Saturday, January 6, 2018

Good-bye, Buddy

Christmas of 2003 my parents gifted me a cat. I was struggling after moving to a new state and my anxiety and depression seemed uncontrollable. My parents knew the therapeutic benefit of fur-babies, as our previous family cat had passed away only a year prior. We went to Pet-smart to adopt and I fell in love with a tiny calico. I named her Missy.

Tiny kitten! My hand is busted up because I got dizzy and fell.
Photo from 2003, before diagnosis.
My parents had an additional surprise. They already determined that if I picked out a kitten, they would adopt a second one to keep the first company. My mom fell in love with another kitten from the same litter as my calico. She named him Buddy.

Buddy. Photo from 2003.
Although the two were inseparable, it became obvious that Buddy was the sweeter cat. While Missy was an excellent hunter of insects, Buddy cared more about the comforting of humans. He would greet every visitor and could always tell when someone was having a bad day.

Siblings. Photo from 2003.
He quickly became the preferred cat to our visitors due to his calming effect. He was always ready to play, and he was not afraid to have a conversation with you.

Photo from 2003.
In fact, he had a nightly ritual with my mom. He would follow my mom around the house incessantly yelling at her. He would not stop his verbal harassment until she sat down. Once she acquiesced, he would instantaneously jump up onto her lap, curl up, and fall asleep. This allowed both of them to relax and unwind from the day.

This was their routine for many years. Photo from 2014.
In 2012, at the age of nine, Buddy came to live with me and my Olive Thief while the diva calico remained with my parents. The two boys bonded quickly and it filled my heart with joy to see them together.

The sweet boys. Photo from 2013.
Before I moved to Malaysia in 2014, I returned Buddy to his sister Missy.

Siblings in a box. Photo from 2008.
Recently, my parents noticed Buddy slowing down. Something was wrong.

Photo from July 2017, when I visited my parents.
Then the growth on his head appeared.

Photo from July 2017, before the growth was obvious.
The verdict of the biopsy was not good. Buddy had an extremely slow growing cancer that finally broke through his sinus cavities. Although the lump appeared overnight, it was most likely growing for over five years. There was nothing to do except make him comfortable while simultaneously preparing to say goodbye.

Photo from 2013.
The final goodbye came on January 2nd, 2018.

Photo from 2008.
Buddy, thank you for your fourteen years of companionship. I will miss our conversations in which you loudly yell at me because there are not enough ice cubes in your water bowl. I will also miss your incessant need to cuddle and purr loudly, reminding me that everything is going to work out fine. Glitch seems to have inherited that trait of yours. For that, I am incredibly thankful.

Photo from 2008.
Good-bye, Buddy.
You were an amazing cat.

These next few photos from 2008 made me smile. My hope is that they will also put a smile on your face, dear readers. They capture Buddy quite well.

Just relaxing.

Come at me again! I'm ready!
Bonus: Two Arizona kitties enjoying the heat of the fire during a Seattle summer.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017, A Recap

Below is my traditional month by month recap for 2017.


A small glimpse of the remodel.
From the moment I moved into what was supposed to be "our" house, the Narcissist made it extremely clear that I was an inconvenience to him, disrupting his life. He told me I needed to move out on January 26th, 2017, the same day that I officially turned over the keys to the apartment.


After the "Reno Run 4 Love."
February was devoted to volunteering with the local FRC team. I welcomed it as a distraction, as things at home were not going well. The Narcissist and I also ran a four mile race together. I was hoping it would be a fresh start, but he had drastically different plans.


Just chilling with my Olive Thief in my own apartment.
It is safer to live alone than to live with someone who does not want you.
The Narcissist continued to make it very clear that he wanted out of our marriage. Shortly after our third wedding anniversary, I realized I needed to give him what he wanted because my life was on the line. His abuse crossed undeniably into the physical realm when he went to inject my Solu-Cortef straight into a bone on March 10th, 2017.

I had to escape and escape fast. I moved into a casino for a few days as I started the proceedings for a divorce. Eventually, I was able to pick up keys to my own apartment with the incredible support of my family and a few friends.


I am Clearly Alive.
April was dedicated to surviving the minefield of divorcing a Narcissistic abuser. Dear readers, I hope you never have to experience that. It is beyond terrifying. But I am Clearly Alive.


I love my family. I could not have escaped without their support.
On May 11th, 2017, the judge signed the divorce decree making it legal and binding. Later in the month, I visited Texas for a work conference. This allowed me to meet up with my family afterwards.


