried everything, dry food, wet food, even trying to force it into her little mouth- she came home with food smeared all over her little face from their attempts. My Mom laughed at this and asked what they were trying to feed her? They of course responded with "dog food," to which my Mom replied, "Well did anyone offer her a sandwich?," this was of course common sense to us. Problem solved. They called back and reported that she could come home now, she had successfully eaten a sandwich.

Sheba also knew how to hold a grudge. Once, when running down the stairs, she tripped and tumbled down the last few steps. My Mom and Aunt saw this, and laughed. Sheba was embarrassed and never forgot that they had laughed at her. From that day on, whenever she got mad at my Aunt (or was left alone for too long) her choice spot to poop was in that Aunt's bedroom. Her intense stares could also guilt this same Aunt into getting off of the couch to get her people food outside of mealtimes, just to make the staring stop. Always human-like, Sheba was also no stranger to jealously. Mainly this was targeted at the cat, but also at anyone animal or human, who might take any of her attention. One Christmas both she and the cat got new beds. Regardless of the fact that she had just gotten a new bed, Sheba was jealous that the cat had gotten one. In retaliation for this, she crammed herself into the too-tiny cat bed (clearly uncomfortable) and refused to get out of it, simply so that the cat couldn't lay in it.

This is Sheba, on her own new Christmas bed, at her last Christmas.

It was very hard to see Sheba age. By the time she died she was mostly, if not completely deaf. Her eyes were clouded with cataracts and most of her teeth were gone. She was chubby, grayed, and moved stiffly after lying down for long periods of time. But, even though she clearly showed her age, she still had bursts of energy when she wanted to play and she was always up for receiving constant affection. I know that every dog owner feels that their pet is unique, but I don't think there has ever been another dog like Sheba. She was truly a family member to us, and it's still difficult for us to not talk to her like she's sitting beside us.

A few days before her death Sheba became increasingly sick, quickly. She was having difficulty breathing, and maintained an odd, strange posture with her neck extended to help her breathe- or gasp, really. She refused to eat or drink- even people food, including ice cream- and couldn't lie down because it made breathing more difficult. My Aunts and I took her to the vet, and though we were expecting bad news, we were crushed to hear that she was in heart failure. I couldn't bear to make the decision to put her to sleep then, I couldn't help but feel that I would be murdering her. I decided, as a last ditch effort, to try antibiotics, steroids and a diuretic, to be sure that it wasn't a lung infection, as there was fluid on her lungs- a side effect of the heart failure, and the cause of her breathing difficulties. This also bought some time for us. Initially, Sheba rallied with the steroids and diuretic, with the fluid off of her lungs she was able to breathe easily and seemed like her old self. However, one or two days later, her condition was the same, if not worse. It was definitely not an infection, and now I was faced with making the hard decision. I simply couldn't let her suffer and felt cruel for trying to keep her here, after over 16 years, I had to have her put to sleep.

I had dreaded this moment for years, always hoping that she would die peacefully in her sleep of old age, even crying at the thought of this day. My Aunts and my boyfriend and I said our goodbyes and took some final pictures of her at home, and then we all accompanied her to the vet. We were all with her, crying and petting her, as she went to sleep.

As strange as it sounds, in many ways, Sheba's death was more difficult for me than my Mother's. Not that it was any less painful, but I think it's because I did not make the decision to end my Mother's life. Even driving to the vet for the last time I was still having second thoughts, when her breathing seemed to ease as I was holding her in my lap, sobbing. I could never give up the feeling that I was making the wrong choice, or the hope that maybe, somehow she would get better.

This is the day before Sheba died, while she was rallying from the medications, I wanted a last picture of us smiling together, even if it wasn't real.

