Monday, November 26, 2012

The 6 week wait is over...

Appointment went "okay" today.  I was a nervous wreck beforehand and actually sat in my car wanting to just turn around and leave before I even went in.  I had waited so long for this appointment, but here I was, barely functioning due to anxiety and not even wanting to continue on.  I was freaking out.

How do you tell somebody who you've never met exactly what you're feeling and how do you sum up a long history of chronic pain and symptoms into one appointment?  I wanted to make it obvious to him that what I am feeling is no longer acceptable to me and make sure he understood that some days, the severity of my pain makes me want to just curl up into a sensory deprivation hole to escape it all.  Yet, I didn't want to seem over dramatic or "seeking".  Being in the health care industry myself, I know that a lot of chronic pain sufferers get labeled with that before they are even given a second glance.

He did seem receptive to me, but failed to actually give me a diagnosis.  Although he did say that he feels I present with what is likely fibromyalgia.  He wants to check, guessed it...more lab work.  Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion, since there is no definitive test for it.  Plus, it would also be considered irresponsible to not test for those other things, when there could be something else going on that would require a completely different treatment plan.  

He was also fairly concerned that the area of my most severe pain (the place where the pain is constant, unrelenting and most intense) is my neck/shoulders/upper back.  He had me do some x-rays to ensure that there isn't also degenerative disc disease.
So, I should hear back in a few days about my lab work.  If it all comes back unremarkable, then I suspect I should get the formal diagnosis.  
In the mean time, he wants me to increase my Lyrica dosage.  I've been tolerating it without side effect, but relief has been just out of reach.  

Unless there is a problem, I'll be seeing him again in 2 months.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

No hoop jumping today!

4 weeks ago when I went to my primary care provider to address my pain and the fact that I thought I have fibromyalgia...I was expecting multiple hoops to have to jump through before I'd be able to find myself on the right track.
Luckily, my PCP knows my sister and knows her fibro struggle. So, she was quick to agree with me on my self diagnosis. She promptly gave me a referral to a rheumatologist to get more personalized/specialized treatment.
She discussed with me starting a medication prior to my rheumatology appointment as they typically can't get you in for a while (she was that point it was a 6 week wait). She knew that I wouldn't get insurance to cover Lyrica (the med most likely to give me relief) right away without trying something else first. So we started me on gabapentin (generic neurontin). She then wanted to see me after 4 weeks. Well, it hasn't gone well. I have had absolutely NO relief while dealing with multiple unpleasant side effects.
So, I had an appointment with my PCP today. I was expecting to have to beg or jump through hoops...but luckily I did my research AND my PCP is awesome. I was able to look up Lyrica with my insurance company and found that they will cover it if you have taken gabapentin within the prior 12 months. I informed my PCP of this and she immediately was on board. She basically said, why mess around with something else when this is what will likely help, especially since my sister has had good relief with it.
She she prescribed it and I was happy that my research was right and when I arrived at my pharmacy to pick it up...I only had to pay the co-pay!!!

I am actually finding myself feeling truly optimistic. It is good timing because by the time I see the rheumatologist I will be armed with the knowledge if this med is working or not...but it gives us a head start.
So keep your fingers and toes crossed that after years of suffering in silence and now 4 weeks of suffering out loud, I'll finally have some relief.
I know my husband will appreciate it too...nights like last night are hard. When I am in so much pain that I'm crying and untouchable, he has a hard time dealing with not being able to do anything to help me. Hopefully he won't have to see me like this for much longer.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Awareness and side effects...

So, it's been 10 days since my "coming out" post in which I finally shared with the world what I've been going through.  It's been a very strange, very trying, and very difficult 10 days.  
I'm not sure if I'm just allowing myself to be more aware of what I'm feeling or if it was the emotional stress of finally talking about all this, but these last 10 days have been some of the most exhausting and painful days I've had.  Maybe it's a combination of those two factors.  

The one thing that's still requiring a conscious effort is talking about what I'm feeling.  I've been so quiet about it for so long, that the silence became a habit.  Even with my husband, who'd I'd been keeping in the dark about this as well.  I know that it's a good thing to share with him how I'm feeling, but I worry that over time he'll get sick of it or that I'll come across as a whiner.  Now, I know that's all in my head because my husband is AMAZING!  

Everything I've ever gone through...from the death of my father, to complications following surgery to remove a benign breast tumor, to my major car accident last year...He has not only been right by my side, but he has helped to carry me through it all.  And this is no different.  He a long time ago, referred to us as "Team Westman" and that stuck...and this is how he approaches everything.  He, over the last 10 days, has been consistently telling me that what I'm going through...he's going through it too, that my pain is his pain.  I know he means it.  
But, my self conscious self...tells myself that he doesn't want to hear it, that nobody does.  I'm really writing this all more for myself than any of you that may read it, because I know in the end...Most of you will either stop reading from lack of interest or from being sick of me.  

But I AM trying to make an effort to talk about it.  Whether it's my husband, my mom, my sister, my friends, my co-workers...I am not wanting to be quiet anymore.  But as I'm talking about it, it feels weird and foreign.  But I'll keep talking anyways, because it is helping me and in the end, that's what matters.  

