Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mike's Post-All about my hospital stay

  Hello everyone!  This blog entry will be a little different.  I’m Mike, Chessie's husband, and I've hijacked her blog today to write about a pretty huge event/obstacle in our lives recently.  For all our friends and family, these are the details for what has been a bit cloudy in our posts on FB.  This promises to be long-winded but there’s a point to it. 
First of all, my story is not as tough as some have experienced, but I felt I needed to get my testimony out.   I have had a continuing medical issue for about 7 years.  In 2014 it began causing more problems, culminating in a trip to the ER in November that caused me to miss two weeks of work.  So the doctors and I decided it was time to schedule a surgery to remove the part of my intestine causing the problem.  On January 6th, my wife and I packed a hospital bag, since I was told I’d have to stay for 3-4 days.  Extra clothes, toiletries, a book, cellphone charger and… Cookie.  
Cookie is a doll that belonged to my daughter Makayla from the time she was 4.  At the time, her mother, Celena, and I had already divorced.   However, Celena and I were both active duty Air Force and stationed here in Hawaii.  When Makayla was 6, her mom got orders to change station to the mainland.  I knew this was coming but it was very hard for me, knowing that I’d only get to see my daughter for the summers.  Makayla gave me her favorite doll, Cookie, and filled it with hugs, so that I could get a hug from my daughter anytime I needed it.  It’s a tradition that we have had for years, and she still "refills" Cookie with fresh hugs when she visits, 10 years later.  It sounds silly, but I will fight you over that doll.  Don’t test me. 

Being prepped for the first surgery.

  So I had the surgery on the 6th as planned, which the doctors said was a great success.  I seemed to be recovering quickly and they decide to discharge me a couple days later.  However, right before Chessie arrived to take me home, I started feeling… not so great.  My symptoms included a resting heart-rate of 140 and a temp of 103.  Needless to say, there was much fussing over me that night.  I was moved to the ICU, but the doctors assured me that it was just because they didn't have anywhere else for me at that moment and they wanted to keep a little closer eye on me. 

  Over the next two days, I had lots of tests done on me.  Urine, blood, x-rays, CT scans, all of which came back negative.  My condition didn't improve.  These two days were the scariest of my life.  Something was wrong with me, and the doctors couldn't figure out what.  The doctors tried to be reassuring but Chessie and I saw worry in their eyes every time they came in.  How long could my heart handle beating at 130-140 beats a minute?  At what point do the doctors exhaust all their options?  My daughter, my mom and dad, people I would want to see if I were leaving this world were all so far away.   At the same time I was terrified for my new wife.  Could she be a widow less than a year into our marriage? 

  Nonetheless, Chessie and I would hold hands, pray with the chaplain, talk (when I wasn't passing out from exhaustion and narcotic painkillers), and pass the time while we waited for the doctors to do another test or give us some news.  I also almost completely emptied Cookie of her supply of Makayla's hugs.  


  On the third day, the doctors told me that the only thing they could do at this point was an exploratory surgery.  This was terrifying because Chessie was on her way to see me and I didn't really get any notice.  They said they were taking me back to operate and the only thing I could do was text my wife that I was about to go into surgery and hand my phone to the nurse to put away.  When I woke up, Chessie was there.  The doctors told me they had found the problem and fixed it.  A "nick" in my intestine caused by withdrawal of the surgical robot arm thingy after the first surgery.  Apparently the "nick" was about 4 inches long and caused intestinal waste to spill into the abdominal cavity, which is what was causing my problems. 

My biggest incision. It's looking MUCH better now. 

  I immediately started getting better.  I improved a little every day.  All the while, my wife and Cookie standing vigil at my side.  And at night, when Chessie went home, the lights were out and the hospital was quiet, except the beeping of IV pumps, and the occasional nurse who would come in to shove a fresh needle into me somewhere, I would talk to God.  It was a comfort, at a time in my life when comfort was very scarce.  It wasn't until I began improving that the doctors validated our worries and told us how serious the situation had become.  One of my doctors told me she was "very very worried", and Chessie and I saw her eyes well up with tears for a moment. 
The first time we were able to cuddle after more than a week.

