Real talk, 2014 was a shitty year for me and my family.
There were some highlights, but as a whole, it was a hard and terrible year. Don’t get me wrong – it was a great one for this blog, and I really appreciate all the love and support that you have given me – but personally and emotionally, it really sucked.
In January, I was working a shitty job I hated in tech support for a large cable company. Check out some of my tales from training to see what I was dealing with! It got to the point that I had to rant about how I hated my job with the fire of a thousand suns. Fortunately, in February, I was invited back to the job I really love in Nashville. I dropped tech support like it was going out of style.
During that time, I was also playing a lot of the WildStar beta. It was REALLY fun and I wistfully want to play the live version now. But I’ve come to believe that MMOs are no good for me. I get sucked in, focus all of my attention and time on them, and let creative projects and my own health slide. Canadian Bacon feels the same way, so this year after giving the beta a try, we focused on playing things that we can walk away from without repercussion. That means that, no, I did not go back to WoW with the Warlords of Draenor release.
The highlight of January was finally, FINALLY, sending off CB’s immigration paperwork! It was fully completed, checked and verified by our lawyer, and sent off to USCIS.
Like I said, I went back to the job I really enjoy in February. I’d tell you guys more about it, but I have to sign a non-disclosure agreement each project, and they’re pretty big about not talking about our work on social platforms. Not to mention, several of my friends from that company read my blog – hi guys! Suffice it to say, I work for a company that scores writing assessments for various states (among other assessments). I usually team lead, which means I train a team of readers how to accurately score things, and then I monitor them throughout the project to make sure we’re staying on track. I really like the job because I work with a bunch of other hippie nerds like myself, and because I’m basically getting paid to read. And kids write the damndest things. It’s highly enjoyable.
In March, I started to have some car trouble. I was driving home from work one day when I suddenly smelled gas and my fuel levels started dropping rapidly. Fun! I later learned that my gas line had a slice in it near the engine, and was spraying fuel all over the engine. If it had been hotter out, it’s possible my car would have caught on fire. Holy shit, huh? I was able to stop at a gas station just off the interstate, where I had my car towed to a local dealership and fixed.
Shortly after that, my car started to get really loud, so I took it in for a checkup at the local Firestone. I learned that my suspension or shocks or whatever were screwed up and had to be completely replaced. My tires were also destroyed by that issue. So first I replaced the tires, because they were about to blow, then I had the suspension fixed. Fortunately, that’s the most I’ve had to invest in my car yet. It’s running at 130k miles and I hope to have it for another 150k. My little Celica is adorable and rock solid! I will never regret that purchase.
In April, CB and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary. My grandparents also celebrated their 58th! Sugarbandit specifically requested a big party. 2014 was the year of his “checklist.” Basically, as the year progressed, he worked his way down a list of things he wanted to accomplish and have done before he died. He wanted one big party to see all of his friends, and although 58 isn’t a special year in and of itself, that’s what he had, by god. His siblings came up from Georgia and Florida and we had a really good time.
Things for CB’s immigration started moving rapidly in May. He was fingerprinted, then approved for a work visa. When that came in the mail, we were given a date for his immigration interview in Memphis. We spent the next few weeks in a frenzy, doing last-minute things that we could not do before the work visa arrived, but were mandatory for us to accomplish before the interview. He got a social security number. He took the knowledge and road tests and received a TN driver’s license. He signed up for the selective service. We opened joint bank accounts. And at the end of the month, shortly after my 31st birthday, we traveled to Memphis with my mom for our interview.
We were both really nervous, and we’d practiced answering this list of 100+ interview questions our lawyer had given us. Imagine our surprise when the USCIS officer stamped his application approved in less than five minutes!! Seriously, we walked in, she checked our drivers licenses, asked how we met, called us “nerds” when we explained it was through a video game, and had us out of there in no time.
I think it helped that our appointment was the last time slot before they went to lunch, and they were running behind. Also, like our lawyer kept reassuring us, we’re white.
