I know it has been a while since Nathan and I have shared what is going on with us. In lieu of a Christmas letter, I usually like to do a little blog update. While 2017 was definitely a very trying year for us, it was undoubtedly one of growth and blessings too! I hope you enjoy seeing what we have been up to and how God has continued to shape us along this journey called life. (While I tried to include activities that the two of us did together, this past year was definitely a very personal year for us and I can only attest to my side of the story.)
January-We had career day at Oltman Middle School (where I taught) and I talked Nathan into coming in and talking a little bit about what he does. Students signed up for the careers they would like to hear about and then rotated in in three different groups. N. was a bit nervous but did a good job. It was a freeing time for me to just observe the students and my husband. I was proud of him and it was fun to hear the questions the kids asked.
February- Nathan and I toured the Basilica of Saint Mary in St. Paul with some of our church friends. It was really a neat beautiful building and fun to learn about its history. It was a unique and memorable date!
This was also the month that I put in my notice that I would be resigning from my middle school teaching position in June. After over a year of prayer and talking to many friends and professionals, this felt like the best step for me in the interest of my mental health. It was a such a relief to turn in that notice.
March– There were quite a few highlights of this month. I picked up my nieces, Corryn and Verity and nephew Callum and brought them to see my students perform in the musical, The Lion King. My friend Jesica also joined us. It is always great to see my students outside of the classroom too. We loved it and it was a great bonding experience with my nieces and nephew! They also got a kick out of seeing my classroom where I taught.
This month I received a nice note from a student that got me through the rest of the school year. Nathan and I celebrated his 31st birthday at an Asian restaurant we enjoy. Our friend Travis came and celebrated with us.
Nathan also enjoyed a trip to see his friend Jake in Wausau, Wisconsin for March Madness.
April– After doing a lot of research, I found and began working with a new therapist who specialized in depression, anxiety and disordered eating at a clinic closer to home. This ended up being a good switch for me; I could later tell how God had brought this clinic into my life at just the right moment.
I had Spring Break this month. I stayed around home and enjoyed some much needed R and R, just reading, seeing friends and writing. The highlight for me came at the end of the month. As anticipated, I drove down to Richland Center, WI (Southwestern WI) for my first ever getaway yoga retreat led by my sister-in-law Kat. It was definitely a unique, healing and peaceful experience.
May– I enjoyed attending a cultural event, the Festival of Nations, in St. Paul. Although it was a field trip I was chaperoning, the kids were highly independent and responsible so the teachers didn’t have much to do. I really enjoyed sampling different cultural foods, watching live music and dance and looking at different artifacts from all over the globe.
One Saturday, I attended a writer’s workshop at Banfill Locke (an arts center where I used to be a part of a writing club). It was fun to see some of my old writer friends, but even better, to be inspired and have a beautiful place to get some writing in. At the end, I even did a read-aloud of one of my writing pieces; it was scary but good practice for me.
I also tried to make the most out of the last few weeks with my students. The kids really enjoyed the Cinco de Mayo celebration I set up for them.
June-The long awaited last day of school arrived. I worked for several weeks to pack up my classroom, and it went smoothly. It was a bittersweet last few days, but as I said goodbye to the district I’d taught in for seven years, I knew it was the right choice.
The huge event of 2017 was our two-week long vacation beginning the last week of June. We drove South and stopped for a few days in Pella, Iowa where we enjoyed a few days with my Uncle Ken and Aunt Pam. We enjoyed a visit to the dam, the Des Moines farmer’s market, and mostly just having good conversations.
Next stop was St. Louis, Missouri. On the way to our first Air B & B, we stopped at the Butterfly House outside of St. Louis. We really enjoyed seeing all the unique butterflies! While our B & B was quite plain, we did enjoy our time seeing the Arch, (Nathan faced his fear of heights), the City Museum, the St. Louis Zoo and an outdoor musical at the Muny.
Next we drove to Glasgow, Kentucky for our Mammoth Cave tour. We liked our B & B and our hostess, Suzanne. The tour wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for but it was still an exciting experience, especially when the cave went totally black after about two hours in; we had to backtrack to get lanterns in order to finish the tour safely! Our favorite part was the stalactites and stalagmites at the end of the tour.
Our fourth stop was Chattanooga, Tennessee to meet my cousin Whitney for dinner. We were hoping to have more time to explore Chatt but sadly we ended up with less than an hour since we had to be to our next B & B two hours away by that evening. It was awesome to see Whit, though, and catch up!
Probably one of our favorite experiences was our three-night stay in Dandridge, Tennessee. This B & B was by far the best. We had a picturesque view of Douglas Lake, a cozy apartment, a Swedish pancake breakfast and sweet visits from Bean, our host Billy’s inquisitive cat. Our many adventures in Dandridge included a helicopter ride, a Whitewater rafting trip, zorbing (a splish-splashy ride down a hill in an extremely large sphere), a short hike in the Smokies, and a spectacular thunderstorm. Quite a memorable couple days!
Next we drove toward home, stopping outside of Cincinnati for the Noah’s Ark and Creation Museum experience (kind of the main thing we planned our trip around). This was a growing experience for me faith-wise. I can’t really put it all into words here but the Ark definitely answered a lot of questions I had about this Genesis account and created new ones. Overall, it was a very impressive and hugely captivating experience for both of us! (I mean it was a museum inside of a real, life-sized ark! Crazy stuff!)