 Fifteen days after I checked into the hospital, I finally got to return home with the love of my life.  There was the pain of a very large incision and it was very unnerving to not have the medical care close by if I needed it… But it was home.  Now, as I write this, I’m getting a little stronger and feeling better every day.  I have a bit of a road ahead of me, especially as far as stamina.  15 days in a hospital bed doesn't do much for your cardio. 

  In the Air Force, we talk a lot about "resilience".  It’s the topic of lots of briefings that no one wants to go to.  It’s a fancy term for the pillars we use to get through tough times in our lives.  Religion, family, community, friends, hobbies, anything that you can lean when the going gets tough.  I work in a field with a lot of brilliant people.  It seems in our small community that religion is often not a popular belief, and I know a lot of people who don’t put stock in things that they can’t see and touch. 
I guess the reason I felt compelled to write this post, is that I think everyone should believe in something.  Sure, believing in God isn't fashionable or logical in the minds of some.  But believe in something.  Fate, karma, positive thoughts, whatever can get you through the tough times.  For my ordeal, I had my wife, and I had my faith, and I CHOSE to believe that hugging a silly little doll somehow connected me to my daughter thousands of miles away.  If I hadn't had those pillars, I would have crumbled.  Allow yourself to put faith in something greater than yourself now.  Build and maintain those pillars of strength so they are there when you need them.

 Today I am flying alone to Tucson to buy gemstones and minerals, the raw materials I use in my passion of creating wire sculpture jewelry.  This is a trip that I planned back in November.  I know that without God, my amazing wife, and a silly little rag doll named Cookie that I would not be able to go.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

My Vegan Journey

*Disclaimer* This might seem like a really random post, considering my last post was announcing my January. Sorry about the lapse, but this is one I've been meaning to write for a while. 

In honor of World Vegan Day, I thought I'd share why I stopped eating meat. While this is a subject very important to me, I'm not trying to sound judgmental or self-righteous. Veganism is about compassion and peace, not waging war against those who haven't made the same choice. 

I've been interested in vegetarianism/veganism for a couple years. In 2011, I read a book called The Kind Diet. It was a gentle nudge towards compassionate eating, full of pictures of cute cows and sweet little piggies. I went vegetarian for a month, to see how I felt. Towards the end of that month, I met Mike. We started dating and eating out and it just became "easier" for me to go back to old eating habits. I was not yet ready.

My dad has been a vegan for a few years. When I stayed with my parents for a few months before leaving Las Vegas, we talked a lot about his decision. Despite working out on a regular basis for the last 15 years, he still had high cholesterol and some extra weight he just couldn't drop. He had made the choice to give up meat, dairy and eggs solely for the health benefits. His cholesterol is now perfect and he's the healthiest he's ever been. Every time we discussed it, he'd tell me he's 100% happy with his decision, but I was not yet ready.

In May 2014, Mike and I honeymooned in Maui. While we were there, we visited Leilani Farm Sanctuary. This was my absolute favorite part of our honeymoon. It was very hands-on and Laurelee Blanchard, the woman running the farm, was so kind and informative. We met goats, donkeys, deer, chickens, pigs and more. I loved meeting every animal and looking into their sweet faces. I held an adorable chicken while she ate an apple out of my hand and I felt something stirring in my heart. I was almost ready.

In July, I watched a documentary called 'Vegucated'. It followed 3 regular people as they adopted a vegan lifestyle for six weeks. Part of the documentary shows just what goes on in slaughterhouses and factory farms all across the country. It completely opened my eyes to the truth behind the meat/dairy/egg industry. In the back of my mind, I always knew the animals probably weren't living on some happy farm, just waiting to be magically turned into someone's dinner. However, I can honestly say, I had no idea just how horrific the conditions are in factory farms. Seeing undercover video of how cows, calves, pigs, and chickens were treated literally made me sick to my stomach. I remembered the sweet faces of all those animals I'd met in Maui. The disconnect I'd had between farm animals and how they ended up on the table was gone. In that moment, I was ready. 

My immediate decision was to stop eating meat, but I knew I wanted to also quit eggs and dairy. Those animals have it just as bad as the ones awaiting slaughter. I started reading and watching anything else I could find on the subject. The more I learned, the more my empathetic heart broke. Once I pulled back that curtain, I knew there was no going back. After you look past the food, there's the companies that test on animals. Then there are animals being killed for fur and leather; the circuses and animal "attractions". It was overwhelming. After just a few nights of research. I broke down. How was one person going vegan going to stop the millions of animals being harmed and killed? I had to face the fact that I'm not going to be able to save all the animals and that was a difficult realization. However, I'm doing my part. I'm making a one person difference and that is still a difference. 

