December 21st…

Two years ago…it happened.

As I was thinking about what to write today I got really stuck. I wasn’t sure what direction to go. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to emphasize the heartache that we all still feel very acutely, or if I wanted to assure everyone that we are doing well, thriving even…which is true. I thought about telling stories about my parents, which I love to do, but I didn’t know which ones to pick, none of them really seem to be good enough. I almost decided to give an update on all of us, but that just didn’t feel right this time. I know I did it last year but that was when we were all still nursing our many physical injuries. This year has been more about healing our emotional wounds.

The moment my parents died my heart ripped in two. One side filled with heartache and the other just broke. Sometimes I lie awake at night, when the world is fast asleep and take a walk down memory lane. Remembering them is easy, I do it everyday, missing them is hard.

I know that sounds really deep, but it is true. However, there are a few things that have brought all of us a little bit of peace. I can’t remember if I’ve shared this before, if I have please forgive me. My parents were incredibly prepared for…anything. Their will was set up impeccably, and allowed us to put their inheritance in a trust fund rather than have it appear to be income, which permitted us to keep the money instead of paying for all of our medical care out of pocket. But more profoundly are the steps that my mom took in case something happened to her. Let me emphasize that my mom was 57, in good health, and had no real reason to fear anything coming on so quickly. In their so called “death file” my mom had prepared a few things for all of us.

The first was a ring. Engraved around the outside it says: Jessie I am always with you. My siblings have similar rings. The second is that we each received a tiny little angel charm to go under our pillow so that my mom and dad can meet us in our dreams, and protect us in our sleep. The third was a message, written on a Post-it note, reminding us of a few things.The modified version reads (some things are just for us:-) ):

  • Share/split our possessions – store what you may want someday – let go of the rest
  • Stay close to each other – force yourselves even when you don’t feel like it – unconditional acceptance, support, & love will keep you connected & are lifetime gifts to treasure & take care of
  • Know that we are watching over you always. You don’t think I would let go of that, do you? :-) -And that the biggest, greatest, most wonderful gifts of my life were… YOU. <3
  • You will be OK – you are all strong & centered. Be happy.
  • I love you forever & ever.

I hope that this inspires you to do something similar for your loved ones. This has been the most beautiful gift to us.

A while ago I came across this article on NPR All Things Considered and it really touched me. No matter what your faith is, it is always reassuring to have science back up what is in your heart. Aaron Freeman is a commentator and American journalist that gave this NPR performance titled Planning Ahead Can Make a Difference in the End. I’ve changed just a couple words to personalize this just a bit. I hope that NPR and Mr. Freeman will be okay with that and understand that I am using it in in the spirit that it was delivered.

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing children about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your daughters to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved mother remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping son that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would remind everyone that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your children are comforted in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let them know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are their eyes, that those photons created within their constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.
Here is a link to the original:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4675953

So, in the spirit of Tim and Cheryl light a candle tonight and let it burn bright and give your loved ones a kiss knowing that nothing quite lasts forever. Mom and dad loved the holidays; they had a way of inviting everyone into the folds of our family. You don’t get to pick your family, but you only get one. Treasure the good things in each other and have a very Merry Christmas!!!

And of course I wanted to include this video again – I LOVE seeing them.

Jer’s Turn

Some of you may know this already but Jeremy recently spent Thanksgiving week in the hospital. The Monday before Thanksgiving he was having severe stomach pain so one of his roommates took him to the local hospital in Spokane (where he currently attends University). The doctors initially thought it was appendicitis, so at 10:30 PM they admitted him into the hospital and prepped him for surgery.

At this time our nuclear family (Aunt Terry, Jaime & Steven, and myself) were all working together to make sure that someone was there when he woke up from surgery! All of us certainly understand the importance of having someone there when you wake up from anesthesia! imageSo Aunt Terry and Jaime jumped in the car and headed over the pass. I’m still not sure how they stayed awake, I understand Jaime knitted an entire sweater on the way, and I know Aunt Terry loves Christmas tunes so much and I’m guessing that might’ve been enough to keep her going.

They made it in time to see Jeremy when he came out of surgery. The surgeon came out and told them that when they got in and began looking at the appendix they noticed

that it was not a problem, but while they were in there they did notice that his intestines were severely inflamed. I imagine that the conversation went something like this – hey Bill, this thing looks fine, I am poking at it right now but… whoa, this over here looks severely jacked up. Theyimage removed 4 inches of the small intestine and 4 inches of his cecum. All of this is consistent with Crohn’s disease.