In June, we ran a 5k color run together. We were on week 7 of the C25K program when the run took place. Not going to lie, I really disliked it. While I could run for almost 30 minutes straight, I couldn’t run fast. And all of my running had been done during the cooler night temperatures, on the roads through my neighborhood. This 5k took place in the blazing hot summer sun and was mostly on grass and gravel. I was also on a course of antibiotics from a boil on my leg, which of course made running even more delightful. Still, we finished, and I am wanting to try running again this year now that I’ve lost more weight.
One afternoon I got home from work and was sitting in the basement, chatting with CB. I eventually became aware of the fact that the dogs were barking more than usual. I went upstairs to check out what was going on, in time to hear Meemaw screaming “Help! Help! She’s killing her!” Cookie had attacked Chewy and was mauling the shit out of her. Meemaw was trapped in between them and I was terrified they were going to knock her down. I grabbed Cookie’s collar and elevated her for several minutes while she was clamped onto Chewy until she finally began to weaken from lack of oxygen. After I got her off Chewy and shut away, I realized that Chewy was in really bad shape.
CB and I had to rush her to the emergency vet, where we got drafted into assisting during surgery. It was a unique experience that I hope to never repeat. Chewy now lives in the house, and has no contact with Cookie (who stays in the back yard during the day, and in the sun room at night).
At the very end of June, CB and I hopped a flight to Canada to visit his family! We spent Canada Day and the 4th of July up there. It was a fun trip. We got to stay a few days at his parent’s cabin on Fungus Lake, where we canoe’d and fished (but didn’t catch anything) and enjoyed their new sauna. And hid from all the fucking mosquitoes. We also spent a few days in his hometown of Marathon, and a few in Thunder Bay, which is where we lived for 6 months right after we first got married!
Also in July we started our own Pathfinder campaign set in my world of Lorne. The game fizzled out a little as the end of the year approached and life got more difficult, but we are planning on reviving it again shortly!
In August, I came down with a raging case of MRSA and had to go to the emergency room. I have always gotten staph infections off and on – that’s what I had during the 5k in June – but they increased in frequency after we moved in with Meemaw and Sugarbandit. I think it’s because Sugarbandit suffered from them frequently, and I would often help him move things, get on his scooter, brace his walker, and etc. Basically I think he was passing it to me. Anyway, this one was on my back, and it had to be lanced open. I took some IV antibiotics, and then I was on a pretty strong course of oral antibiotics for a few weeks while CB had to pack and dress my wound.
Having it lanced at the ER was the most excruciating pain I have ever been in. The doc ran an ultrasound over it and said, “It doesn’t look like there is much pus in there, but I have been surprised before.” After he sliced me open, which didn’t hurt thanks to lidocaine, he exclaimed “I’m surprised!” It took him several agonizing minutes to squeeze it all out of there. He kept having to pause for me to regain my breath and get control of myself because it was so excruciating. I’m sure the people in the waiting room were scared by the screams! All in all, he got almost two whole cups of pus out of me! Gross, huh?
After recovering from MRSA, CB and I took a weekend to drive up to Cincinnati to see our friend Bry and go to King’s Island. We stayed with my cousins Medina and Jackson overnight in Louisville before hitting the park the next day. It was a ton of fun! Unfortunately, upon our return, I found Storm blocked. He had apparently stressed out while we were gone and gave himself a mucus plug in his urethra. We went to the emergency vet, where I assisted while a catheter was inserted. The vet and I worked out a strategy where I have a standing order for Prazosin, which is a drug that keeps the urethra relaxed. Whenever I know anything is going to change in our daily routine, I put Storm on it.
In September, our daily routines changed a lot. Sugarbandit fell and broke his pelvis. A bunch of work on the house had just been completed under his direction – a new fence in the front yard was put up, to keep Chewy and Gizmo and Rudy away from Cookie. A new concrete driveway was poured for Meemaw to park on. A roof was put over the ramp on the front door. An automatic gate was installed, so Meemaw could hit a switch and drive right into the yard. The stairs coming down from the sun room were replaced. All of the bushes and trees were trimmed up, and the deck and shed were freshly painted. He tried to pop his scooter up onto the driveway, got stuck, stood and accelerated it while holding onto it, and pulled himself down onto the new pavement.