I made my choice firstly for the animals, but I've discovered many more reasons that a plant based diet is better for everyone. The amount of land, grain and water that is spent raising animals for food could feed so many hungry people across the world. Factory farms are also huge contributors to the air and water pollution in the United States. I could go on and on, but I'm trying not to turn this into a lecture.

I really haven't found it difficult to leave animal products out of my meals. I don't miss meat, in fact it makes me kind of queasy to see it now. I don't feel like I'm missing out and I'm not just eating salads every day. There are so many vegan options available now! I find lots of vegan products in my regular grocery store. Target carries quite a few vegan brands and even just launched their own Simply Balanced meat substitutes. We have a vegetarian grocery store nearby that's kind of like a Whole Foods, but doesn't sell any meat. I've recently discovered vegan items at Costco too. I picked up a couple vegan cookbooks and Mike and I have both enjoyed all the recipes we've tried so far.

Speaking of Mike, he was definitely surprised when I (out of the blue) announced I wasn't eating meat anymore. While he has not made the same decision, he has been very supportive of my choice. He's open to trying all the things I make, he's even become a fan of certain items. He doesn't think veganism is for him, but he's already eating much less meat than before. I'll take what I can get.

In my ideal world, everyone would wake up vegan tomorrow. I know that isn't going to happen, but I urge you to at least learn a little more about where your food is coming from. Even just having a plant based meal once or twice a week would make a difference. It's all about baby steps; I'm still very much at the beginning of my journey.

This turned out longer than I planned and I feel like there's so much more I could (and should) say. Please, please message me or leave a comment if you have any questions or want more information. Again, this is something that I've become very passionate about and it's going to be mentioned a lot more since it's now a big part of my life. I'm going to mention a few sites and information sources that led me to where I am.

'Vegucated' (available on Netflix)
'Forks Over Knives' (available on Netflix)
'Earthlings' (very important, but not easy to watch)

Websites: (their YouTube channel is also awesome) (can be a little intense, but I use them more as a reference regarding cruelty free companies and vegan products)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Disney Proposal

Today, Mike and I met up with some friends at Aulani Disney Resort. We've been there a few times and even stayed one night back in October. This time, we went for the character breakfast buffet...Or so I thought. 

Before breakfast, we met up with a few characters. 

After stuffing ourselves at the buffet, the four of us were just sitting at the table chatting. An employee walked to our table and set a cake in front of me. I was confused for a second until I looked down at the cake. 

I looked over at Mike, but he was already making his way to my side. He knelt down and I started crying and giggling at the same time. 

His words:
"You saw me cut the stone for this ring, so you know it's not perfect...just like me. But I hope you'll accept it, because it was made for you...just like me. And, if you say yes, I promise that I won't ever give up on us. Will you marry me?"

(I totally had to ask him what he'd said so I could write this. That moment was a blur to me.)

After I put the ring on, I heard cheering. I looked up and realized we had quite an audience of restaurant guests and employees. Minnie came over and handed us bride and groom ears. Someone else set sparkling cider on the table. I was still doing my giggle/cry and smiling like crazy. 

So cute!

When Mike had asked what kind of ring I wanted, I said "something different...and pink". He cut the stone himself and I'm amazed by his skill. He did so well! Pink tourmaline is my birthstone and the cushion cut is my favorite. I love it! 

After we had some cake, we went to take photos with Mickey one more time. 

I love how much thought & planning Mike put into his proposal. 
I love that he knows me so well and knows what I'll love. 
Most of all, I love my guy and can't wait to be his wife. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Life Update


Sorry for the lack of posts recently. Every time I sat down to write, I found myself struggling. I started this blog as a way to keep family and friends updated on our life now that we're so far away. The problem is...our life is not all that exciting to write about. I'm determined to stick with this though, so here's my random thoughts on life this past month.