And then I've been dealing with the fun issue of a side effect of my new medication...fatigue.  When my PCP told me that was the main side effect of it, I thought, "Oh, whatever...I'm already fatigued all the time anyways".  Oh man...what do I know?!  
The first few days after starting the med, I was fairly fatigued, nothing horrible but definitely more than my usual.  Then Monday night, after a week of being on the med, I increased my dose per the instructions from my PCP.  Yesterday, I was so out of it with complete fatigue.  I slept WAY later than I usually do AND I took a 2 hour nap in the middle of the day...neither of which helped at all...still felt just as fatigued.  Today is a little bit better.  I slept a lot later than I would have liked, but I'm not feeling the need to nap right now.  Although, the multiple cups of coffee may have something to do with that.  :-)

Well, I am going to happily go enjoy a scary movie with my sister this afternoon, then going to make a yummy comfort food for dinner (goulash!!!).  Wahoo!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Just a little update...

I only got to do a quick status update via Facebook on Monday after my appointment, so I thought I'd to a little update on here to catch up those of you that are interested (and obviously if you are reading this...You are probably one of those people).  

So, my PCP (primary care provider) agrees with my thinking that I have fibromyalgia.  Most PCP's don't manage this condition, so she immediately place a referral to a rheumatologist.  A rheumatologist primarily deal with conditions/diseases involving joints, soft tissue, connective tissue and autoimmune disorders.  
The problem is...for a first time visit/consult, there's a long wait to get seen.  My appointment isn't until November 26th...which is 46 days away.  With as long as I've been in pain at this point, what's another 46 days, right?  WRONG!  Once I made the decision to deal with this and move forward, I was ready to get this under control now!  Plus, the struggle I went through internally to decide that what I'm going through really DOES matter has been an emotional one for me.  So, I've been even more exhausted and strained this week then I've been in a long time.  Plus, after two really rough days at work of absolutely no down time and stress levels through the roof, I spent last night on the couch barely moving.  So, this 46 day wait seems terribly long to me right now.  

Luckily, my PCP was willing to at least get the ball rolling for me.  The primary medication for treating fibromyalgia these days is Lyrica.  My sister who also has fibromyalgia has had a lot of success with that medication and I was hoping (and still am) that was the route we would go.  My PCP explained that what she's seen however, is that because Lyrica is still brand name and very expensive that most insurance companies won't cover it until you've tried and failed other treatments first. 
So, we started me on a medication called gabapentin (Neurontin).  She's starting me on a standard dose and I can step up as needed on a week by week basis.  Then when I go to see the rheumatologist next month, we've at least tried this med.  If it works, then GREAT!  If not, then we've tried it and can move on.  

I've only been on it since Monday night and haven't noticed any changes yet, but I'm still holding out hope. 
So, for now, that's it I suppose...Until another day.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Being silent...

I will start this post with a poem I just felt compelled to write and will follow it with an explanation of why I feel compelled to do this now.

Being Silent
Being silent all these years
Doesn't mean I didn't shed any tears
Being silent all the while
Hiding behind my deceptive smile

I allow myself to continue in silence
I continue to perform this act of defiance
I tell myself that I'm just fine
But in reality I'm starting to decline

I carry with me this silent pain
In such a way that I can't sustain
I tell myself that it's not real
That I just need to carry on and deal 

I see so many others who suffer
I tell myself I just need to be tougher
I allow myself to diminish what I'm feeling
But that will just delay my healing

So hear I am ready to confess
That my body and soul are in distress
I now move forward with fear and doubt
But silent no more, I'm ready to shout.  

I don't even know where to begin, but let's begin with...I'm in pain...all the time.  I'm a champion at denial.  I've done it for most of my life, so why is this any different.  I can't even tell you when my pain started, it's been going on for that long...and I'm only 29.  
I do know that the reason I haven't done anything about it is that (in addition to just straight up denial) I tell myself that other people hurt and suffer more than I do, so I can't truly have something wrong with me.  Other people have more pain, aren't able to function as well as me...So it must not be as bad as I'm making it out to be.  

6 years ago I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism/Hashimoto's disease.  Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease where my body attacked they tissue in my thyroid, effectively killing my thyroid and causing my hypothyroidism.  The biggest symptoms of hypothyroidism are (but not limited to) joint and muscle pain, dry hair, dry skin, dry nails, depression, brain fog (feeling like you are lost in a mental fog), fatigue, etc.  
I thought, "wow, now I know why I feel so awful all the time".  I began a long process towards finding the right dose of medication for me.  This is a medication I will have to be on for the rest of my life as my thyroid no longer makes the hormone needed to regulate my metabolism and many of the body's basic cellular functions.  I eventually received a referral to an endocrinologist to manage me as despite dose increases...My lab work and symptoms were going the wrong way.  Eventually we got me on the right dose and some of my symptoms went away.  I was definitely happy about that, but was upset that not all went away. 
I immediately went into research mode and wanted to know why.  What I found out was that with proper medication management...ALL symptoms of hypothyroidism should resolve..ALL SYMPTOMS!  So, why have I been suffering continuously with the remainder of my symptoms.  
I went through thinking, well maybe this is just my life...I'll just have to deal, to researching every condition out there until I became so exhausted and frustrated that I quit.  