When fleeing an abusive narcissist, I had to abandon a great deal of personal property.
I moved back to Texas in a single Relo-cube and a loaded up Toyota Matrix. 
I left Nevada in June. My employer understood my situation and fully supported my move to safety. My parents helped me finish packing up what limited items I was able to recover after the divorce. Before I left, I was able to visit Tahoe one last time to say good-bye. It thanked me by snowing. In. June.


Disneyland!!!! Where I am celebrating my Freedom.
To start out July, I attended Kaboom Town by myself. I am Amber Nicole. And I am back. I also sought professional counseling to help process the trauma from the past few years. Towards the end of the month, I made a trip to California to visit my parents, explore Six Flags Magic Mountain, see Disneyland, and ride bicycles along the beach.


Clearly Alive and FREE!
I was finally able to swim in the ocean with my cortisol pump.
In August, I met up with my mom in Florida. I was able to experience a life long dream of mine, however the severe sunburn did require a trip to the emergency room for IV fluids. The ER staff was amazing and they validated my decision to escape my covertly physically abusive marriage.


Hanging out with former coworkers at Oktoberfest.
These guys were around during the Nightmare Crisis of 2013.
So many things have changed since then.
September was filled with multiple job interviews in multiple states. While traveling to one of those interviews, I had a less than pleasant encounter with the TSA. The end result was a HUGE win for advocacy efforts, with 47,000 people receiving information on Adrenal Insufficiency. I was also able to attend Oktoberfest with former co-workers. At the end of the month, I accepted an incredible job offer that relocated me to a new state.


My mom and I carving pumpkins.
October marked my first month at my new job. I have a wonderful manager, supportive team, and a role where I am able to shine. I did have to visit a local ER for IV fluids, which was supposed to set me up with a local endocrinologist. However, that doctor was uncomfortable treating me due to my cortisol pump. My parents visited me for my birthday, and it filled their hearts with so much joy to see me thriving in my new location. I also was given the birthday gift of OVER 250,000 blog views! To my Clearly Alive community, thank you.


On a three mile run / hike.
In November, I completed two 5k's, winning awards in both of them. I also started an oil painting class. One of the ladies from that class graciously invited me to spend Thanksgiving with her wonderful family. I added to my own little family with the adoption of Henry Glitch, but I did end up back in the ER for more IV fluids. November also marked the 5th anniversary of this blog.


Cortisol pump strapped to my arm. Blue skies in the background.
Ready for adventure.
On my last day in the office for 2017, I was giving a coworker the spark note version of this past year. He confessed he had no idea how I survived so much. He looked at me straight in the eyes and passionately stated "2017 has set you up for an absolutely amazing 2018."

I wanted to cry as I allowed his words to sink in. There were several times this past year that I honestly did not believe I would make it. But I did. I celebrated Christmas with my family before my mom and I headed out on our seven day cruise in the Caribbean. Although, I did have to make another pit stop in another ER for IV fluids the day before I got on the boat.

As for 2018? Heart says it best: "ONWARD to GOOD THINGS!"

My motto for 2018.
Here are my recaps for 201620152014, and 2013.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Christmas Tree

A year ago, I hosted Christmas. It was a very chaotic time in my life due to the Narcissist, and I was unsure of what buried memories lay hidden in the box of decorations. I was dreading opening it this year, but ultimately decided I could do it with the help of an extremely playful kitten. My recent journey has been about creating new, healthy, safe memories. I was going to dive in and open this box.

I can do this.
This year, I had to purchase a new Christmas tree. Because I am living in an apartment, I opted for a 7ft pencil tree that came pre-lit. With Adrenal Insufficiency, it's all about saving spoons. A skinny tree that can be assembled in less than ten minutes was perfect for me.

Kitten has never seen a tree before.
As I was assembling my new tree, I realized that Mr Henry Glitch has never experienced Christmas before. This became quite obvious when he continuously pounced on each section as I removed it from the box. He did not know what this new thing was, but he was determined to defend his territory and attack it!

Every light is a potential toy that should be eaten.
For the past five years, I have created a picture ornament representing a happy time during that year. My family had that tradition growing up, and I decided to continue it. As I did not have the desire or the strength to unwrap my photo ornaments this year, they remained in the box. Perhaps next year, but for this year, the wound is still too fresh.