I got a little flak on Facebook for posting a lot of pictures of the beach. While it might look like I'm spending all my time there, I've only been to the beach a few times since moving here. I *may* have gone overboard taking photos of the ocean, but I lived in the desert for 30 years and the joy I feel when I see that water has yet to fade. I got a snorkel and goggles and have tried them out a little, but we haven't really gone anywhere that has much to see. I really want a GoPro, but I settled for a $20 waterproof case that fits my little point-and-shoot camera and that's working well enough for now.
Testing out the waterproof camera case.

Hawaii really is beautiful (duh) and I'm most happy when I'm outside. I love all the flowers, trees and green everywhere. I like going outside in the morning to watch all the little birds and throw them some birdseed. I smile when I spot a gecko and finding a tiny hermit crab in a tide pool made me more excited than it should have. Last week, Mike built some planter boxes for me and I'm trying my hand at a little veggie and herb garden. We have plans to add more plants and flowers outside near the front door and on the lanai. It's a good thing the weather is perfect for growing things outside, since we cant really keep plants in the house because of the cats.

Hermit crab

Hopefully these will all be full soon!

Mike's teenage daughter, Makayla, arrived last month and is staying until mid-July. She's a great kid and this is the second summer she's spent with us since Mike and I started dating. Last year, I was worried how she'd react to me, but we got along great, so this summer was no worries. Makayla lived in Hawaii for a while, so we haven't done a lot of touristy things with her. We've gone to the movies a couple times, had some girls only shopping trips and gone to the beach twice. She and Mike are taking a surf lesson in a couple weeks and she's pretty excited about that. She's definitely more "teenager" this summer and spends a lot of her time talking to her friends on Facebook and hanging out with our neighbor that is her age and knew her from when Makayla lived here before. She's turning 15 just before she leaves and we're planning to spend the day at the water park.
I love this one!

Mike finally has a regular schedule, although it's not the shift we've been accustomed to. His new schedule does give him more consecutive days off, so that is an upside to me seeing a lot less of him on the days he works. I'm still not working (that sounds so weird). We decided with Makayla being here and then my parents visiting for a couple weeks, now isn't the best time to look for a new job. Mike and I are going to revisit this subject at the end of the summer. We are doing fine on just his salary, but it seems silly for me to not work when there's really no reason for me to stay home. The job market in Hawaii is not great, so it's a blessing that I don't need a job right away. Pandawire is still going strong and hopefully will continue to grow. Our sales are nothing close to covering my missing paycheck, but it is a nice supplement. Since I'm not working, I'm trying my hardest to be a good housewife housegirlfriend, but it's not easy! I seriously don't know how people do this with kids also factored in. I think I need to make myself an actual schedule so that I can divide my time between household duties and working on photos/listings/marketing for the site. Total honesty? Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed with all the things I should be doing, I just give up and take a nap. So, yeah, I need to work on my productivity. 

But honestly, could you focus with a view like this?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Living Like Tourists

Mike came home 2 weeks ago and we've been busy, busy, busy! We spent that first week getting the house ready in anticipation of our very first visitor. It seems like we have a never-ending stack of boxes to unpack. Even now, after going through so much stuff, we have a few boxes of decorations to look through. It's awesome to have Mike home and to know we don't have any more time apart in the foreseeable future. We have so much fun together, even running errands and cleaning the house is more enjoyable when we're together.

Our friend, Mark, arrived from Las Vegas last Friday. He'd been to Oahu a few times, but we used this as an opportunity to play tourist, since there was still a lot I hadn't seen. The first thing we did was visit the Dole Plantation. I was super excited to go, just so I could get a Dole Whip. Whips are basically pineapple soft serve ice cream, insanely good and I've only ever found them at Disneyland. Every time I visit Disneyland I get a Whip; they're honestly one of my favorite things. The Plantation has a lot of things to do, train ride, gardens, shopping, but we only did the Pineapple Maze. It's one of the largest mazes in the world and I was legitimately worried about getting lost in there. They give you a map, but it's teeny tiny and I had no clue what to do. Luckily, the guys took full control and I just followed them through the entire thing. There are 8 different checkpoints to find within the maze and you trace little stencils at each one. We were timed going through and finished in 45 minutes, which seemed crazy fast! I swear I would have been lost in there for hours, never mind finding all the checkpoints.

