Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Latest

For someone that doesn't get out and about much, I really stay quite busy, hence the reason why I've been MIA on my blog lately. I have had so much to do that there really hasn't been any time for making blog posts. Here are a few things that I've been up to lately:

I went to the dentist last Wednesday, just for my six month cleaning and exam. I know a lot of people absolutely hate going to the dentist, but I don't mind it at all. The worst thing about it is that the office I go to is about 40 minutes away, so it's a bit of a drive. I've been going to the same dentist (Dr. Farmer) basically my entire life, and he always makes everything "a piece of cake." My mom and I were in and out in just over an hour. No cavities for me. Woo hoo! I still haven't had any cavities in my permanent teeth and I will try my best to keep that the case as long as I can.

After the dentist my mom and I stopped by Target to pick up a few things for Christmas. I've been able to do almost all of my Christmas shopping online, but sometimes there are just things you need to get at an actual store. As nice and convenient as online shopping is, there's just nothing like being able to see with your own eyes what you are considering buying, and not just a picture where it's hard to tell the actual size, quality and fine details of a product. Even when I am at the store, sometimes it can be very frustrating to shop because it's really difficult to tell people just what item you want brought closer in order to get a better look. Imagine only having your words and not being able to point or gesture when trying to direct someone to a specific object. It's harder than you would think, especially since there are so many products on display! Sometimes only looking with your eyes, even in person, and not being able to actually feel or smell or touch the merchandise just isn't good enough!

My younger sister Chandra turned 26 last Saturday (the 13th) and we celebrated together on Friday, since she was off work. Chandra was lamenting the fact that she is "so old" now. 26 is really not that old, but I can kind of relate to where she's coming from, since all of our sisters were married and most of them had children by that age, as well as a lot of our friends, too. Chan is doing great at her new job working as a sales rep for AT&T. She works loooong hours, though. Here's what her day was like yesterday, just to give an example: She worked from 9 AM to 8 PM, but didn't get off until 9:30, since you have to stay with the customer you're helping until you're finished with them, even if that means staying an hour or two after the time you're scheduled to be off. Then she went to the gym to work out and didn't get home until after midnight. The store she works at is about 50 minutes away from our home, too, so she has quite a drive to and from work every day. During the holiday season she has to work six day work weeks, too. Needless to say, I don't see Chan much anymore, so any time we do get to spend together is definitely a treat.

I teach Sunday school at church to a group of 12 and 13-year-olds (I've been doing this for the past two years.) My mom is my assistant, which is kind of funny that she is the assistant and I am the teacher, since my mom has been teaching the youth at church for more than 30 years and is WAY more qualified to teach than I am. I do my best, though. I spend so much time working on my lessons each week. I only have two more weeks with four of my six regular kids, since the four that turned 14 this year will be moving up to the next class when 2015 starts. I'm going to miss them so much, because I've really come to love them dearly! I will get at least three new regular kids, though, when the new class of 12-year-olds move up in January. I took a group picture with the kids I teach about a month ago. Such great kids!
I've been busy working on the annual family slideshow I make at the end of each year with pictures of my sisters, their kids and Mom, Chandra and me throughout the year. It's a lot of work, but I think it's worth it. I know how much I would treasure a slideshow like this if I were able to watch one from each year of my childhood. I hope my nieces and nephews treasure these slideshows as much as I know I would if I were them, because documenting their lives is a major part of why I continue to make these year after year.

This is just an update on what's been going on. Time to get back to work!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Meeting My Cousin

Last Wednesday I was able to meet one of my cousins, Bill Jr., and his family. They live in Virginia, but were traveling in the area for the Thanksgiving holiday. I may have met Bill Jr. (who is 10 years my senior) when I was a little girl, but if I did, I was too young at the time and have no memory of it. We are Facebook friends, but don't really correspond, so it was basically like meeting a stranger.

Bill, his wife, Melinda, and their two sons, Thomas and Tre, came for lunch and stayed for a couple of hours on their way from Aurora, MO, to Evansville, IN. It was great learning more about Bill and Melinda, how they met (in Italy when they were both in the Navy) and more about their life. 
Bill Jr.'s dad, Bill Sr., is my dad's oldest brother. We rarely got together with the Johnson side of the family when I was a kid, and don't know much about my cousins on that side of the family. My only Johnson relative that I know much about is my Uncle Paul, so it was really nice to meet Bill and get to know him a little better. Bill and his family were great and I hope to spend more time with their family in the future when they are near the area. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

11 Years Later

It's November 17, another anniversary. Number 11 this time. I feel like I was just writing a post about reaching the decade mark since my car accident. The past year has really flown by. (To read about my accident and all that transpired that day click here and here.)

