Get out your wellies boys and girls. This one is gonna get a little deep.
I believe that most everything happens for a reason. I think that we are all heading towards a sort of incredibly vague predetermined destiny. Some people may find that comforting, others perhaps not. I’m indifferent. But it does play into this theory of mine quite nicely.
Most people have experienced Deja Vu at some point in their lives. It’s a fairly common phenomenon. But I seem to have it regularly. Maybe once or twice every couple of weeks. Only, I’m not certain that’s what I’d consider it really. When this experience occurs I dont have the feeling that I have been in that exact space before. It’s not about space for me. It is about the lighting, the smells, the sounds, the people, the entire experience in that split second. It’s not something happening “again”. Instead it’s something I had, at some point, dreamt of happening. A premonition.
When these moments happen, I relish them. I close my eyes and will it to last longer. This sudden and fleeting sense is what I like to think of as a “checkpoint”. It’s a little blip in time that confirms I’ve made the right choices. I’m on the right path. That all my stars are aligning just so. And I find that astoundingly comforting.
I had a “checkpoint” moment yesterday. I had just gotten home from work. My baby was in his walker and we were in the kitchen. He and I have been in those exact spots countless times. But yesterday was different. The familiar and exciting feeling came over me like a wave. I closed my eyes for a moment. Then looked at my son and smiled. Believing that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be is one the most gratifying sensations there is.
I have been working on this post for weeks. Today, I decided to start over. My post was long, and unnecessarily so. It didn’t accomplish what I had wanted it to. It’s tone and the overall message was lost with every paragraph. So here we are. At the beginning.
One year ago, my brother was in an accident. It has been a long three hundred and sixty-five days. I don’t want or need to rehash every sad, upsetting detail. But, I do want to share with you all some of the more poignant moments and some observations that have stuck with me over the last year.
I remember when I got the call from JJ’s foreman, Ian. But more so, I remember the phone call I got from dad shortly after. I asked Ian if JJ was alive. When he answered “yes”, there was no denying the uncertainty voice. I knew what he was saying without saying it. I knew what the tone of that “yes” meant. JJ WAS alive when I left him, but I don’t know if he still is. My dad asked me the same question just minutes after. I wanted to be strong and say sternly, confidently “Yes!” but the words had, unintentionally, come out the exact same way Ian had said it. Unconvincingly.
After I arrived at the hospital, I talked with the nurses and then found the ICU waiting room. I opened the door and was immediately taken aback. The people in the room were talking loudly, laughing, eating. All these things, I couldn’t fathom happening in a place like that. This was supposed to be a place of tragedy, a place for reflection, prayer, and quiet whispered voices. I hated the waiting room with every ounce of my being. I couldn’t stay in there. I honestly, truly couldn’t. Luckily, there was a private waiting room we were told we could use. And by god we did. It was supposed to be for doctors to have consultations with the family of patients. I thought about the tough questions asked and some even tougher answers given in that room. I prayed that that wouldn’t be us. We stayed in that room for three days. And just when we had gotten a little less sad, enough to where we could tolerate talking, and smiling we gave up the room to someone who needed it more. It didn’t last long, we were back in there by day 5. The day JJ’s artery gave out.
That first night, we had been told, that it was going to be a long one. The first time we got to talk to a doctor was around 8 or 9 that night. JJ had been in surgery since one o’clock. Dr. Brown told us that he was the orthopedic surgeon that had been working on JJ. He was impressed with the double femur break JJ had suffered. He said that if you had to have a broken femur (or 2) this is the way to do it. It was a clean break. Flat across. He told us that the bones would be able to fuse with little to no problem, he believed. He said that if all this injury was, was a couple of broken femurs, JJ would be out of here in a few days. But that, as we would come to know, wasn’t the case.
A few hour later we got to talk to the second surgeon. He told us what he had seen and maybe more importantly, what he hadn’t. JJ had lost a lot of tissue, muscle, nerves, and lots of blood. He went through 107 units that day. But most distressing were his arteries. They were completely shredded. I asked the doctor if there was anything I could do. If there was anything that he could take from me to give to J. I told him that he could have whatever he wanted. The doctor smirked and shook his head a little. I could tell he had thought of it. I have no doubt. Maybe not my arteries specifically, but someones. His face said it all. That very thought had come to him. I didn’t delve any deeper. But my father and I both let him know in no uncertain terms that whatever JJ needed, we were happy to give.