Jeremy was tired and sore but started recovering nicely. Wednesday, Aunt Terry and Jaime headed back and I tagged in to spend Thursday through Sunday there. Thanksgiving consisted of Carl’s Jr. for me, and ice chips and the Hawks game for Jer. Can you believe Carl’s Jr. is open on Thanksgiving!? Don’t worry, we are doing a make up Thanksgiving later. Jeremy continued to recover slowly, for a few days he had trouble keeping any liquids down but his body became strong enough to walk laps around the nurses station.

Something my mom has always said about Jeremy is that he is an impeccable judge of character. This really showed through in a few ways during that week. imageThe first is that he had a revolving door of friends willing to come visit him in the hospital. For most of the visits he just slept and his buddies sat by his side for a bit and silently and stoically let him know that they were there for him. As he began feeling better he was able to sit up and joke with them, he got many cards of well wishes, and his sweet little “basically a” sister made him a Seahawks blanket so he didn’t have to use the hospital stuff. All of his friends were gracious, kindimage to all the staff, and super respectful of everything that was going on. If you are Jeremy’s friend, you can sleep safe knowing that you have a kind heart because he chooses his friends carefully.

The other thing that really demonstrated Jeremy’s character through this is how he treated all the doctors and nurses. Even in pain, he always said please and thank you, he definitely advocated for himself when he needed something but was thoughtful about the timing. As a hospital veteran I find this such a wonderful thing because if you can believe it…there were times in the hospital when I definitely was not using please and thank you in my vocabulary! Hard to believe, I know!

Many people have given us lots of advice on Crohn’s, we appreciate all the knowledge and are putting it in our memory banks. However, what Jeremy has decided to do is focus his treatment plan decisions with his doctor. It is nice to have information, but it gets confusing when some people say wheat, other people say no wheat, some say medicine, some don’t, some say fly like a bird, some people say walk like a dog :-) It’s super confusing. Here is what we do know:

Crohn’s belongs to a group of conditions called inflammatory bowel disease (IFB). It is a chronic imageinflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Under normal circumstances our immune system attacks and kills foreign viruses, bacteria, fungus, and other microorganisms; our bodies are usually able to distinguish the difference between the good bacteria and bad bacteria. In people with Crohn’s the good bacteria is mistaken for harmful invaders and the immune system prepares to attack! Cells come out of the blood and into the intestines to create inflammation and build a wall of defense against the enemy. In Crohn’s, the body’s defense system remains up and the inflamed bowel continues to stay vigilant against the attackers. Unfortunately, science has not discovered what causes Crohn’s, but have determined that various stimuli may trigger it (which is why he is working so closely with his doctor), affecting all individuals differently. For instance, it might be bacteria, something in your intestines, or family history. Most likely it is a combination of all three. Crohn’s is a chronic disease, which means he will have it for life. However, sometimes the disease can be in remission, with no symptoms at all (fingers crossed).

You will be happy to know that Jer is home and in Bothell, relaxing, and is back to his little brother antics again. His professors have been super understanding, and he is finishing up the last of his schoolwork before the quarter ends.image

And, as always, thank you so much for supporting our family! It is crazy just how much love we have. Your comments, and little gestures of acknowledgment mean so much to all of us :-).

Keep on, keeping on!

Happy Anniversary!!

Happy anniversary mama and dad!

32 years now!

Let me tell you a little story about a conversation I had with my mom just a couple months before the accident. I had recently been an ALL STAR in the dating game and had gone on dates with many different guys, but none of them seemed to fit quite right.

scan0107

Mom was in the kitchen cooking dinner for our delicious Sunday night meal. She asked me what I wanted from a companion or spouse and I proceeded to list off a plethora of attributes that I deemed necessary for a possible partner in crime: funny, smart, athletic, scan0196likes his mama, good job, maybe musical, wants kids, house, gets along with my friends, must watch scan0009Sunday football, doesn’t eat too loud, and although I don’t remember all of them I do recall that there were a few extraneous and possibly over-the-top requests. :-)

Mom paused, turned to look at me in the eye and tilted her head a little to the right. She said “You know Jess, I think if I had made a list and your dad had made a list that we would not have fit everything that we thought we wanted for ourselves. I imagine your dad would want a sporty little thing that wanted to go outside and play baseball, ride scan0202motorcycles, and dig in the dirt all day. My list may have included a professor of English that had season tickets to the symphony and we would play our instruments on the weekend!” I burst out laughing at this point because I knew she was right! My mom would’ve loved to sit at the piano and sing, and compose music with some perfectly nerdy type who would quote prose to her. She continued by saying “But I picked your dad because he was funny, so kind, and extremely dedicated. I watched him work through school, take care of his family, and patiently and passionately work. He made me feel good, accepted me exactly as I am, I knew he would be willing to work through things with me and not give up on anything. He was better, and is better than anything that I could’ve pictured for myself.”