He spent a week at Vanderbilt in Nashville, and I drove Meemaw up there to see him pretty much every day. I was lucky that this happened right after my last contract at work ended so that I was free to carry Meemaw around and to go to doctor’s appointments and the like. After a stint at Vandy, where they decided that they couldn’t operate because of his health, he was transferred to a rehab center here in town to slowly heal. He stayed there for about a week before developing a blood clot in his leg that landed him back in Nashville, this time at Centennial. From there he was sent back to rehab for just a few days before he basically gave up.
It was now October, and Sugarbandit had decided he had accomplished enough stuff on his checklist and he was ready to die. He said his goodbyes, against Meemaw’s vehement protests, and just gave up. He stopped eating. He was diagnosed with stenosis of the aorta, was moved to ICU, and the family stood with him while he died. Years ago, he and Meemaw bought plots at the cemetery and pre-planned their burials, so the transition was remarkably easy. We got to see all of our family again, which was wonderful, but the circumstances sucked. In 2014, Sugarbandit was one of three brothers who died.
November mostly went by in a blur, other than a trip I took to Dallas to help my bro get married. When I met my bff Llek in middle school, we were pretty much adopted by each other’s families. I was honored when her younger brother, Chris, asked me to be a groomsmaid at his wedding. I had a beautiful, floor-length black dress, and I stood on his side with two guys in tuxes during the ceremony. He and Steph, the bride, had what was coined “the big, fat, geek wedding,” which basically meant it was all sorts of awesome with fandom-related references everywhere. For instance, the groom’s party processed down the aisle to the Star Trek theme, while the bride’s party entered to Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter. The happy couple took an Unbreakable Vow while their officiant brandished a wand. I loved it!!
December, however, ushered in some more bad shit. CB started complaining of some abdominal pain, which we both figured was from him increasing a targeted core workout at the gym because he was trying to “cut” a six pack. Yeah, no. His appendix ruptured. When he finally admitted that maybe there was a problem, two weeks had passed from his first complaint (which happened before Thanksgiving!), and we went to the doctor. The doctor recommended we immediately go to the ER.
Instead of staying in town and going to the local hospital, Gateway (there’s a reason we kept Sugarbandit at hospitals in Nashville), I asked if I had time to drive him to Skyline in Nashville. That’s where I went for my MRSA, and I was impressed by their ER. The doctor assured me that yes, we had time, but hurry and don’t stop to eat anything even though it was lunch time. That was a pretty big hint at what would lie ahead.
CB went through several tests at the ER, culminating in a CT scan when his bloodwork showed highly elevated white blood cells. We were visited shortly thereafter by a surgeon who informed him that he would be removing his appendix posthaste. I called my mom, who took off work to come sit with me while CB went into surgery.
The surgery took longer than expected, and the surgeon came out to tell us that it was one of the worst cases he had ever seen. CB’s appendix wasn’t just ruptured – it was “obliterated,” and he had to remove some bowels also because they were highly inflamed. He told us that he expected CB to have to stay at the hospital for at least a week, and that he was at high risk for complications because of how bad he had been.
What followed were an agonizing 9 days in residency at the hospital. CB was in incredible pain and was on a morphine PCA that he could self-administer every few minutes. The morphine did not agree with him, causing him some nausea and hot flashes. He was restricted from fluids completely for the first 24 hours, which is nightmarish when you previously drank a gallon+ of water each day. After that, he was put on a clear liquid diet that did not agree with him. Everything was disgusting, and he had a hard time taking in anything. We waited with bated breath until he successfully moved his bowels, proving that they were back together and working properly. Even after that, he had a hard time keeping anything down. He started vomiting and his white blood cell count stayed high. By day six, he had developed a couple of abscesses due to infection. I don’t think I have ever been as scared as I was on the day they had to take him back in for a procedure to insert a drain into one of the abscesses. It struck me hard that I could very easily be a 31-year-old widow. He was very, very sick.
Fortunately, the drain did what it was supposed to do, and the infection came under control.