Tail! Tail! Tail!
Fortunately, the smaller tree has the benefit of requiring fewer ornaments to look fully decorated. I only unpacked the ornaments from my very first tree, which were a combination of Wal-Mart and Target final clearance. I even removed the ornaments on the lower portion of the tree as an attempt to reduce temptation for the kitten.

Too much stimulation. Kitten is exhausted.
Since I am being honest, I know that it is only a matter of time before Henry Glitch topples this tree to the ground. But, when he does, it won't matter because all of the ornaments are indestructible. My Olive Thief already tested them when he knocked down my tree in 2012.

At first, I was mad.
And then I realized I had a cat COVERED in glitter.
Any time I looked at my sparkly cat, I just laughed.
I was able to unpack some of the Christmas decorations, but not all. That is ok. Perhaps next year, I'll be more ready. However, this year, I do have an absolutely gorgeous tree complete with two fur-babies who add much joy to my life. And that is more than enough.

The guardian of the tree. Beware of his judgmental glare.
Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A 5k in the Cold

I mentioned to a coworker that I was thinking about running a few miles on the dread-mill over the weekend to celebrate my six months of freedom. He asked why a dread-mill when there was another local 5k? I did not care that I only found out about the race the day before or that I would be running it alone. I drove to packet pickup less than twenty-four hours before the race and registered.

Rocking another Zazzle awareness item before the race.
I am still getting used to this weird season called fall. Most of the previous places I've lived only have summer and mild winter. From what I gather, fall means that you are going to freeze in the morning, be comfortable at lunch and then freeze at night. This race was in the morning. I froze.

Photo is from before the race. My nose was already numb.
There were two paramedics on bicycles for the race. I did go up to speak to one of them, but it was not to test their knowledge of Adrenal Insufficiency. I wanted a picture of my zazzle shirt and my sweet running pants.

Once again, I sprinted across the finish line. But there was no runner to pass. I was racing against myself, seeking that unexplainable joy.

Joy. Pure joy whenever I finish a race.
After the race, I found the sheet of paper where the times of everyone were posted, but something was wrong. I could not find my name. This concerned me, so I went over to the timing booth and asked about it. Because I had registered so late, my name was not yet associated with my bib number. But the man in the timing booth would fix it. He also mentioned I should probably stick around for the awards ceremony.

I won second in my age group!
Although I ran this 5k twenty seconds faster than my 5k with a mission, I did not run it fast enough to claim gold. Instead, I was awarded the silver medal. I am enjoying running in a significantly less competitive market than Dallas. Not only have I been able to return to one of my loves, I keep receiving tangible rewards for my efforts. It's some pretty good motivation for me to keep at it.

Another medal to add to the collection!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A 5k with a Mission

One of my coworkers asked if I was interested in running a local 5k. Of course I said yes! Since moving, I have been able to more regularly run. I am working on building back up my running base. I would love to be able to try to touch some of my PR times from before my Nightmare Crisis in 2013.

At the start, rocking my Zazzle shirt.
This was my first race since the Reno Run 4 Love back in February. It was a very enjoyable course and it allowed me to view some of downtown. Though the end of the race was entirely uphill. Thank you, race directors.

Us crazy kids were smiling as we ran uphill.
I was just so happy to be able to run.
I had warned my coworker that I love to sprint at the end of the race. Some races I am able to sprint faster than others, but I never cross that finish line without giving it my all. As we rounded the last corner, he told me the finish line was up ahead. If I was going to kick at the end, I should do it now. I headed his advice and went for it.

She's smiling as she gracefully crosses the finish line.
Meanwhile, I sneak up on her from behind and BEAT HER!
When I sprint at the end, I am not doing it win the race or better my time. I do it because I get to experience an unexplainable joy. I am accomplishing something that I previously viewed as unobtainable due to my disease. Though, if I happen to pass someone in the last 100 ft of the race, and if that happens to make the difference between first and second place in my age group, you will not find me complaining.

All smiles after the race.
I did not realize that I won my age division until later that night. My coworker and I did not stick around for awards because we wanted to eat breakfast at an amazing diner that accommodates gluten free. A good race requires good food and good fellowship at the finish.

Rocking my Zazzle race shirt and my grif-grips pump protector.
These past few years have been filled with ample unknowns and uncertainty. I was forced to pack my life up into boxes over two years ago, and I am just now allowed the freedom to unpack. With that freedom, I am also able to rediscover some of my favorite activities. One of those activities is running. As for the prize for winning my age division? I don't think it could be any more perfect.

Clearly Alive.