That short conversation has stuck with me and has absolutely changed my view on love. I’m so glad to know that my parents loved each other deeply and strongly. They helped each other up when the water was rising, and cheered and encouraged each other when it was time to celebrate.031

Quite honestly, I miss them so, so, so much. I think about mom and dad daily. Hourly. I’m thankful for the time that I had with them, but I ache for the moments I want to share with them.

Days like today, are fun to celebrate because it reminds me, and all of us of the wonderful things that they brought to this world. Cheers to mom and dad!scan0153

Media update from us!

I’m sure many of you may know that our family has been in the middle of some legal disputes with the State. I want to update you and let you know that we have settled the case against the State and feel an enormous sense of relief. imageOur time with our parents was too short, Mom and Dad’s moments walking on this earth were not enough days. Tying up this part of the tragedy has left us with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and respect towards all of those who have carried us on their shoulders during this time.

Today we held a local press conference with:
KOMO 4
KING 5
KIRO 7
FOX 13
SEATTLE TIMES

I’m not sure of the specifics but I would bet that you could get a peek at what we had to say during the local news tonight. If you’re lucky, you might even get a shot of me walking!

Thanks to our good friend Alexa Vaughn for writing such a wonderful article about us and imagebeing such a great friend of the family!

Seattle Times -Sept. 5. http://blogs.seattletimes.com/today/2014/09/state-to-pay-10m-to-family-for-stevens-pass-tree-fall-accident/#comments-page-subtitle

Again, with every ounce of our souls we want to express thanks to our friends, family, strangers, and the media; all who have taken great care of us!

Keep on, keeping on!image

Besties with Shermie??

Dear Richard Sherman,

It was really nice to meet you the other day in the Las Vegas airport. I’m sure you don’t remember me because you are undoubtedly approached by hundreds of people a day. Just to remind you, I was the cute blonde in the hot pink wheelchair with the killer smile.image I respect your decision to not take a picture together expressing that it would draw too much attention. Although it was disappointing, I found that you were incredibly gracious and kind when we were chatting. I can’t imagine having that many strangers interrupt my daily activities, and still have the patience and good attitude to have pleasantries with each and every one of them.

Richard, Rich, Sherm, Shermy, I want you to know just how much of an inspiration you have been to me. In December of 2012 I had the most horrific day of my life. I was in a car accident in which a tree fell on our car, the lives of my family and I were changed forever. You see, my family and I had planned to go on a family vacation right before Christmas. We piled in the car and headed to Leavenworth, Washington. My parents in the front seat, myself, my sister Jaime, her husband Steven, and my brother Jeremy in the back. When the tree struck our car my parents were instantly killed, my sister and brother-in-law broke both of their legs in numerous spots, arms, hips, facial bones, and many internal injuries, my brother received slightly less trauma, and I was left paralyzed from the neck down. At 27 years old it was easy to find the dark place in my mind that told me that my life was over. Prior to the accident I was an active woman who ran half marathons, triathlons, went wine tasting with my girlfriends, lived in a cute apartment downtown, and loved my job as a teacher fiercely. As time progressed, and I received the support of family and friends, I began to grow stronger. Proving many of the doctors wrong I began to walk, slowly, unsteadily, and with help, but I embraced the idea that my life was not over yet. With help and guidance I began to get pieces of my life back. I work out four times a week with a handsome and very muscly therapist, I do volunteer tutoring at a school across the street, and I am working towards getting back in the classroom again to teach. I know that I have more to offer this world, and that my paralysis can hold my body back, but it will not slow my spirit down.

I want you to know that I have drawn a lot of my inspiration from you. Getting picked in the fifth round of the NFL draft, watching 24 corners go before you can seem like you’ve already been kicked to the curb before you even started. But, you never let that bother you. You said I am the best, no one can stop me, and I will be the most successful cornerback in the NFL. The doctors and therapist continued to bring me what was probably realistic, but negative news and channeling your strength I was able to say I am going to walk again, I will feed myself, I will brush my hair, and I will damn right learn how to kick some ass along the way. It inspires me that you speak your mind no matter where you are, or who you are talking to. Similarly, I’ve seen you write the most profound and intelligent articles I have ever seen from a football player. You have proven your knowledge of the game, and your ability to share your thinking with others. You bring my spirits up by reminding me that I am the only one that is holding me back. In fact, I believe it was you who quoted John Wooden in saying that “Success is never final; Failure is never fatal; It’s courage that counts!”