Sheba was an amazing little spirit, and I don't think I will ever stop missing her. Just the thought of having to go through a similar experience ever again makes me balk at the idea of having another dog. I could go on forever, recounting stories about her, but they're probably only funny and worth hearing time and again to my family and myself. Regardless, Sheba's 16+ years of love, entertainment, and annoyances deserve to be remembered. She was there with me from elementary school through college, and through many life changes, including the loss of my Mom. I think she left a lasting impression on everyone who really knew her, including my much loved cat, who loved to beat up on and chase and be chased by her dog, and came running at the sound of Sheba's collar tags tinkling on a video recording of her that we were watching after Sheba was gone, still looking for her sister. As painful as the loss is, I hope that everyone will, at some point in their life, have the opportunity to love and be loved by a four-legged person like Sheba, one that truly becomes a member of the family and leaves a permanent hole when they leave us because of the ways that they permeate your entire heart and life.

A family picture. My Aunts and I, with Sheba, before taking her to the vet on her last day with us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I may have to leave a job I like very much, because of school. I'm freaking out about this at the moment. I typically work Tuesdays and Thursdays (and other days as needed) at the doctors' office, which is my main source of income. These days are our "busy" days, and we see probably 60-75% of our patient load on those days. The unfortunate part is that my last semester of college is quickly approaching, and I've been putting off these last classes until the very last second (obviously), but now ALL of the remaining classes that I need to take to graduate are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So there it is. I can't and shouldn't put off graduating to keep a job, I know this. Even a job where I love my co-workers so much! The reality that this would probably mean the loss of this job caused me so much stress that I was just about ready to throw up all day just thinking about telling my manager (who is also a good friend).

I'm hoping against hope that this will work out somehow. That I can change my schedule for just the 4 short months of this last semester (16 weeks, actually), and that I can work full-time once I graduate until I start nursing school. I don't have a good feeling about this, which is why I'm so worried. I hope that I don't have to find another job. Not that this job is perfect, nothing really is of course. But I really do love the people I work with, and we have some of the most fantastic patients, that I would really miss too. Of course, in my mind, I'm already trying to think of trying to find other work and what I will do, just in case. I've even offered to come in on our busy mornings until I have to leave for classes, mid-morning, but I'm not sure if this idea went over very well either...

Any ideas?

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Birthday

My birthday came, and went, in a haze of school work. It was the 10th, and my last day of final exams. I woke up early to finish a paper- ran it down to campus to turn it in, then came home and frantically studied for my exam that afternoon- took my exam, and then came home and worked on my last paper until 3 am to finish it on time. What a fun day! I did take a break for a couple of hours to eat dinner and chocolate cupcakes with my aunts and boyfriend and open a few presents. Pretty low-key for me.

Daniel and I will go out later in the next week or two to really celebrate, and by that, I mean go out to a nice dinner where I can probably eat a steak ;)

I must say though, the closer that this number creeps toward 30, the more freaked out I get! I just haven't done/accomplished all of the things I thought I would have by this point in my life. I guess that things will happen when they happen, not necessarily on my time-line.


Whew! My semester from hell is over! I hope the next one is better, or at least not as bad! With schedule changes in various syllabi I wound up having 4 major research papers plus final exams all fall within 6 days of each other, what a nightmare. Everything got submitted in the end though, and not too much was late.

I went in the week before finals to discuss GRADUATION with my advisor, and assuming I don't bomb any finals or otherwise mysteriously fail to pass my classes, I'm on track to graduate in May! I can't even believe that I'm 12 credit hours away from graduation, 4 more classes and I'm done! This has been such a long time in coming that it's almost too surreal to believe.