November 17 was actually an awesome day for me. I got to spend the morning at the nursing home where I was doing clinicals, and I was able to get some practical experience doing some of the things I'd been learning about in nursing school. The last thing I remember that day was leaving the nursing home and I have no recollection of the accident. The people I feel badly for are my family and friends! I cannot imagine the horror it would've been to find out that your daughter, sister, dear friend or even casual acquaintance had been in a terrible car accident, had broken their neck and would forever be paralyzed, IF they even survived at all. My family members–especially mother–and friends are the ones I feel badly for!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, even though my accident was the worst thing to happen to me physically, I would never take it back because the emotional and spiritual gains far outweigh what I lost physically. Going through this transformation of mind, body and spirit has given me the opportunity to learn some valuable life lessons at an accelerated rate that I wouldn't have learned as quickly otherwise, or maybe even at all, if I hadn't become paralyzed. That is worth more to me than having a fully functioning body with a less developed spirit. I know this may seem unbelievable, but it's the honest truth. I'm happier than I've ever been, more confident and I feel like I have all the answers to life's tough questions, like "what is the purpose of life" and "why do bad things happen to people."

Whenever people meet me and they hear about what's happened to me they always apologize. Don't feel badly for me! I'm sure being totally paralyzed sounds perfectly awful, but it's really not as bad as it sounds. It does have its downsides, but I can think of far worse fates. If I'd never become paralyzed I would never have known the joy I feel that comes from succeeding at something difficult and my compassion for others wouldn't be as developed, either. It's no use speculating where I would be and what I would be doing had this never happened to me, but there's a very real possibility that I wouldn't be as happy as I am now. There's really nothing like almost dying to give you perspective about what really matters, and a new appreciation for life.

I have a really great life and I get to spend most days doing the things that I want to do, and with my BFF, too. Not everyone has that luxury! This may not be the life I always dreamed of, but it's still pretty amazing, so I won't complain!

I've seen cars with a lot more damage, but this was bad enough. I list surviving this car accident as one of my greatest accomplishments.
These pictures were taken on Thanksgiving day in 2003, 10 days after my accident (I was just starting to regain consciousness at this point. I remember trying to smile in the first picture, but then I thought, "Nobody's going to care if I'm smiling."):
This picture was taken during my seven weeks in the ICU, and the next picture was taken during my seven weeks in rehab (I was working on a sip-and-puff computer):
This was my when my nursing class received their LPN (halfway through the program). My mom went in my stead:
And finally, me, 11 years post-accident. Not too shabby, all things considered!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Guest Speaker

Last Friday I had the opportunity to go speak to my friend Lacee's Fundamentals of Nursing class (she teaches nursing education at a local college). I've done this several times before, so it wasn't anything new. Even still, I always dread it when Lacee asks me to come speak! I fought the urge to say no because I know that it's good for me and it's good for the nursing students, too. I have a unique perspective on nursing/patient care that can't be learned in a textbook and what I have to offer is something any prospective nurse could benefit from hearing.

I spoke for about an hour and 15 minutes and basically talked about my story, my experiences and how I deal with stress and coping (since that's the lecture Lacee teaches when she invites me to be her guest speaker). It always goes really well and I even enjoy it once it's over, so I don't know why I always dread it so much. Part of the reason is because I can't speak loudly and I can't stand the sound of my own voice. It sounds so unnatural and coarse and not at all like I used to sound before my accident. I'm really self-conscious of it, actually. I really should be more grateful, though, since I remember what it was like to be unable to speak after my accident and how difficult/frustrating that was. It IS a voice, even though it doesn't sound like ME!

I took a group picture with the class when I was finished speaking, and then one of the students took a picture of Mom, Lacee and me:
Before I left home Chandra took a picture of my mom and me since we haven't taken many pictures together lately. The last picture is one that my mom took of me when we got home. Not too bad, considering that I got majorly windblown while we were out! I actually liked this picture of myself, which is saying something since I have a critical eye when it comes to pictures of me. I sure hope I'm not the only one that is this way! Sometimes I just wish I could see myself the way other people see me.
I have to pat myself on the back for being such a good sport about doing things like this. It really takes a lot of courage to do things like this since I hate being the center of attention and have all eyes are on me.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Red Ribbon Week

Last night my sister Sharon sent me a picture of her daughter Rachel's Red Ribbon Week essay. I remember having Red Ribbon Week back when I was in elementary school. I wonder if they still pass out actual red ribbons that say "Drug Free and Proud" in gold letters? Anyway, I thought Rachel's essay was adorable, so I asked Sharon if I could put it on my blog. 
Today I pledge to stay drug free so when I grow up I can be a: 
mom so I can have children to tace ciru (take care of). I can feed children. And put children to bed. And take children to school. Help with homewore.

Rachel is six and in 1st grade, by the way. I thought she did a great job on her essay. I love children and the fact that Rach wrote about wanting to be a mom and care for her children warmed my heart. I loved her phonetic spelling and oversized periods, too! I hope Rachel (and all of the other six and seven-year-olds in her class and throughout the country) can remember the pledge they took and the essay they wrote when temptation comes knocking in the not too distant future.
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