We were getting pooped and anxious to get home. Our last day of travel was the Fourth of July. On the way home, we stopped in Rockford, Illinois to visit with my extended family. We enjoyed just hanging out with aunts, uncles, cousins and my grandparents. My grandma surprised me with a beautiful quilt she made for us, “just because.” What a caring and meaningful present! It has definitely kept me warm this cold winter!
July-This was a month of lots of growth for me. Once we got home from vacation, I began attending an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) for depression/anxiety at the same clinic where I was going for individual therapy. Although it was hard to see at the time, I learned and benefitted from the other clients and all the amazing professionals I worked with, including many therapists, a dietician and a chaplain.
I worked on my healing through journaling and birdwatching on our deck, while Nathan got serious about working on the garden and planning to paint the outside of our house. We decided on a color together (a very exquisite, dark royal blue with white trim) but, other than that, he did the whole thing by himself. It was a long extensive project that took several months. I am so proud of all his hard work!
We took some individual trips this month. Nathan went to his annual pig-wrestling event with his brothers in small-town eastern Wisconsin. I visited my parents, brother and sister-in-law (Nate and Kat) and my nephews in Eau Claire. Toward the end of the month, my small group girlfriends and I enjoyed a weekend trip at Angell’s Hideaway Resort in Emily, MN. We had fun boating on Lake Emily, sitting by the bonfire, sharing back rubs, eating and just praying and talking together. So blessed by friendships!
August-Unfortunately my mental health declined, and I was hospitalized for the first half of the month. This was a very trying time for us, but I am so grateful for my husband’s strength, resiliency and commitment to me and for the many loved ones who called, brought gifts and visited me. Even though it was challenging, I learned how to accept this love from others as tangible demonstrations of the Savior’s love for me.
We prayerfully decided to heed the doctor’s advice and, while in the hospital, I underwent a series of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) treatments. The treatments were hard on me physically and, as expected, affected my short term memory. But, after only a few treatments, we noticed a dramatic in my mood (for the good)!
Nathan was SUPER excited about seeing the solar eclipse so at 6 am that Monday morning, we drove 8 or 9 hours down to Nebraska. Not only did we see the eclipse, but also witnessed an incredible double rainbow on the way home. I don’t remember much, but I do remember being relaxed, happy and laughing a lot despite being stuck in traffic and having to drive ten hours home that same day. What an experience!
Right after my last ECT treatment, we visited Nate, Kat, Brendan and Owen at their cabin in Merrill, Wisconsin. We enjoyed bonfires, fishing, swimming and just being together.
It was hard to get adjusted to living at home again, but I enjoyed a lot of quality time with loved ones. I spent extensive amounts of time journaling each day and felt closer to God and a new purpose in life that I had not experienced for a long time.
September– My old insurance (from my teaching job) ended, so I had the challenging task of saying goodbye to all of the professionals who I’d really begun to like and depend on (since they weren’t covered under the new insurance). Graciously, I found a new psychiatrist that I liked. Finding a new therapist that was a good fit was a little more challenging.
For Nathan, September was consumed with painting the house. He made a lot of progress and worked many LONG days. I helped a little bit by holding the ladder (super nerve-wracking) and painting the garage.
My husband and I spent a lot of time talking and reflecting together. Nathan kept remarking on how different I was. One thing we really enjoyed was laughing. It seems the ECT really reset something in my brain. I was able to experience joy in a new way; I finally found a lot of things funny, including his jokes. We experienced a connection through laughter that we’d never had before. What an answer to prayer!
September was also a month of relationship for me. I enjoyed TONS of one-on-one time with family members and friends. I continued to experience joy and love in new ways! Nathan and I also had a couple fun dates: Labor Day at Minnehaha Falls (where we also go downpoured upon); the Como Zoo with Theresa and Joel; and our fancy anniversary dinner at Downtowner Grill.
October-Nathan finished painting the house and it is definitely a head-turner in our neighborhood! We love it!
Around this time, my hubby also experienced a change of direction at work when he was put in charge of a new, extensive project. According to N, he likes the challenge of the project and it has given him a lot more him motivation and vigor at work. I am so proud of how hard he works to support us!
An answer to prayer came when I found a new therapist I really connected with at a different nearby clinic. One of the things I like about Susan is how lighthearted and funny she is. She also brings her personal experiences into our talks, unlike most other people I’ve seen. With her encouragement, I joined a DBT (Dialectic Behavioral Therapy) group on Monday nights. DBT is a skill based and mindfulness-centered therapy program that I am very familiar with, having gone through it ten years ago. I am excited to see where God will take me through this group.
I experienced more time with friends enjoying the beautiful fall.
I also began working very part time as a Personal Care Attendant for a young girl with developmental disabilities. I have loved getting to know and work with her and her family.
November and December– We noticed my depression starting to rear its ugly head again. The current plan is to try another ECT series (after a long battle with the new insurance), since this has been the most successful for me (more than medication).
This fall, I had a period of renewed inspiration for writing about what I have been through. I worked on this blog quite a bit (which I dream of turning into a memoir one day). Check it out.
We enjoyed the holidays with our families. We had Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with both of our families. Nathan had a two-week vacation at the end of the year, so we had a lot more time together. This year I enjoyed hosting two of our couple friends for a New Year’s Eve party. I forgot how much I enjoy having people over so I hope to do that more in 2018!
We have been blessed and challenged by another year of life. We are humbled by God’s faithfulness and the way He has so artfully recycled every painful and joyous experience of 2017 to mold us into who we are meant to be, His precious children. We are both excited for a new year of learning how to become more like Christ!