College has been a much harder road than I anticipated, not because the classes themselves have been difficult, but just because so much life has gotten in the way. When I started college in the fall of 2000 (I know, this has taken forever) I was a vocal music education major at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. I did that for almost two years, until I was in a major car accident in March of 2002. That accident caused me to move back home so that I could recover. So during all of this I took a few classes at Metro State to keep going, but not a full schedule. When I was finally ready to return to UNC in Greeley, about a year later, my Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. So, I stayed in Lakewood and took care of her doing home hospice care until she died, nearly a year later. While she was sick, I kept taking a few classes, again, just to keep making progress, but nothing full-time. After her death, I did finally take a little time off to just regroup and try to get myself together. Unfortunately, by the time all of this had taken place, my full scholarship had exceeded it's time limit and now I would have to pay for school. This was unfortunate, but I'm glad that I made the choice to be with my Mom. I've had time since for school, while the time we had together was limited. So, I was finally ready to go back to school full-time, but now I also had to work full-time, so I've essentially maintained the very minimum course load to qualify as a full-time student, which also didn't save me any time.

Along the way, with all of this, I decided that music wasn't really where my heart was any longer, I decided that I wanted to get a bachelor's degree in Psychology, and start fulfilling the extra courses required to prepare for medical school. Well, now, after many extra classes, I've also decided that medical school is not for me. While I would love to have all of that knowledge, and the ability to practice obstetrics in the fullest possible way, I've realized that I don't agree in many ways with the biomedical model of care. But, from my work experience- and life-long obsession with babies and pregnant women- I do know that I definitely want to work in the women's healthcare field. I've decided that after getting my first Bachelor's degree, which will be a BA in Psychology, I am going to apply to nursing school for a second Bachelor's degree of science in nursing. I'm hoping to get into an accelerated one-year program. The accelerated programs are very intense (a whole 2nd Bachelor's degree in one year!), and expensive, but the trade-off for having zero life for one year is being done quickly. I think I can live with that-or at least survive it!

I think that nursing will be a good fit for me, personality-wise. I feel like I'm really good at working with patients and I easily form bonds with patients-maybe it's just that I currently get work with amazing women as patients. I also would like to work with fewer time constraints than physicians have, so that I can spend more time directly with patients. I think that nursing will provide a schedule much more conducive to having a family, which is definitely a priority for me. I really feel like nursing will provide me with an avenue to truly help others. When considering medicine, I was always interested in volunteering abroad, like with Doctors Without Borders, and nursing will allow me to do these things too. Eventually, maybe right away, or maybe a few years down the road, I would like to pursue a master's degree in Midwifery, so that I can finally do what I've wanted to do since I was 10 years old- deliver babies.

So, almost nine years in the making, I'm on the cusp of getting my Bachelor's degree. I'm proud of myself for sticking to this, despite everything that life has thrown my way during that time, and a little surprised that I didn't just give up- that would have certainly been easier at times. I will be the first one in my immediate family (and most of my extended family) to earn a college degree, which I'm also very proud of! It's hard to believe that my first college journey will be over in five months- just 32 days of classes left to attend (yes, I counted).

I'm so excited to be done! To finally feel like I've accomplished something!

Then on to more school, *sigh*, I guess I'm just a glutton for punishment...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Race to the Finish Line

Holy cow! I can't believe it's been a month since I've written anything. It has really been one heck of a month, I've got a lot to go back and catch up on. The election!!! My pending graduation!!! My rapidly approaching birthday! My first Thanksgiving!

More than anything right now I'm just fighting sleep deprivation and constant stress. The semester is coming to a screeching halt and I'm frantically trying to catch up to it. I can honestly say, that to date, I've never had such a rough semester. That may of course be due to the fact that I wound up with 4 major research papers, plus final exams, all happening within less than one week of each other. Did I plan ahead? No. Should I have planned ahead and maybe started at least one paper early? Definitely. But, well, that's not really my style. I'm a fly by the seat of my pants kind of researcher! I'll admit that this is not the best strategy, but I always wind up with an "A," so I guess the mild heart attacks along the way pay off in the end. It has really helped to have an understanding and helpful boyfriend- from looking up references to frequently fetching take-out food, and just being quiet, Daniel has been an asset through all of this stress. In the mean time, for everyone else who has been wondering about me not answering my phone or the incredibly brief phone calls, my last final exam is on my birthday! Lucky me!! I should resurface then. Until then, anyone shopping for me can get me a timeturner.