All the while, I know I should have just gone to see my doctor.  Something obviously was wrong. 
I hurt, everywhere, all the time...without respite.  I take over the counter meds, I try heat and ice therapy...thinking that one of these days, I'll feel good.  
I avoid the doctor trip thinking, it's just not that bad...I can still function.  I go to work, I partake in my hobbies, I am able to enjoy fun activities and spend time with my family and friends.  I diminish what I'm feeling because I am constantly comparing myself to other people...I need to stop doing this because what I'm feeling is beginning to overwhelm me.  Both it actual pain and in the aspect of consistently telling myself that my pain isn't as bad or as important as other people's.  

So, I took the step that I've been most afraid of.  I made an appointment at my clinic for tomorrow morning.  I can't keep going this way...I just can't.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thank you JK Rowling...

Many saw a post I made on Facebook recently,
"I'm not sure why but my dad has been on my mind a lot the last couple days and I am missing him like crazy!!! What I miss the most is the way I felt wrapped tight in one of his hugs."

But obviously, as I said, my dad has been frequenting my thoughts lately.  It may simply just be that I miss him, or maybe there have just been so many things that remind me of him, or maybe I'm dreading the big milestone coming up in less than a year (10 years gone...).  But either way...I'm writing this post to thank JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series.

I recently began re-reading the Harry Potter series (as I do once every couple years).  Well at the end of books 2 & 3, JK Rowling, through the wise words of Dumbledore, gave me two moments of utter disbelief. 

The first moment needs a little bit of back story for you all to understand why it means something to me.  One of my dad's catch phrases was to exclaim how something was an adventure.  We once got lost a bit while out in San Francisco and upon returning to the hotel, he simply said, "Well, that was an adventure".  This was how he perceived many things that didn't typically go as planned...
Quote number one: "After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."
I've read this one many times and it has always been a quote I've held near and dear.  But this next one hit me like a punch in the gut last night, as I was wrapping up the 3rd Harry Potter book.

"You think the dead we have loved ever truly leave us?  You think that we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble?". 

I have been struggling with many things lately...Depression/anxiety (damn car accident), my weight loss/self esteem, my worries for the future (and trying to plan it all out), etc. etc. 

That last quote shows you exactly why my dad has been so prevalent in my thoughts as of late.  I have been "recalling him more clearly than ever" while struggling with things.

Thanks JK Rowling, and thank you dad for always being near to me...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A change of pace...

So, I made a big change on Friday.  I've been doing Nutrisystem for some time now and doing well.  I lost almost 18 lbs on it.  The problem was...My motivation was waning and my boredom increasing.  I wasn't sticking to it as closely as in the beginning and found myself nearing a point of stopping all together.  So, instead of letting myself completely give up...I decided to just make a change.  So, on Friday, I cancelled my Nutrisystem and signed up for Weight Watchers. 

Yesterday was my full official day on Weight Watchers and I'm already feeling rejuvinated.  I spent some time on Friday looking up new recipes and just overall exploring foods and their point levels.  I'm feeling really good about this.  The thing that I'm excited most about (and was worried most about with Nutrisystem) was that it is teaching me how to eat regular food.  I was worried about making that transition once I reached my goal weight on NS and felt that I wouldn't succeed as much when going back to eating regular food.

Now, with weight watchers I feel that I can learn the right things.  The right foods, the right quantites...

I've got a ways to go still, but I'm feeling rejuvinated and excited again and hope to keep going strong!!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012


There are definitely moments in life (both good and bad) that will stop you in your tracks and steal your breath away.  I had a few of those yesterday.

Yesterday was a rough day for me, I was struggling...fighting an internal battle with myself.  I've known for quite some time now that I am a self saboteur.  When I'm feeling good about myself I thrive, I flourish and I make amazing decisions for myself.  When I'm not feeling good and when my depression is rearing its ugly head...I struggle, I fight, I undo all those good decisions.
This is why dieting is so difficult for me.  When I'm feeling good, I make amazing plans and map out what I can do to make myself healthy.  When I'm feeling good, I stick to my diet so amazingly well that I surprise even myself.  But...
When I'm feeling down and low, I skip meals or I gorge myself on unhealthy choices.  Because I don't matter enough to be healthy.  Why should I care if I'm overweight or if I can fit into a single digit size jeans?  Nobody notices me or pays attention to me anyway, right? 
Then these thoughts trickle into other areas...The biggest one is my doubt about my worth to be with my husband.  Why would he love me?  Why would he care?

Usually these thoughts are short lived, sometimes they are not.  Throughout most of the day yesterday, I was battling this.
Until my husband got home.  It's usually when I'm not actually in his presence that I feel these feelings of self doubt and worthlessness.  He is SO good at making me remember myself just by him being around me. 
I'll catch him watching me as I'm doing mundane things around the house, or even just the little butt slaps I get as he's walking past me in the kitchen...These things manage to start to erase all those thoughts.  I don't know how he does it, but he does.

Then...He said something that completely wiped out every bad thing I was thinking and feeling yesterday. 

