Right-Side Up

I do great in crisis situations. I am rarely rattled or scared. I usually know what to do, where to go and how to get there. I don’t hesitate and I seldom panic. As long as that adrenaline is pumping through my veins, I’m level-headed and perfectly fine. It’s usually after the crisis that I start to fall apart. Inevitably this is due to my poor adaptation to change which has been a lifelong challenge. Unfortunately, crisis and change go hand-in-hand.

When the change starts to settle in after the crisis…. the new routines, the new way of life, the memories and emotions that need to be processed…that is when I come unhinged. And believe me, the changes have come flooding through these past 2 weeks.

David’s health of course is one of the biggest changes. My strong and resilient husband has been set back a few steps. I still wake up at 3am worried that he has stopped breathing. The blood thinners make him cold all the time. I am always looking for the next sign that suggests we need to rush back to the ER. It’s going to take some time for the PTSD to wear off. I actually read a study recently that said the majority of pulmonary embolism survivors exhibit signs of PTSD. It makes sense…especially when you realize just how close we came to losing David. It’s going to take time for our heightened levels of fear and paranoia to come down a notch.

Then comes the fact that we sold our house. The second I went in that hospital with David, I never returned to our home. Other people packed our boxes, moved our belongings and cleaned our house. We left home in a frantic hurry and by the time David was out of the hospital, the papers had been signed and the keys had been transferred to the new owners. I had Power of Attorney so David wasn’t even at the closing, he has far less closure than myself on leaving our home. I blinked and suddenly our home wasn’t our home anymore. I’m currently floating somewhere between denial and suppressed acknowledgement that we are never going back to that house. The vast majority of our stuff is in storage somewhere and we are almost always looking for missing shoes and hair gel. Side note, I did just find all of my shellac and gel polish, which I thought was lost and gone forever so occasionally there are happy surprises!! 🙂

Then comes grad school. I can’t even begin to describe the changes that alone has set into motion. So yes, change. Lots of it.

If you know us at all, you know exactly what we do when life gets a little too hard. We do this…

 We headed south towards a little town in Colorado called South Fork. We drove through it in 2014 as we were coming home from Arizona and we were both intrigued by how quaint it was. We made some seriously last minute reservations at a little B&B on the river and headed down for a long weekend of reconnecting, reflecting and relaxing. It was exactly what we needed.

South Fork is about an hour from the Great Sand Dunes National Park (did you know Colorado has sand dunes?! They are so random but so so so very cool!) so we headed over to the Dunes to check things out. The wind was whipping at about 30mph and it was freezing cold but we both really enjoyed being here. Since it was so cold and cloudy, there weren’t many people around and we more or less had the place to ourselves. Aside from the occasional sand grain blowing into our eyes, we had a great time soaking in all the natural beauty that this place offers.

Gooooosh I love this husband of mine! I will never stop being thankful for him and that he is alive!!!

 I got an absurd amount of sand in my hiking boots haha!

 I made a poor decision and attempted to do a long exposure of the water that flows in front of the Dunes. It was so cold and my exposures took so long that I was sure frostbite had gotten the best of my fingers by the time I got back to the car. The pictures turned out terribly too, oh well, live and learn!

 The next day we headed home and made a few quick stops along the way. One stop was in a tiny little town to say hi to my dad. He lives on 100 acres in the boonies and I rarely have a chance to see him due to problematic circumstances (ahem, my crazy step-mom). We ate lunch with him at the only restaurant open in his little town on a Monday, which was in the bowling alley. Ha! David hadn’t seen my dad in over 2 years so it was good for them to catch up a little bit. I don’t see my dad much and I have learned over time to lower my bar of expectations so that a simple lunch in a bowling alley where all we do is talk about the weather is enough to satisfy my heart.

Lunch with my dad was conveniently located within an hour of the very first town David and I lived in when we got married, Canon City. David got his first job out of college in Canon City. He was a reporter for the local newspaper and covered everything from city council meetings to local high school football games. He lived there for about 18 months and I would go down to visit on the weekends when I didn’t have to work. I lived in Canon City for exactly 2 weeks after we got married before David took a job in a different town, where we live now.

Canon City is a quiet, small town that is full of a mixture of retirees who love the milder climate, blue collar workers, tourists and a smattering of folks who moved there for a job in the prison system.

There are 13 major prisons in the area, including “Supermax” which is a maximum security prison that houses criminals who are too-high a security risk or too much of a threat to national security for standard maximum security prisons. The high value of targets inside the prison makes it just as likely for someone wanting to break-in as break-out so they have set up the prison in an intentionally disorienting way that includes underground areas, no windows, “black holes” and sound-proof cells. Most people inside can’t tell where they are within the prison or even which way is north. Supermax holds famous criminals like:

  • Ted Kaczynski aka The Unabomber 
  • the Underwear bomber 
  • the Shoe bomber
  • one of the Oklahoma City bombers
  • one of the 9/11 bombers
  • the 1993 World Trade Center bomber
  • the Atlanta Olympics bomber
  •  Boston Marathon bomber
  • several mobsters
  • many cartel leaders
  • a few FBI/CIA double agents 
  • quite a few al-queida members 

It’s a little unsettling that all of these guys are housed under one roof together (think of the destruction they could plot!) but every prisoner is kept under solitary confinement at Supermax for 23 hours/day. Any time a prisoner is released from his cell, he has no less than 3 armed officers with him at all times. Not much plotting could happen under those conditions, right?! Ok, I’m done with prison trivia 🙂

We drove by our very first place where we lived for exactly 12 days before moving. The window on the right was ours! Our shower didn’t drain and we had landlords that would walk in unannounced at all hours of the day, but it was a significant upgrade from where David lived before.

 This was David’s first place in Canon City. His was the door on the left. It was right on Hwy 50 and he had a constant stream of semi-trucks whizzing by. His neighbor was about 98 years old and we were always worried about him dying. The worst was his other neighbor to the west…a taxidermist ::shudders:: The dumpster out back is a thing I fear to this very day.

I have fond memories of our brief time in Canon City. Good memories of eating Little Ceasar’s pizza on that front porch, watching the trucks whir by and looking up at the stars. We would eat lunch at our favorite coffee shop and take walks along the Arkansas River. We went to the Blossom Festival and the rodeo in the summers and spent a lot of time people watching downtown and we even found a cute little church to attend. David and I spent the entirety of our engagement apart and these visits to Canon City were the highlights of each month that went by.

I am thankful we no longer live there, but I can’t help but feel a strong sentimental attachment to this interesting little town. In many ways, it was a great foundational place for our marriage to begin. Our marriage started in very very humble beginnings, something I would never change. It doesn’t get more humble than living next to a taxidermist haha! 🙂

We slowly made our way north and returned to the new life we have now. We are currently set up in David’s parent’s basement. Slowly, a new routine is being established and we are finding our bearings once again. House hunting has begun, David is back at work, I’m going to school and have finally responded to the 800 business emails I got while we were in the hospital. David’s parents have graciously been feeding us and caring us over the past 3 weeks. I have yet to go to the grocery store or make dinner but I have done a few loads of laundry so I will call that progress. 
It’s funny how in the midst of all this change, a little road trip to some big piles of sand in the middle of nowhere actually helped us feel a bit more stabilized and secure. I guess that goes to show how much being in the mountains and traveling centers us. God’s creation has always been a tool for healing in our life. Now I also see it is a tool for grounding, stabilization and turning an upside-down life back to right-side up. 

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