Roots & Wings

It’s been an amazing week for us. Everything we’ve been dreaming would happen in our wildest, most impossible dreams is starting to really happen…Nate saw one of his biggest dreams/goals come true this weekend.

Looking back on my life, especially since I found my God again in February, I am humbled with how blessed we are, how fortunate. God is so faithful.

With all that is happening around us since I stopped self-destructing in February and then being so sick with a cold virus & pneumonia over the last 2 weeks, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect just how far we’ve come. Looking back now, we really started out with nothing but the most valuable thing our families could have ever given us: the foundation to build our dreams ourselves, with them supporting us every step of they way. They gave us roots and wings–roots to know where home is, and wings to fly. We will forever be grateful. There’s no way to ever repay them, but to pass this gift on to our own children.

Whenever I asked Nate what he would do for the rest of his life if money wasn’t an issue, the answer is always the same: “Cows.” He’s happiest working outdoors, knocking things off his to-do list. “I can sleep when I die.” After a Montana calving season with my aunt and uncle my brother Cory thinks he’s crazy but sees the same passion and determination in Nate’s eyes as I do. I couldn’t stop him if I wanted to…it’s in his blood.

A Painful Lesson for Me

December 2008. I visited my mom in Maine for the holidays. After a heart to heart conversation with my mom, I finally let myself admit to her and myself just how unhappy I was in my marriage. I flew home with a heavy heart, knowing what I had to do. I tried to end things as painlessly as I could with him. How do you explain to someone how amazing they are, but through no fault of their own, they’re just not the right one for you?

I loaded up my trusty, beat-up high school car–a green 1994 Eagle Vision–with my clothes and my hope chest and moved in with my dad & family. Being the last intense semester finishing my nursing degree, I had quit my job as a pharmacy technician at the hospital and was earning a meager income as an A&P tutor. I was broke.

A sidenote–one of my favorite memories came from this time.  My mom had given me a few hundred dollars to file the papers for my divorce, but then asked if I could give the money to Cory to help him pay his rent and she would send me some more money. He was working in construction and had been laid off. I still remember that moment, me driving my Eagle Vision down Tenth Avenue with my brother, Cory, in the passenger seat. Between the two of us all we had $2 and some change…including our bank accounts. He made a joke about taking my divorce money to pay for his rent and we both laughed, hysterically. It was so pathetic it was hilarious. So with our last $2 we bought ice cream cones from Dairy Queen and as I dropped Cory off at his apartment, we agreed things could only get better from here, and no matter what happened, at least we had each other.

I had no real idea what my future held once nursing school ended in a few months. I’ve always liked knowing exactly what’s going to happen, and to have the future wide open like that was…terrifying. I did tarot spread after tarot spread, trying to look into the future, which was futile. I decided I would graduate, then move to Maine where my mom and family live. I liked having a plan, something to focus on. It was reassuring when everything was so unknown.

On the last day of my clinicals, one of my instructors, whom I had never been super close to (she kind of scared me to be honest–she was gruff in a military style and not overly warm), pulled me aside, told me she knew what I was going through, said she cared about me (which shocked me at the time), and out of this concern, wanted to give me some advice. “Don’t make any big changes when you’re already going through something so big. Give yourself some time to get your feet back underneath you. I thanked Cindy and returned her hug, thinking, “But…if I don’t move what am I going to do?!” I tucked her advice away, not quite sure what to do with it yet.

I had made up my my mind–I was done with men, I knew that. I was ready to be single for a while–looked forward to it even. One of my best friends convinced me to go to a party with her. I remember getting ready and feeling like whether or not I went was pivotal decision. Her friend Amber was throwing the party, so we went over to Amber’s house to get ready. I didn’t know Amber very well but I talked to her while we shared a mirror. Her brother was there, in the other room. She was happy he was going; he had been through a recent break-up and it was good for him to get out. I still remember her curling her hair and saying, “I love my brother more than myself. If a girl ever hurts him I’ll kill her.” Yikes!

Meeting Nate

I finished up and went into the living room. I knew Alana’s friend, Tyler, better than Amber’s brother, so we made small talk, about football. All guys like football, right? I tried to be polite and bring her brother into the conversation and he just looked at me. “This guy is a jerk!” I thought.