We were out for a walk with our dog shortly after it had finished raining.  We were walking under a tree that suddenly blew in the wind and dropped quite a bit of cold rain drops right on our heads.  I started giggling and laughing at this.
He sighed and smiled and said, "I love it when you laugh like that".  I looked at him and said, "Oh yeah?".  He simply said to me then.  "Yes, it's peaceful."

How did I get so lucky in life that I have a man in my life that loves me so much that his presence alone can simply lift my spirit?  How did I get so lucky that I am  married to somebody who is so soothed by me as well and finds my laugh to be peaceful?


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Uh-oh...I've been a slacker!

I just realized how long it has been since I've posted anything on here.  So, I figured I should do a quick post about what's been going on.
Well, as far as my weight loss journey is concerned.  I am now down about 14lbs!  I've also started the couch to 5k program and I am slowly moving my way through it.  It's definitely a challenge, but one that I think I'll find very enjoyable the more I continue it. 

Also, I'm very excited that Russ and I will be heading back to Maui again in February to celebrate my 30th birthday!  When we were originally planning our first trip, we never expected that we would go back...But within a half of a day on the island...we both knew that a return trip (or two) would be completely necessary.  When I tell people about the fact that we are going back, most people just say, "Yeah, I know it's great but why would you want to go back to the same place again when you could go somewhere new?"
There is no possible way for me to tell you just how completely amazing Maui is.  You can imagine it in your head, but there is this feeling you get when you are there that is completely unable to be replicated anywhere.  So, as soon as the discussion started as to where we would go for my 30th birthday...Maui was quickly put on the list. 
Also, Russ and I are very excited that next fall we will be headed down to Key West, Florida.  My dear friend Laura and her husband Matthew will be renewing their vows and having the reception (party) that they didn't get to have the first time!  I'm VERY excited for this, as Laura has been living in Key West for a few years now and I don't get the chance to see her very often...let alone in her own environment! 

Other than that, I've just been working a lot.  Between my "day" job and my photography I've been a very busy woman...But that's okay with me.  I've been buying myself some new photography gear and I'm really excited to truly get the chance to put it to use.  So, you can bet that you'll be seeing some pictures from me soon! 

Well, I guess that's it for now! 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Here we go again...

So folks, I'm ready to embark on the weight loss journey once again. 
Last year, I did the Nutri System program and lost nearly 30lbs with the program.  I went off the program this past September when I was planning a trip that would make it not possible to eat the plan food and I didn't want to spend money on something I wasn't going to be using. 
Then, 2 weeks after returning from my trip...I was in a car accident.  To consider that accident life changing would be an understatement.  It changed me, not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually.  It re-defined life for me.  I went with the mantra of, "Life is short", so why not indulge in the things about life that I enjoy...Well, that includes food.  So, I have now put back on every single pound that I lost.  But, I am no longer in the post-accident haze of indulgence and am in a post accident swing of realizing that, "Yes, life is short".  Why waste it by being unhealthy, without energy and yes...unhappy? 

So, just moments ago...I re-joined the Nutri System family.  It worked well for me before and I have no reason to believe that it won't work again.  I also just purchased Tony Horton's 10 minute trainer.  He is the maker of the P90x and insanity workouts.  While we have P90x and I know it would work...It's just not for me.  So, I will throw myself into the 10 minute trainer workouts that are specially designed and "stacked" to include a fully body workout in only 10 minutes.  I will also continue to go on frequent walks with my dog and once I start dropping some weight, I will begin the "Couch to 5k" trainer program as well. 

I can and WILL make this work for me...
I will take before and after pictures so once my journey is done you can see how far I'll have come. 
I'll post on here as frequently as possible about my journey...The ups, the downs, the achievements and disappointments (hopefully not too many of those...). 

Stay tuned...A new me is on the way.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentines Day

So, today I have seen post after post on Facebook from so many people complaining about this holiday.
People talking about how it's just a "Hallmark" holiday, that it's a silly or ridiculous holiday. Many mention that they would rather their significant other would do loving things for them every day.

I just have to say, what's wrong with having a special day that allows you and the one you love to pamper, spoil and treat each other to something special.
With that said, I will say that my husband is fairly romantic year round. He takes every opportunity he can during each and every day to tell me how much he loves me. He holds my hand while we are watching tv, carries bags as we are leaving the store, he likes to do the "dirty chores" around the house. He will take the car and full it up with gas for me when it is really cold outside. He is very good at showing me each day just how much I mean to him. And I feel that I'm pretty good about showing him the same thing in my own ways.

So why does Valentine's Day have to be a silly, commercialized day?! Why can't we think of it as a day that we can all share together to be able to shout from the rooftops about those in our lives that we love.

I love my husband...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Reflection in the mirror...

It's been 112 days since my accident and still, the first thing my eyes go to whenever I pass by a mirror is to my scars.  Whether I'm walking by a mirror in the bathroom, past a mirror in one of my patient's room or spotting my reflection in the glass of a store window...It's the first thing I notice about my reflection. 

I'm really not that vain... It's just that I believe my subconscious mind can't seem to let go of this event that changed me so completely and altered my appearance (how ever so slightly).  I don't even know if I can properly explain myself without coming off vain.  I've spent more time staring at my reflection in the mirror over the past 112 days than I EVER have before.  I notice the slight imperfections that cross my forehead now.  Some days those little scars that are scatter above my brows are hardly noticeable and other days they stare back at me. 