The magic that is the Dole Whip

We also visited Waimea Valley to hike through the botanical garden and up to a waterfall where you can swim. This was my favorite thing I've done since being in Hawaii. The hike was a nice paved walk with beautiful plants, trees and birds along the way. The pool at the base of the waterfall is deep and the force of the fall made a current that continuously pushed you back. So, I didn't really swim right under the fall, but I still swam in a waterfall!
I swam to about center of this pic. Next time, I'm going all the way!

So happy to be back together!

I have lots more to write about, but I'll have to save that for another day. I also have many more photos posted on Facebook, if you want to check them out! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Happy Cat

A few days after the move, Evie started doing the strangest thing. At least once a day, she'll bring one of her toys from upstairs to wherever I am downstairs. She lets out a little meow and then leaves it at my feet, purring and looking so proud of herself. She doesn't seem to want to play fetch, which she has done in the past. I'm pretty sure she's doing it at night too. I wake up with cat toys in the bed or on the bedroom floor.

I've read up about this behavior and I understand that it's a sign of affection or gifting thing. I'm sure it helps that I always praise her and pet her when she does it, but she still started doing it on her own. I'm just trying to figure out why she started doing it.

My first thought is, I'm home ALL the time with them now. After the last year or so, maybe she's just really excited that I haven't left her for more than a couple hours since the move.

Maybe she loves having all this room to explore, as opposed to being kept in the bedroom most of the time (for her own safety) when we were staying with my parents.

Perhaps she's picked up English and heard me, repeatedly, say how much it was costing to move the cats to Hawaii. If that's the case, Evie, a toy mouse doesn't really make us even. ;)

Whatever the reason, I'm happy that she's happy. For a cat that isn't especially affectionate, this is a pretty sweet gesture. I'll keep praising her and trying to get some video of her bringing me gifts. That is, as long as the "gifts" don't become dead mice or bugs...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

First Impressions

Thoughts and observations after being here for one week.

The humidity. Oh, the humidity!  I knew it was humid here, but I really wasn't prepared. It's probably due to growing up in the desert, but any kind of humidity hits me hard! Yesterday, I was told by a local that this week has been especially bad, so it gives me hope that it will get better or I will get used to it. My hair and skin LOVE the humidity; I haven't been using any lotion other than sunscreen. Chubbs is usually super static boy, to the point of his fur sparking, but he isn't having any issues here. In fact, he's looking quite fluffy!

The bugs. Thank goodness this is an issue I unnecessarily worried about. There are definitely a lot more little bugs around; ants, flies, tiny spiders and moths, but nothing to the extreme that I feared. So far, my only encounters with any especially creepy ones have been sweeping up their dead bodies and I'm praying it stays that way! I do have at least 3 bug bites on me now and no idea where they came from.

The radio. I am loving Hawaiian radio stations. They play traditional and modern Hawaiian music and covers of (mostly older) songs done with a Hawaiian spin. Mike says I'll get tired of hearing the same songs over and over, but it seems like all radio stations do that. At least this music is mostly "new" to me.

The locals. I knew moving here that I would be a minority. It didn't worry me at all, as I tend to get along with most people and am pretty open minded. Other cultures really interest me and, in this aspect, Hawaii really does feel like another country. I love hearing Pidgin and Hawaiian words dropped into most conversations. So far, everyone I've encountered has been really friendly and helpful.

The house. This has been my biggest source of stress. Mike was only in the house a couple of months before being sent to California and he unpacked what he could. We were supposed to have someone staying here and watching the place, but about 3 weeks in, that fell through. When I arrived at the house, tired, hot and sweaty (thanks again humidity) I was really frustrated to find it looking no one had lived here for 3 months. The window style here allows some of the elements to get in, along with the lovely ocean breezes. That meant some small leaves, dead bugs and dust. Lots and lots of dust! Add to that the need to still unpack a lot of stuff, feeling alone and missing my loved ones and you have a pretty stressed out Chessie. I'm slowly getting things cleaned up and making a to-do list for my handyman when he gets home. We have company starting a week after he gets back (and throughout the summer) so I'd like to have the place pretty much ready by then and have a little time to spend together, not working on the house. The house does have a nice lanai and amazing views. The cats and I spend a good part of the mornings and evenings sitting outside watching the birds and butterflies.

I think we'll stay.