At 2 am we were told that they were wrapping up the surgery and they’d be bringing JJ up soon. From the room we were in we could see JJ’s. We stood on chairs, we craned our necks. Did whatever we had to do so we could catch a glimpse of him. And at 3:30, they told us we could go in to see him. He didn’t look like himself. He was so swollen. But I have never been so happy to see someone in my entire life. We asked the prognosis. Torn between the desire to know and the dread that may come with the answer. JJ was, without a doubt, still in critical condition. When the doctor talked about the prognosis, he wasn’t referring to if he would lose a leg or both, it was if JJ would survive. I will never forget that moment.
After a few days JJ had started to come to. Never for long, only a few minutes and then he’d be back to sleep. But when he was awake, he wanted to communicate. It was a tall order with the breathing tube in. Someone got him a small dry erase board. He would try and write something, sometimes falling asleep in the middle of writing, and we would be left with the task of deciphering it. We may as well have been decoding ancient hieroglyphics. And when we couldn’t figure it out, we would start guessing like we were playing a game of charades. Is that an I? No? Ok, is it an L? No? Shit, is it a J? Nope. Then after a minute or two, when all of the energy he had, had drained out of him, he would let his hands drop from equal parts exhaustion and frustration and his eyes would fill with tears and he would shake his head as if to say “I give up”. That was, without a doubt, one of the hardest parts for me. There he was helpless, relying on us to help him, and I couldn’t. I was not a good guesser.
One of the first things that we were able to read was the word “boots”. Mom said, “your boots are right here, J. On the shelf”. She showed them to him. The sense of confusion on his face was unmistakable. My mom and I looked at each other. She knew right away why he was confused. Call it mothers intuition. She said “J, your boots are fine. Your feet didn’t go into the chipper.” His eyebrows became unfurrowed, almost like at that very second, everything came back to him. In fact, one night after the boots incident, mom asked him if he remembered the accident. He nodded as best as he could, and then wrote: “They didn’t believe me.” Later he would explain what he had meant. When his co-worker had been on the phone with 911, JJ told him to tell the dispatcher to get life flight started. He knew that they carried blood on the helicopter and that he was going to need it. But what he either didn’t know or didn’t think about at the time, is that patients can’t request life flight, it has to come from the paramedic.
The hardest day was undoubtedly the day JJ’s right leg artery gave out. It was the first Monday after the accident. The nurses would come in every few hours and pull out this black box that had a stethoscope in the shape of a pen connected it to it. They would put it on the top of JJ’s feet, one by one, and move it around until they heard a swishy sound. That sound was his pulse. That day, they had checked it before he went down to surgery. A process we had already come to know well. And when he would come back. One nurse tried, then another. No swishy sound. They called for the doctor. The room was silent.
The doctor confirmed what we all had suspected. At the very beginning, we had been told that the repair to his arteries was a kind of one and done deal. They weren’t sure if the gore-tex that had put in would hold. Each leg had a 50/50 shot they told us. But it didn’t matter. We wanted a second opinion. We asked that his file be sent to mass Gen to see what they said. JJ had woken up, and I think it was dad who explained the situation to him. He took it well. You could tell he understood and agreed.
A couple of hours later a report came back from Boston. There was nothing that could be done. The right leg would have to be amputated. We cried. A lot. I went to the chapel for a while. Eventually, we all reconvened in JJ’s room. J woke up and motioned for his dry erase board. He wrote, what I made out to be “ambulance or helicopter.” He wanted to know how he was getting to Boston. I read it aloud so he could confirm my guess. He did. This was, for me, the hardest moment of JJ’s hospital stay. I looked at him and said “J, you’re not going to Mass Gen. I’m so sorry. They said that there was nothing they could do.” He stared at the ceiling for a minute, cried only a couple of tears, and fell back asleep.
Not long after, the doctor came back in to explain the procedure for the amputation. We were all listening intently when I looked over and noticed JJ had woken up and was listening too. The doctor started over from the beginning to make sure J heard everything he had said. Nurses came in to start the pre-op prep like they had done earlier. They gave J and an extra dose of whatever powerful concoction he was already on. He fell asleep immediately. One of them asked dad to sign a piece of paper allowing them to amputate. And that, I have no doubt, was dad’s toughest moment. He said he didn’t want JJ to hate him for making that decision. For signing that piece of paper. More tears came.