I wonder if though, once my hair grows back completely if I will have less of an issue with this.  The hair that covers the worst of the scars is still in the process of growing back and right now it's in a stage of not cooperating with me (photos at end of post).  So, generally it has forced into behaving with a couple of clips and some hairspray, so throughout the day I'm adjusting the clips (as they tend to slip out of place).  This constant fussing and attention to this area probably isn't helping the problem.

What a lot of it boils down to is that I don't see myself the same anymore when I look in the mirror.  At least half of the time that I look at my reflection I'm reminded immediately of the day that changed that reflection.  I have definitely been dealing with anxiety since the accident and don't worry folks, I am working my way through all of that.  But I struggle constantly to find a deeper meaning in what happened to me that day and maybe my lack of clarity is leading me to a misperception of myself.  I just don't quite know how to find my way through that. 

So, I want to leave you with a poem and the photos that show the progression of healing of my lacerations.  I will warn you that the first few photos aren't exactly pleasant to look at.  I will post the poem first so that if you don't want to view the photos...Then you don't have to scroll down that far. 

Here is a poem that I wrote about my accident. 

A moment without caution
A drift too far
Sudden change of direction
I lost control of the car

It happened so quickly
But I remember it all
I was jolted so harshly
It's so easy to recall

The pound against the ground
The screech of the metal
I'll never forget the sound
As my car hit the earth and gravel

I remember the spin
I remember the roll
As the glass tore my skin
And it ripped through my soul

When the car finally settled
And it came to an end
My mind, how it struggled
To understand, to comprehend

Warm and wet and unable to see
I reached up to check
I just knew what it'd be
From such a horrible wreck

My blood flowed freely
And my body was distressed
But I realized very quickly
How much I'd been blessed

My body has been hurt
And my mind won't forget
But my life gives me comfort
With the second chance that I get

And now I'd like to share with you all some photos that I've taken of my lacerations so you can see what I've been talking about.  

These first few photos were taken 3 days after the accident on October 27th, 2011

These next few photos were taken exactly one week after the accident on October 31st, 2011.  This was also the same day that I got my stitches removed (12 total, as the 3rd laceration couldn't be closed with sutures and had to be left to heal on it's own). 

This photo was taken just one day after these last few...but the big scab over the large laceration had come off and I wanted a new picture!  

These last photos are photos that I just took today (February 13th, 2012)...exactly 112 days after the accident.  

Here's a great angle to show you how uncooperative my hair can be sometimes...  ;-)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Duluth ~ An anniversary trip

Duluth has been a long standing tradition of mine.  It started when I was young and my aunts Gloria and Janet (my dad's sisters) would take my sister Melissa and I up to Duluth for weekend excursions. 
I'd spent a lot of time trying to convince Russ to take a trip there and October of 2007, he finally gave in.  He took me to Duluth during an MEA break when I was in nursing school.  It was during that trip that he proposed to me.  So, it's needless to say that Duluth holds a very special place in BOTH of our hearts now. 
We've been back there several times together now, in fact, this trip was our 4th trip to Duluth together. 

When trying to figure out how to celebrate our anniversary (our 3rd) this year, I actually settled on Duluth pretty quickly, despite the fact that it was winter and Duluth can be chilly in summer even.  So, Russ and I decided on a hotel that we'd eyed a few times but hadn't stayed at yet...The South Pier Inn.  It is nestled into the south side of Duluth's famous Aerial Lift Bridge.  We treated ourselves to a harbor view room that had a fireplace, whirlpool and a private balcony looking out onto the harbor of Lake Superior in Duluth.

This will be a little picture heavy, as I had a hard time narrowing it down...LOL.  But here are some of my favorite photos from our anniversary trip to Duluth.

These first photos are from the Glensheen Mansion, which was home to the Congdon family in the early 1900's.  They don't allow you to take photos inside the house, but I was able to take photos of the grounds and inside the carriage house (not pictured below). 

The rather large, beautiful front door.  Where you would enter if you arrived by carriage or automobile.

The back of the house, which had the "second front door".  This is where you would enter if you arrived by boat.  Mrs. Congdon felt it was rude to have guests enter through the back door, so a formal "second front door" was made.  It entered into the same large foyer

A GORGEOUS bridge on the grounds of the Glensheen Mansion

After we finished visiting the Glensheen mansion, we went for lunch at Grandma's restaurant.  A local favorite, and a famous tradition.  From there we hopped across to the other side of the lift bridge to check into our hotel.  When we arrived I already knew we were in for a treat.  It was LITERALLY on the other side of the bridge.  We entered the lobby and there were treats, pastries (put out fresh each morning), microwave popcorn, microwave oatmeal, fresh fruit, coffee, etc all for the taking!  YUM!  We got to our room and I was even more excited.  The room was perfect...

That whirlpool was thoroughly enjoyed.  

Here's Russ out exploring our private balcony overlooking the harbor.  The inn provides binoculars with the stay so that you can further explore the harbor and the surrounding sights.  

A panoramic shot of the view from balcony

The inn...Shows you just how close to the bridge it is.