Amber did a great job with the party and everyone was having a great time. Suddenly Amber grabbed me and pretty much shoved me at her brother. “You need to dance with Nate!” I looked at her with confusion and she explained. Nate and his friend had been playing Beer Pong when Nate saw some guy hit a girl. Amber was worried Nate was going to get in a fight with the guy so she needed to distract him. She pulled him away from the guy and we danced. We are both awkward dancers and had I known then just how much Nate abhors dancing! I think I’ve gotten him to dance with me maybe twice since then!

Suddenly it was 4am and the party was over. I realized Nate wasn’t such a jerk after all. After talking with him, I realized I actually kinda liked the guy. He asked for my number so I gave it to him. He immediately called it. “Just wanted to make sure you didn’t give me a bad number.”

Nate and I continued to hit it off but I told him not to get attached. This sounds terrible looking back now, but I had my plan and I needed to stick to it. He knew I was finishing nursing school and moving to Maine, and said he understood. Eventually my dad realized I was seeing someone and he was not happy. We got into an argument. Looking back now, I can see how it could have looked like I left Chris for Nate. What are the odds I would meet my soulmate so quickly after walking away from Chris? I was mad that he would even think this of me, and I’m sure he was disappointed in me.

Once I sat down with my family and we talked everything through (this divorce deeply affected them, too, and they had been close to Chris), they understood where I was coming from. I graduated from nursing school and got a job as an LPN in August of 2009. Nate was working in a grain elevator, making good money but a terrible rotating shift. Life was pretty simple, but good. I was lucky and the first LPN-to-RN nursing program had been fast-tracked so I was able to get my RN in 2010. Halfway through the program I found out I was pregnant.

I had never been sure I wanted kids. I was always goal oriented towards my career and I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with how kids might impact my progress. But once I saw those lines, I was in love. I graduated with my RN, and Gaye called me, asking me if I wanted to work for her again. I think she was almost as excited about Dillon as I was.

Nate and I were married in December 2010. In a hospital. We both knew we didn’t want an extravagant wedding, and getting married before my student insurance ended would be an added bonus. We filled out the paperwork and set the date: December 3rd.

I was devastated when I found out my dad wouldn’t be there. He became sick and needed IV antibiotics and was admitted to the hospital. I tried to hold back tears as I asked the judge if my brother could hold his cell phone on speaker so my dad could hear.

God, wherever she is, I pray you bless this judge abundantly.

With a smile, and a tone that said she had already made up her mind, she asked, “Well, why don’t we go up there?” I could feel all the curious glances as we walked through the hospital with a judge, dressed in her black robe. Cory joked since we got married in a hospital we had to have the baby at the courthouse.

Our wedding was pretty unorthodox, but it was perfect. We had each other and our family. It didn’t matter where we got married. I was a little bummed we didn’t get to spend our wedding night together…but Nate had to work. He had just been promoted to his own shift and his partner shift was vacant so there wouldn’t have been anyone to cover. Besides, I was already 6 months pregnant ha ha.

Babies Fill a Hole in Your Heart You Never Knew Was There…

My boss, Gaye, being the fabulous OB nurse she is, pulled me into her office on Friday, March 25th. “You won’t be back Monday so I need to do your employee evaluation now!” My original due date was March 30th. She could tell Dillon had dropped and knew he would be here before the weekend was over. She gave me a hug and I finished up my day.

The next morning I woke up and I just knew Dillon was on his way. I woke Nate and up told him today was the day. I was excited but peaceful. I was having very mild contractions. We got up and ate breakfast at The Loft, the same restaurant we ate at when we finally decided on a name. Then we went to Herbergers and got this adorable outfit both of our boys came home in. Went home, walked around for a bit. It was starting to get uncomfortable so Nate and I went in around dinnertime. I made it until 8:00 and decided I wanted the epidural.

The relief was amazing, but I didn’t get to enjoy it for more than a minute before alarms were going off and nurses and my doctor were flooding into the room. Dillon was in trouble, so they took us in for an emergency c-section. He wasn’t really responding when they got him out but they knew what they were doing and he quickly came around. After a few hours in the observation NICU he was all ours.