Now, looking back, the days that follow sort of melt together in a way. But certain moments stick out. The bigger ones, certainly more at the beginning and then start to taper. Like when he got his breathing tube out. There was a nurse on duty that J had taken a liking to. He said to her, “Can I ask you a personal question? Why do I get the feeling that you like me?” Listen, I’ve seen my brother interact with women, and I must say, this was, surprisingly, one of his more charismatic moments.
One of the only times I have seen JJ cry was one of his first nights in his regular room. Everyone was concerned about his mental state. Probably because we were all such a mess we assumed he must be too. It was just him and I and I can’t remember the exact wording I used but I asked him what and how he was feeling. He told me that the hardest part was that he would never be a firefighter again. He cried real hard, and so did I. I told him that if there was something he wanted to do, then he would figure out a way to do it. I had. and still have, no doubt of that. I found a video of a firefighter in Ohio who had an amputation almost exactly like JJ’s. He had been outfitted with a special prosthetic that worked perfectly. He wasn’t on light duty, the guy was fighting fires. I watched J watch the video and then we cried some more.
On Sundays, we would have football parties in his room. We’d bring a cooler and whatever JJ wanted to eat. He had lost so much weight. He was already thin and didn’t have much to lose. When he was able to eat, which was about once or twice every other day, he didn’t eat much. He wanted a special soup. We always called it green soup. Our nanny would make it for us. Kruno went and bought every box Hannaford had. That’s what he’s eating is this picture. He was so happy to have that green soup.
Next came his time at Spaulding. They do some truly amazing work there. And JJ was the incredibly lucky to be the recipient of some of that amazing work. He has said several times that he doesn’t believe he’d be this far along if he hadn’t have gone there. It was hard, him being so far away, but it was for the best. We all knew it. I got this photo one day while I was at work.
I was so proud. JJ has made us all very proud throughout this experience. His resolve has been something to be admired. He would be a great role model for someone who’s gone through a similar experience.
He has worked very hard to get to where he is. I got to go with him to a physical therapy appointment a few months ago. To the naked eye, the unknowing person, it may have looked like he wasn’t doing much. Lifting a leg up and down, moving side to side. But to us, to know where he had been such a short time ago. The condition he was in. How hard he worked. It was nothing short of a miracle. We almost lost him…a few times. But here he is.
So many moments and memories stick out. Things that I want to share. But this post has again, turned out to be very long. They will have to be told at a later time. Maybe on his two year anniversary. The weird thing is, and I think I can speak for most of my family. We are now running on a different calendar. To me, and I’d bet to JJ too, tonight at midnight, marks a new year. With I’m sure, more milestones to conquer and mountains to move. He will continue to progress and heal, hopefully sharing his progress along the way. This past year JJ has been the recipient of more prayers and blessings then could ever be counted. And for that, our family is so incredibly grateful.
I did something a little wacky. I submitted an article for publication in Brevity Magazine. Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t know what is crazier: Submitting the article or telling you about all it. The thought of both is making me a little queasy right now.
I submitted a short, non-fiction story. And as I think back to when I first started this blog; I would have never had the courage to do something like this. I barely have it now. When it comes to writing, I am still in a constant state of anxious indecisiveness with every blog post. My “revision” counter for this one has capped out at 25. Should I hit the publish button? Could I make it better? How do I make it better? Is it good enough? Am I good enough?
Those questions combined leads to a bigger one. Is the potential literary reward worth the risk of putting yourself out there? That is a big gamble. The idea of having something published is a huge, massive thing. I don’t care if 5 or 50000 people read the magazine. That is the reward. But, the risk of rejection? This soon into my writing venture? The thought of taking a chance and ending up with a bruised ego, and one that is already a bit blemished I might add, has me reeling. And worried I may have made a mistake.
While the graphic reads “How to”, it may be better read “How to???.” I guess first things first, I should probably start by managing my expectations. State my goal and get myself mentally prepared for the probable repudiation. Now you see, here I feel like I should type something like “Oh, I’m not expecting much. Maybe just some feedback”. In fact I did type something similar to that. I had to delete it. It wasn’t the truth. Obviously, I’m expecting something. I would have never wasted my time or the $3.00 it cost to submit it if I wasn’t. But then again, perhaps “expecting” is the wrong word. I think “hopeful” is more apt in this situation. It’s better to be hopeful than expectant in most things. I am expecting a response. I am hopeful that it is one of acceptance and not of rejection. That’s my goal. Yes, that’s much better.