Here are a couple of shots of the bridge...I can't have a blog post about a trip to Duluth without including a few shots of the bridge.

This one was shot from Canal Park...On the north side of the bridge.  

This one was shot from the street right by our inn...On the south side of the bridge. 

When we woke up, a large group of ducks was noticed out in the frozen water.  They were fun to watch.  After we checked out of the hotel, we explored a little bit.  I took some very frozen, very cold looking photos. 

 Not your average "beach" shot.  :-)

 The ice seen here, was moving, propelled by the motion of the water underneath.  It almost looked like it was breathing as it heaved slightly upward and then down again.  As it moved, it creaked and moaned almost.  I took video of it, because it was in interesting experience. 

One side of Canal Park.  

The other side...

Little Angie's...This is a must for me whenever I visit Duluth.  I highly recommend it.  It's in the middle of Canal Park, just across the large parking lot from Grandmas and directly across the road from The Inn on Lake Superior. 

Goodbye Duluth...We'll miss you. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Just a little something to celebrate!

Man, I got hit hard this month with illness and I hope that I've paid my dues for the year. Started at the beginning of the month with a sinus infection an then only about 4 days after that, I got hit with a stomach bug. I'm finally feeling better today, was actually able to eat a normal size meal for lunch and I feel like I got my energy back. I'm actually just taking a break from cleaning...gotta get the buggies out of my house!
So, my feeling like a normal human being is the first thing I feel like celebrating!
The second item would be my upcoming wedding anniversary! This Tuesday will be our third anniversary! We are heading to the South Pier Inn in Duluth tomorrow to celebrate. We will have a room overlooking the harbor and will have a fireplace an whirlpool on the room! We LOVE Duluth. It's where we got engaged and have returned many times together. It's been almost 2 years since we've been due to our other trips that we took last year, so it'll be a much overdue return!

Then depending on how up to it we feel on Sunday morning (if I feel I have my strength back), we will be heading to Spirit Mountain for some snowboarding lessons! Yes, me...

I'm super excited for this as it is a much needed little getaway! You can bet that I'll be bringing my camera with. I haven't been to Duluth in the winter before and I'm eagerly anticipating its beauty. I'm just hoping that they've got a little bit more snow up there then we have.
Stay tuned for a trip review with pictures of course!
For now, I'll leave you with a phot from my wedding...three splendid years ago in a Minnesota winter wonderland.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Photo Challenge/Family Fun

So, this weeks photo challenge over at is all about family fun!  I had to really think about what photo I wanted to submit for this one and that, what better photo to use than one of my OWN family.

This photo was taken summer of 2010 at the wedding of one of my cousins.  I have some wonderful family that are just as quirky and weird as I am.  Here is a photo of 2 of my cousins and my sister as we entertained ourselves at the reception.

I love these ladies...  ;-)

Head on over to I Heart Faces to see more fun family photos!!!

Photo Challenge Submission

A couple new challenges for myself

I've come up with a couple new challenges for myself that I'm excited about. 
The first one is that whenever I'm listening to my music on shuffle...I will NOT allow myself to quickly skip past to the next song.  I do this often and I've noticed I generally listen to the same songs. 
I have over 2200 songs on my iPhone and don't listen to nearly enough of them.  But there is a reason that I put them on there in the first place (since I haven't put all my music library on there). 
So, my mission is that I'm going to take the time to listen to every song that comes on...whether it fast or slow, instrumental or matter the genre or the mood that I am in. 
I tend to try to seek out songs that I think will speak to me and the mood/emotions that I'm feeling and I know that I am overlooking so many wonderful songs that I just don't think about.  So, I'm going to let the songs find me.
Every few days, I'll come back on here and post about one or two songs that I'd forgotten about that had somehow found me when I needed them.  So, stay tuned for those.

Secondly, I'm going to make myself much more involved in the I heart faces photography challenges.  If you aren't familiar with what this is, you can head over to to learn more.  Basically at the beginning of each week, they open it up to submissions.  You can post one photo that fits that weeks theme, but all their photos require there to be at least one human face visible in the photo (hence the name of the website).  You can use photos that you've taken in the past (and I'm sure I'll have to do this on occasion), but my goal will be that (almost) all the photos that I'll submit will be new photos taken just for the challenge.  It'll force me to be creative and to hopefully think outside the box. 
Since the way you post is by posting a photo to your blog and then uploading the link to your blog...You can guess it...I'll be posting all my submissions on this blog right here!  So stay tuned for this. 
I'm excited about the upcoming themes.  The next three themes are "Family Fun", "By the Book" and "Oh So Silly". 

I'm excited to share these challenges with you all as I embark on some new exploration!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A goodbye and a new understanding

Today was a day of many emotions for me. I'm still quite worn out from a week of grieving, sinus infection and busy shifts and work.
Today was the funeral for my grandfather Tom. It was a beautiful service and so many people came out to say goodbye and to pay their respects. It's always wonderful to see how many other people truly cared about somebody that you love.
The service consisted of the traditional hymns, passages and prayers. It also consisted of stories love and friendship, of him using his kids as look-out while he stole lawn ornaments, mentions of his time as a bail bondsman, and yes...during this church service...the words hooker and horseshit were used.
He was a great man, a husband, a father, a grandfather and even enjoyed being a great-grandfather. He will be missed by so many.