I remember looking at this baby and thinking, “Where is this bond I’m supposed to instantly form?” He was beautiful, and I loved him, but I thought I would instantly be obsessed with him. Looking back now, this was completely normal. I hadn’t been able to see him until my epidural wore off several hours later, and I had had my delivery all planned out in my mind. So when things went so off-track, I felt…almost robbed. (Side note–my birth plan for Logan was pretty much: get him out safely, and if he’s stable, give him to me asap! How naive of me to think I could order how everything was to go!) I quickly got over my disappointment and developed this bond with Dillon–I can’t imagine life without him and they are the best things to ever happen to us.

Our First Home & a New Job for Me

Nate was promoted again to maintenance with a much better schedule, Monday through Friday with call at times. He also got a nice pay raise. We decided we needed to find a house…our two bedroom apartment was getting pretty cramped. We found the perfect house fairly quickly and moved in. Our realtor, Beth, was like a second mom to Nate and actually took a cut in her profit to make it work. God, I pray you bless Beth abundantly, beyond what she can imagine!!!!!

I loved my co-workers but I felt like I needed to venture out in nursing. The ER was hiring so I applied, was accepted, and started working. I learned an incredible amount quickly, but the schedule was pretty grueling for Nate. He never complained, just quietly took care of Dillon and kept up with the household chores. It was advertised as three 12’s a week, but these quickly became 14 hour shifts, three being Thursday, Friday, Saturday one week, then two more the following week Sunday & Monday. So it was actually 5 12-16 hour shifts in a row, plus 24 hours of call a month. Which if nurses were short…they had no choice but to use call. Patients had to be taken care. It was nice having long breaks in between these string of shifts, but I found it took me 2 full days to just recover & catch up on my sleep.

Eventually the stress started getting to me, and I was starting to get a little burnt out. I turned to wine to help me relax at the end of the day. I had a hard time leaving some of the more emotional situations at work and my mind would ruminate on them while I was trying to sleep.

Finally, a few years later, after missing nearly all of 4 year old Dillon’s soccer games, I realized I was sacrificing my family to be an ER nurse. It was a no brainer what meant more to me. It was time for a change.

God is so Faithful

Soon after I realized this, I bumped into my former co-worker while getting lunch at the cafeteria. She told me my former job was open if I wanted to apply. This was too good to be true!!! I applied, interviewed, and accepted their offer. I would be working as a MDS coordinator for Gaye’s unit, completing Medicare reports for federal reimbursement and quality measures (but more importantly for care planning–making sure our patients’ pain was controlled, that we were trying to mitigate fall & skin risks, etc). My supervisor, Sue, and lead MDS coordinator, Marci, shared my values when it came to family and went above and beyond to let me tailor my work schedule around my family, even letting me work from home if needed by remoting in. I couldn’t have asked for a better set up, or better people to work with. God, I pray you bless Sue, Gaye, and Marci in a special way. I thank You for bringing them into my life!

During all this, the December when Dillon was 4, we decided to have another baby. Dillon had happened so easily, I thought we would have no problem getting pregnant. A year past of casually trying, and nothing. Then I got pregnant but miscarried early. This was devastating, and I can’t fathom the pain of losing a baby further along or especially a child.

Nate had been keeping his eye on the local housing market and found something interesting. A house on 80 acres. It didn’t have a shop, the basement was unfinished, and it wasn’t fenced (it was mostly planted in wheat), but it had amazing potential. We reached out to Beth again and before she had a chance to work her realtor magic it sold. We had looked at it and I knew Nate had had his heart set on it. It was a mother in law house, on land that had originally been 160 acres split in half. On the other half was an amazing set-up: Nate’s dream shop, two car garage, completed basement…everything! But it was way out of our budget, and we knew it.

We saw both houses disappear from the housing market and heartbroken, kept looking. Suddenly, a few months later, our dream house popped back up, it’s price reduced by $100,000 to a price we could afford! We had to scrape and come up with 10% down since all the land made it a little more complicated, but by the grace of God we did it.

Once we moved in, Nate told me the only way he’s moving from here is in a wooden casket!