Let me go on to say something even more profound or sagacious. I know we only met for a moment, and that there is no reason that you would remember me, but just as I have drawn strength from you, I think you’ll find that you can draw strength from me. There is no cure for spinal cord injury. There is no magic pill that can make any athlete taller. We all have to work with what we have been given. Each morning I wake up and I struggle to sit up, but as a stretch and begin my morning routine I put my game face on and get ready to start kicking some ass. Every little thing is harder for me than anyone else, but that doesn’t mean that I’m about to give in. Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle. There is no shortcut to a great achievement. There is no substitute for doing the work. As Einstein once said, “Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.” You must run to be a runner. You must write to be a writer. You must actively work on a business venture to learn how to run a successful business.scan0062

Some of the issues that you take on have to do with race. Although we are different colors, I like to think that not only can I understand, but that I am an advocate for all types of coteries. First, I grew up in a multicultural—rainbow family —if you will. My sister is Asian, and my brother is black. This was all before the time of Brangelina, and certainly before it was acceptable to have this type of family. Growing up, I was very involved in ensuring equal00280ity for both my brother and sister. Now, I find myself as a minority in the disabled group and an advocate for others like myself. You would be amazed how many businesses just don’t give a damn about anyone who isn’t able bodied. Like you, I believe in speaking up for either those who don’t have a voice themselves, or in subject matter that needs to be addressed by someone who has a position that can be supportive. Even when we discover what motivates us, we can’t go that distance alone.image

Let’s be honest, you have a smoking hot body! :-) I know that you have to work really hard for that. Well, I have to work really hard for mine too. If I go one day without walking, image I go one day without stretching, if I go one day without the painstakingly and seemingly easy gestures of standing and reaching for something I can lose everything. My strength deteriorates so quickly. So while you’re in the gym, working on that impeccable chest, think of me, and how hard I have to work to do the little things, like eat, brush my teeth, or pull up my pants so that the whole world doesn’t get a little show of my crack!

So let me know when you’re ready to be best friends, because I see a lot of good in you, and I think you will find a lot of good in me.

Keep on keeping on!

Oh, and I will see you at the softball game in a couple of weeks!

Go Hawks!

 

J

I know! Too long! But I’ve still got “it”

I know, I know, I know, it is been far too long since I’ve blogged. I do want to keep everyone updated, I guess I was just enjoying a short moment in time where I felt like I may been adapting to what is a “new normal”. To be fair, I am a long way from what I would feel is “settled”, but I’m certainly getting closer!

So! I have so much news to share with you! But I’m thinking that it would be unwise to blow it all in one post, so I will just have to go piece by piece! First of all, you should know that the knee surgery went fantastic! I feel great, my stride is smoother, and my knees don’t crunch when I put weight on them. Hum, who knew? It was a long, tedious, and ongoing recovery. Two months nonweightbearing, one month where I can only stand, and only after that was I allowed to start walking again. Shockingly, I didn’t lose any stamina or muscle mass… Nope… That is a big fat lie! I got weak, and unsteady, so I am working on building up my Badonkadonk butt so that I can be a master walker!

What really inspired me to get back on here and blog is that I get to brag a little. Well, I brag all the time, but this one felt different. A nice looking lad hit on me! It has been ages since something like that has happened by someone who is not a total goofball :-). Not to be egotistical, vain, or narcissistic but I had kind of forgotten how flattering it was. Let me tell you, I tried to dress super professional for work, but going out on the weekends, or on my birthday, I had some pretty hot little numbers back in the day!

That leads us to talk about self image, most days I can look in the mirror and say “damn, I look pretty good today!” There are also plenty of days where is say “ehh, that will do.” But even on the days where I feel gorgeous, I haven’t really been hit on since the accident. Most women are actually overly generous with their compliments towards me, but the men don’t say anything or advert their eyes. To be honest, I haven’t thought much about it, or been bothered by it. But after yesterday, I realized that that part of my life had changed. I don’t usually view myself as disabled or handicapped, but I understand that individuals who have not met me that comes across as their first impression of me. They see crutches, a walker, or wheelchair, they see something different from themselves before they see me.

I was getting my hair done yesterday and I had a male stylist :-) He went to great lengths to ensure that I knew that he was straight. We chatted, as you do at the salon. He has spiky hair, big muscles, and some pretty killer tattoos. He spent extra time telling me that I would look beautiful with bangs and that he thought I looked stunning. No mention of my wheelchair for once, which was nice. As we’re finishing up he definitely made it a “can I see you again outside of work comment”.

image

My best go at a selfie after the hair cut

I politely declined, but I did promise to come back in eight weeks and we could talk about my bangs.

 

 

All of our lives are starting to move on in different directions, but I also want to let you know that my family is doing great. We are happy, healthy, and still so very appreciative of everything that you all have done for us.

Keep checking in, because I have some news about driving, work, boys, and certainly the progress that I have made! Get excited!

Keep on keeping on!
XOXO

J

 

<3