Yet, while I listened to his children and his step-children speak of him...I also began experiencing another emotion aside from grief and loss. I was finding myself feeling jealousy.
Here these people are, in their 50's and 60's saying goodbye to their father. They had year after year with him, enjoyed his stories and anecdotes because they had him around at a point in their lives where they could understand how important those stories and anecdotes would be someday. He was there with them for their weddings and babies, for their accomplishments and adventures. Be was just shy of 94 when he died. He led a full and wonderful life.
I found myself feeling just a moment of jealousy because when I was just barely 20 years old, I was saying goodbye to my father. As I was saying goodbye to my dad I realized just how little I knew about him. Yes, others can tell me the stories...but I won't ever hear them myself.
I found myself feeling jealous because I didn't get that full life with my dad...he missed my college graduation, my wedding, my first house and he won't be there to spoil his first grandkids or tell those stories that he'd told a thousand times before.

Just feeling a bit sorry for myself today...and I'm just going to let myself.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Oy vey...

Let's just say that this has been a less than stellar week...
This past weekend I developed a nasty sinus infection that had me down and out for about 4 solid days (Friday-Monday) and I am still trying to get back to 100%. 
Also, this past Saturday, my grandfather passed away at the young age of 93 (would have been 94 next month).  Let's say that as hard as it is to say goodbye to such a wonderful man, this is a good thing.  His quality of life was greatly deteriorated and he'd been in and out of the hospital many times in the last few months. 

He will be greatly missed, but it's my grandmother that I worry about now.  I just hope that she can find some peace in all of this.  My mother has been an absolute SAINT!  She went down this past Thursday to stay with my grandma Georgia and is still down there.  She plans to stay with her for another few days until after the funeral.  It's been such a blessing to know that my mom is there with my grandma and that they've had each other these last few days. 
This Saturday will be his funeral and all of us, his loving family, will have to find a way to somehow say goodbye to this wonderful, loving man. 

I finally was feeling well enough today to get back to work and what a doozy of a day that was!  I obviously can't get into details, but it was one of the more stressful days I've had in a while.  Also, physically wearing...I at one point wanted to stick my head in the freezer to cool down because I was moving so non-stop that I was sweating...profusely!  I know, I know...more than you wanted to hear, but I'm sure I was starting to stink.  HA HA HA!  I didn't get a lunch break during all the craziness, but since all my patients were either discharged or transferred by the end of my shift, I got to duck out about 45 minutes early.
I stopped at Chipotle on the way home, and then the liquor store for a nice bottle of Riesling!  So, since I don't have to work again until Friday...Me and my bottle of wine are going to get cozy this evening and unwind a bit. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A new year, a new plan...A year in review!

Alright folks, I new that I was wanting to do some sort of blogging this year but struggled with exactly what I wanted to create...Until now!

I toyed with attempting the 365 day photo challenge again, then thought maybe I'll just do a weekly photo challenge.  Then I thought maybe I should just blog my thoughts and my life, etc.
Why not do both?!

I'm going to use this blog as an outlet for all things Amber!  It'll be a place to post about what's going on with my life, my thoughts, my poems, and yes...My photography!  I hope that in some ways this will allow everyone (that wants to, that is) to feel like they are keeping up with what's going on with me and my life even when we are all at our busiest!

So, I'm going to start with a year in review of 2011!  I saw another blogger chose to do a month by month review and I think that's a good way to start.

**January -
January saw my husband and I celebrating our 2nd wedding anniversary.  We had opted for a stay-cation which was wonderful and we'll probably do that again another year.  It's a great option for if you don't have the time or resources to travel.

**February -
February is always a fun month for me, seeing as how the 4th is my birthday!  It was a great birthday too.  Got together with several of my friends.  We went out to dinner then bowling with drinks and treats provided by my sister.  To top it off, I made it into a mustache party.  I provided stick-on mustaches for everyone and we all had to wear them while bowling.  It made for a lot of crazy antics, and it was definitely a good night!

This month was also the first time that I got to actually see Bobby Long!  I went with a couple of friends and we had a GREAT time! Check out one of the photos I got from that show!

 **March - 
I don't think much happened in March...It was cold.  LOL

**April - 
April was great!  Russ and I went to Vegas for his 30th birthday!  We spent a week there.  We stayed at the Golden Nugget in Downtown.  We saw the sights, ate good food, swam at the pool, had lots of drinks and even went ATV'ing in the desert!  

April, all in all was a busy month for me.  On top of the Vegas trip, I had several photo shoots and made it to a Twins game (with my dear friends Crystal and Jason)!  But, I definitely can't wait to get back to Vegas again!!

May was just a good month for spending time with friends.  I went to a baby shower, attending a gathering at a friends for an X-Box party night, went out for lunches and shopping.  Also, attended another Twins game this month (this time with our neighbors Mike and Rachel).  

June was a GREAT month!  On the first day of the month I attending the Glee concert!  I went with some of the greatest friends and we had an AMAZING time!  I laughed, I cried, I sang along!  Here's a couple photos.  