I am so thankful that I took him to Skyline. One of our nurses even remarked to me – you’re lucky you didn’t go to Gateway, they probably would have killed him! His case was so severe that he had a trauma surgeon perform the procedure, and he was kept on the trauma floor. He had top-notch physicians and nurses and techs keeping an eye on him 24/7 (maybe under too close of an eye… bloodwork at 3am gets really old really fast).
He was released on the 18th, two days after the drain was put in and one day after he was given no diet restrictions.
During this whole ordeal, all the medical professionals kept telling us how great it was that we had spent the prior year getting into shape. The surgeon informed us that most of his patients are in a much worse condition because of obesity and from being sedentary. CB had just dropped into the normal BMI range prior to this, and we were consistently weight lifting 3x a week at the gym. During his stay in the hospital, we made sure that he got out of bed regularly, took walks down the halls (me hauling his IV stand with us), showered, and was basically as active as possible. Apparently most patients do not do this proactively, and it delays their recovery.
When he was released, he still had two drains in (one from the original surgery, one from the abscess). I was taught how to flush and pack his wound 2x a day.
His parents were of course stressed out during this ordeal because they were so far away. So they hopped a plane and came down to visit for the holidays! It was a lot of fun getting to share our family’s Christmas traditions with them. I think we all had a good time, even though CB was looking really rough on Christmas day. We had an appointment on Christmas Eve for a follow up with his surgeon. He underwent three separate, time-delayed CT scans to make sure that his bowels were working well and that his abscesses were well and truly gone. The surgeon said everything was looking good, but his wound wasn’t being packed properly (and the nurses hadn’t taught me how to do it properly, either). He had to open CB back up, which was quite painful for him, and teach me how to pack it so that it wouldn’t close. We want it to heal from the inside out so that no pockets of infection remain.
My bff and my mom were both incredible at taking care of our cats during this whole ordeal. Remember how I mentioned earlier that breaks in his routine can cause Storm stress and block him? I was terrified that would happen, so my bff went to the vet’s and got him some Prazosin. He stayed on that the whole time we were gone and she checked every day to make sure that he was still urinating properly. He ran out of Prazosin when we returned, and that – coupled with his granny giving him a few too many treats to spoil him while she visited – seemed to block him up again. I spent a horrible 36 hours with him isolated, waiting for him to urinate over the weekend on the emergency vet’s recommendation. Finally he let it flow, and when I took him to the vet on Monday morning he was diagnosed with a mild UTI. He hadn’t really been blocked, he’d been constipated from too many treats – which he passed – and withholding the urine from the pain of constipation gave him a small infection. Much better than having to have him cath’d again!
So that was my year. I hope that as time passes, I can focus on the good that came from it rather than the bad – I’m still employed at the job I enjoy, this blog did wonderfully, CB lost 100lbs on keto and I’ve lost 65, we have a healthy and sustainable workout routine, CB is now a lawful permanent resident, and while we were in the hospital he received word that he had been accepted into the electrical apprentice program at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers school in Nashville. That was one of the last things Sugarbandit did, take CB to the union and get information about the apprentice program. CB had to take an aptitude test, and undergo an interview, but he apparently scored very highly and did well enough in the interview to be offered a position. The school also places you in a job, but he has unfortunately had to be looked over for two jobs already because of work restrictions while he recovers from the appendectomy. His school starts at the end of January, a few days after I officially return to work, and he should be fully released from all restrictions in the beginning of February and can be placed in a position then.
2015 seems bright, with CB getting into a solid career and my own work starting back up. I am hoping to accomplish two really big goals for the year – finally pick a grad school program and apply for it, and finish my novel. I have been waffling on both of those for what seems like the past five years and it’s time to get it done. I also have a bunch of smaller goals, like hit my goal weight, perfect some different yoga asanas, increase productivity here on this blog, and build some things with my power tools. I plan on posting more recipes here, return to my daily food posts, and creating a section of keto-friendly restaurant reviews.
Oh, and last year I read 101 books. Maybe I can beat that in 2015.