However this pans out, I really wanted to write about it. This blog has made me think about things in ways I haven’t before. Never in my life have I set personal goals for myself or stepped so far out of my comfort zone. I’ve never put myself in a position for open critique. Not like this anyway. And even if no one reads these posts. I like to think that it keeps me honest. It keeps me aspiring to do something or be something more. Take risks. I really love what this has turned into. And if that’s all this ever is, just something I enjoying doing, then that’s ok. But I really hope that I never lose the desire to try for something bigger.
Have my non-fiction short story published on in Brevity Magazine
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When I was wracking my brain trying to come up with blueberry recipes, I remembered making ice cream in a bag back in my 10th grade biology class. Unfotunately, that may have been the only thing that stuck with me from that class. But, I thought that the recipe was would be perfect to share here. Now, the recipe itself is easy, but you may want to skip arm day at the gym before making this. You are about to get one hell of a workout.
2 Cups half and half
4 Tbs sugar
1 Tsp vanilla extract
2 cups of blueberries
You will also need:
1/2 Cup kosher salt
1 Gallon size Ziplock bag
Several plastic shopping bags.
Fill one of the shopping bags about half way with ice. Keep in mind, it’s going to leak so I highly recommend double or triple bagging it. Pour the kosher salt over the ice and let sit while making the ice cream mixture. In a food processor, pour in the half and half, blueberries, sugar and vanilla and mix on high for a few minutes. Pour mixture into ziplock bag and seal tightly. Place the ziplock bag into the shopping bag with ice. Shake for 10 minutes. You’re arms will get tired, and time will go by slow, and you’ll worry that you did something wrong when it doesn’t harden. Keep shaking. I found that tying the shopping bag and rolling it on a table worked well too. Once you feel the consistency get harder, pour mixture in a freezer safe container. And there ya have it. Enjoy!
I thought of the title for this blog post out of the blue one day. So I quickly opened my WordPress app and typed it in. I hit save, under the Drafts tab. Making absolutely sure that I didn’t accidentally hit the publish button. That is the worst! Publishing something before it’s ready, aaarrgh. It’s awful! Anyway, as I was double checking that I didn’t post it instead of saving it. I got the idea for the super cute graphic. I immediately clicked on my Word Swag app and created the image you see above. And I LOVE it. In fact, I love it so much, that I’ve started laying the ground work for this to be a series. And I am super excited!
As I started typing and formatting this post I found myself back spacing and rearranging sentences a lot. I just couldn’t get the concept to flow the way I wanted it to. And then I realized why…. I am a procrastinator. Procrasntintor’s aren’t usually the ones who write about getting things done. We also aren’t the type of people to be made an example of when referencing expeditious task completion. Something weird to note, that this is only in my personal life. Like getting an oil change, or canceling a subscription. Which reminds me, I never canceled my husbands Dollar Shave Club subscription. Shit.
Professionally speaking, I couldn’t be more opposite. I’m known to watch my inbox like a hawk. Always at the ready for the next task. For me, there is nothing better than being asked to do something, completing it and sending back a “Done!” email. My work inbox is pristine. As I left yesterday for a week’s vacation, I didn’t even have to scroll. All emails were visible on one page. That feeling, for me, is pure contentment.
So, how do I get this, and the subsequent series posts I’m planning, to translate from personal procrastinator to every day efficient? There only seems to be one solution. I am going to try to fix something, that for the last 33 years of my life, has been one of the most predominant personality traits I have. I’m going to become “The Blogger Formally Known As A Procrastinator.” You guys, my husband is going to be so effing excited when he reads this.
We’re now at the point where you may be asking yourself “why would I take advice from a woman who admittedly, can barely make a list of “to-do’s” to do the to-do’s.?” And I think that is a very fair question. My answer is this: This post is meant for the people like me. The people to enjoy getting things done, but in their own, type B personality, kind of way. The type of people who may appear disorganized, and lackadaisical to some. But in all actuality do, for the most part, have their shit together.
The To-Do: Writing a Blog Post
This blog has been an eye-opening experience. If you have been with me since the beginning you may recall my post Surviving Succulents. In it, I wrote about starting projects and not finishing them. And how this project, this blog, was going to be different. And while I’ve only been at this for about 9 months, it is the longest I’ve ever stuck with something like this. And I still love it like I did at the beginning. I think that is one of the most important things for a procrastinator. And my first blogging To-Do. Blog about something you love. Or something that challenges you, whether it be a specific topic or niche. Maybe even daring to try a different style. Like poetry, short stories or nonfiction. In my very limited experience, I’ve found that writing about something you love, or something that you have an interest in, comes a lot easier and therefore quicker than something you don’t.