Needless to say, it was an AMAZING concert!!!!
Then, just a couple days later on the 3rd day of June, I was driving home from work and happened to pass a lady who was selling puppies!  Russ and I stopped by and found one that we fell in LOVE with.  He was immediately ours and he came home with us that day.  His name is Copper and he is an amazing addition to our house.  Here's a couple photos from the day we brought him home!

The rest of the month consisted of adjusting to having a puppy (Russ and I hadn't done the puppy thing before), enjoying the beautiful summer weather, going to another Twins game, went to a Saints game with my friend Kristin and just enjoying life!  OOOOh, I also got a new tattoo in the month of June.  My mom, sister and I got coordinating memorial tattoos for my dad.  They are all guitars.  They are each slightly different.

 My sister's tattoo (back of left arm)

My Tattoo (left forearm)

My mom's tattoo (Right shoulder blade)

4th of July!  One of my favorite holidays!  I LOVE the 4th of July...Parties with friends, parades, fireworks, carnival down in town!  FOOD!  I spent July enjoying life some more.  Yet another Twins game, spending time with friends, enjoying the summer and oh yeah...Enjoying the dog!
We also got some new bedroom furniture this month.  It was great to be able to re-do the bedroom a bit, give it a new feel!
The Twins game that we went to was one of the HOTTEST days of the year and I surprisingly was able to last the whole game!  Here's a couple photos from the hot, hot day!

August was a busy month for me.  I worked a lot, had several photo shoots (and I mean SEVERAL), attending my 10 year high school reunion, a great friend came home from Florida to visit, went to the state fair, etc.  Here's a few photos to share the month of August with you...Oooh, and Copper got bigger!

September was another great month of spending time with family and friends. I went to the Renaissance festival (dressed as a Gypsy), went dancing with my girls, had a bonfire with my neighbors, and went to my first Vikings game! Also, we took Copper to an off leash dog park for the first time He had a BLAST!! Here are a few photos from thy wonderful month!


October was an EPIC month for me, both good and bad. The month started with Russ and I heading to Maui, Hawaii for the vacation of a lifetime! We stayed for 9 glorious days. We spent lots of time on the beach, went to a luau, explored the island, took the historic drive to Hana, the popped over to Honolulu to see Waikiki beach and Pearl Harbor.
I almost cried the day we left, it was such an incredible trip and I hope to repeat it someday in the future! Here are some of my favorite photos from our trip (although it is difficult to narrow it down).

Then...2 weeks after I returned I was in a severe/major car accident.
I was driving to work (heading south on 35e in the left hand lane), and had taken my eyes off the road for just a moment. That moment was all that was necessary to change my life.
When my eyes returned to the road, I had drifted on to the left hand shoulder. I tried to pull back onto the road and went too far and was heading into the right hand lane of traffic so I re-corrected and ended up over-correcting. My car hit the left hand shoulder at an angle and flipped my car. I rolled (about 3 times) across the median, across both lanes of northbound traffic and looped back to land back in the median. I luckily landed right side up. Somebody that witnessed my accident stopped and came to check on me while his wife called 911. I had severe head lacerations and was bleeding heavily and due to the shock of the accident I was shaking uncontrollably but I was alive and thankfully hadn't broken a single bone in my body.
I took an ambulance ride to Regions Hospital on a back board with a neck brace on. Luckily, they cleared me quickly and I didn't have to have them on for long at the hospital. My mom and Russ showed up pretty soon after I did and I'm sure it was hard for them to see me covered in blood and wearing a neck brace. I was in the ER for about 6 hours, and left with 5 sutures in one laceration, 7 sutures in another and one laceration they couldn't close.
I was terribly sore for several days, and sorta sore for a couple weeks. The thing that affected me the most was the anxiety. I've never had panic attacks before in my life and started having them after the accident and my day to day anxiety was somewhat hard to handle. With a LOT of support from my amazing friends and family and a little pharmacological help, I've moved far past that awful anxiety and it only strikes now at moments of particular stress.
To give you a better idea as to exactly what I went through with my car accident...Here are some photos of my car.

I did end the month on a good note, Russ and I attended a Halloween costume party as the amazing Al and Peggy Bundy!

November was relatively calm considering the craziness of October.  I did a lot of healing (both physically and mentally) and recovering.  I spend as much time as I could with friends and family and spent a LOT of time enjoying my new car!  After the accident we got me (and 2 weeks later, Russ got one too) a 2012 Nissan Altima!  I have been lusting after this car since 2007 and have been so ecstatic to have it!  It's BEAUTIFUL and has plenty of amenities! 

I ended my year on a calm yet blissful note.  Not a whole lot happened in December.  There was plenty of evenings snuggled up on the couch with Russ, a couple of times of letting Copper play in the snow and as usual...Some good times spent with family and friends.  Christmas Eve as usual was spent with my father's family.  We always have a good time.  We eat good food, play some fun games and enjoy some great conversation.
Russ and I rang in the new year at home, just the two of us and it was perfect.  It was nice to have a low-key mellow night in. 

Well, folks...If you've made it this far, I commend you. 
I hope to post often on here with updates on my life, anecdotes, poems, songs that touch me and of course my photography...So stay tuned, I hope to provide you with some entertainment as you follow the Adventures of a Songbird!