(I’m not sure where the original picture is…this is from a Facebook profile pic in support of Manchester shootings back then–reason for the logo).

Within a few months of moving in, I found out I was pregnant. I was scared, but I also had a peace that this time around would be okay. It just hadn’t been the right time for me to get pregnant before…God knew what he was doing.

Dillon started school at Carter Elementary that fall. Seven other children were in his school that served Kindergarten through 5th grade. I was nervous and prayed his teacher would be a good fit for him. Mrs. Scott is better than anything I could have ever asked. She soon had Dillon wrapped around her finger, along with her husband, Mr. Scott, who acted as her aide, bringing with him his own vast experience in education. Dillon thrived. God, I pray you pour out on Margie and her family. Reward them for the immeasurable amount of love, time, and energy they have devoted to the children of this community. They deserve it!!

I quickly learned how interconnected everyone is out here. I work closely with a girl from out here and told her how amazing our mail lady was…how she came in and welcomed us, etc. “Oh! That’s my husband’s aunt!” I also learned she is on the school board and is Dillon’s classmate’s close relative, etc etc. Dillon’s classmates and their families all welcomed us with open arms. God, I truly pray You’ll rain down on this community and make it thrive. Pour out on these people who work so hard and love so deeply. I have never met so many people who would truly give you the clothes off their back and their last penny if you needed it and I pray you bless them extravagantly.

Logan came along in December. I chose to have a repeat c-section so I could have my tubes tied. After the experience with Dillon, everything went perfectly. I ran into my favorite OB nurse in Starbucks one day and told her I would love to have her as my nurse! We laughed, knowing it probably wouldn’t happen because she’s one of the head flight RNs and only works the floor if she is on call. So December 4th eventually came, and Nate and I headed in. I was pleasantly surprised when Lisa walked in and announced she would be my nurse!!! She had just happened to be on-call that day and they had to call her in and I just happened to be assigned to her. I could have cried. My stay was amazing, my nurses were amazing, everything was amazing. Two days later we checked out and went home so Nate could have his surgery the next day.

Nate had been struggling with a hernia, suffering with the pain all year but stubbornly waiting to have it fixed so he didn’t use all his time off and could be home with us in December. His surgeon just laughed when Nate told him he was scheduling his surgery three days after mine and cracked a few jokes about wheeling him down to me after he was done.

I was adamant Nate & I could manage alone–don’t ask me why I was so stubbornly foolish–and insisted we didn’t need any help. I wanted to breastfeed and I was still insecure about this and to me it was just easier if a bunch of people weren’t around. My dad and Brenda just nodded their heads and waited. They knew…

Thank God for Brenda. She stayed with us for a few days, giving Nate a chance to recuperate instead of waiting on Logan and me and taking care of Dillon.

Time Marches On

Logan’s first year flew by, Dillon finished Kindergarten and is just about to finish up 1st Grade. I decided to make my art a business so I could maybe write off some of the supplies on our tax returns (I have invested a good chunk into Michael’s & Hobby Lobby over the years!) if possible. Nate was a little frustrated last week, feeling like his dream of cows were never going to happen. We decided to try the Dave Ramsey way of managing our finances with the goal to get rid of all debt and completed the first step–$1000 cash available at all times–and started the second step–snowballing our debt by paying the most on the lowest amount we owed.

I tried to remind him just how far we’d come in 7 years. Everything would work out. A few days later, he got a phone call from his stepdad that someone was selling cows CHEAP. It just so happened we had the money readily available–there’d have been no way for him to get it out of the bank so quickly on a weekend–and he was off.

And here we are. It definitely hasn’t all been rainbows and unicorns. I know I put Nate through so incredibly much with my drinking and I will forever appreciate him for loving me even when I couldn’t love myself. There are hard times, saying good-bye to loved ones, dealing with tragedies and the messier parts of life, but in the grand scheme of it all,

Life is pretty good.

There are so many people not mentioned in this post that have also played a huge role in supporting us–too many to list! Please know Nate & I love you and how much we appreciate everything you have ever done for us!! We are so blessed to be surrounded by so many people who love and support us–thank you!! And for my family, I didn’t pray for you here, but you better believe I do…a lot. 🙂

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