That brings me to my next To-Do, well this is more of a to-don’t. Don’t force it. Readers will be able to tell. One of the followers of my blog recently commented that “It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.” And he is exactly right. Just because you haven’t published a post in a while doesn’t mean that you’re failing or even that you’re procrastinating. Maybe you haven’t found the spark. I’ve talked about the spark before. It’s what I consider to be the moment you get an idea that you’re excited about. When everything just comes rushing to you and you’re inspired. That spark can come at any time and even multiple times within a single post. For example, I started this post on May 29th. Almost 2 months ago. And here I am just finishing it up. I don’t know what it was about the last couple of days, but a majority of this post has only just been written in that time. And that’s ok. I didn’t want to write it to just to say that I posted something. I wanted to write it to be good. To be helpful. Honestly, I don’t know if it will be either of those things, but fingers crossed.
And the last To-Do is to try to set aside time each day to work on your blog. It doesn’t have to be hours, or at a set time every day. Even if all you have is 15 minutes. Go to your blog, under your drafts, and read what you’ve already written. Add a sentence or two. Rewrite a paragraph. Touch up the graphic. Do research on a topic you’re working on. Whatever it may be, just DO something within your blog. I guarantee the more you do that, the more quality content you’ll produce.
So that’s that. My very first edition of “Turning To-Do’s into Ta-Da’s.” Now, I am no expert on matters of blogging or most things really. And while these tips are more common knowledge tidbits than insider secrets. I hope they offer insight. I hope this comes off as more of a pep talk than anything. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t worry about what others with think (this is still my biggest hurdle). Because, from what I can tell, the bloggers who have the most followers aren’t necessarily the people who produce the most content. And I think, by just doing these very basic things, you will greatly increase the chances of creating an amazing (Ta-Da!!!) blog post.
“Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I started out strong. Just over eight months ago. I was blogging often, having a fairly clear, concise point with each post. The feedback I got was amazing. People told me that what I was writing was relatable and how they looked forward to my posts. But, as the weeks went on, I found myself blogging less and less and less. At one point going more than a month without posting a single thing.
I would still go to WordPress almost every day. Just under the “Reader” tab. I would scroll through my saved categories, spending a majority of my time under “Blogging”. A common post I’d see would fall along the lines of “So, I haven’t posted in a while.” or “Things have been really hectic lately and I haven’t logged in”. Listen, I get it. I do. Life gets busy and things come up. But I couldn’t help but wonder… Were they really too busy for days, weeks, on end or maybe it’s because they didn’t have something to say? Something they were proud of, or inspired by, or excited about. And by no fault of their own necessarily.
It’s so very easy to rely on an excuse, rather than admit that you’ve maybe lost motivation. Or perhaps, you’ve been looking for inspiration and have come up empty handed. I find that so many of my posts have come to fruition because I was inspired by something. Something happened or I read something. Whatever it was, was so amazing that it just compelled me to write. To tell the WordPress world all about it.
A few weeks ago, I got the blogging itch. The one where you need to write something down, purely for the sake of writing. But, I didn’t know what to write about. I needed inspiration in real bad way. So I went over to Dream Big, Dream Often, to see what the author had been up to. He has a fantastic blog. Every day he publishes posts that are not only thought-provoking, but also entice engagement from a seemingly very diverse audience. I’m pretty new to this, but even I know that is no small feat. And as I scrolled and read, there it was. A simple blog post, about nothing really. It was maybe 3 or 4 sentances long. In the post, he had asked a question about social media usage. I answered, and in my response, I typed the title of this post. That’s all I needed, I had my inspiration.
When inspiration hits, there’s no other way to describe it other than a spark. When I have an idea for a post that I’m excited about, there is nothing that will stop me from writing, editing, revising and hitting that beautiful blue “publish” button. My eyes light up, you can see the wheels turning and from there, my fingers glide over the alphabet keys with the utmost of ease. You never know where the spark will come from or when it will strike. But thankfully, inevitably, it does. Whether it’s slight or fierce, sooner or later, you’ll have a creative urge that will bring you back from that merciless thing called writers block.