Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September Foodie Pen Pals

Check out all these delicious treats!
Let's take a break from all the depression talk and let's talk food!

I haven't done Foodie Pen Pals in quite some time and I thought this could be a good opportunity during this season in my life to have some food while my energy is low.

This month I was matched up with Jen over at The Happy Healthy Balance and boy, did she spoil me!

Most of the things she sent me were from Trader Joe's which made me laugh. The closest Trader Joe's is 36 miles away. Sad face. But my family has had an obsession with that store for years. My brother first introduced it to us when he lived in St Louis (I think) and since then we always get TJ food for Christmas, birthdays, what have you. Good thing they have them in LA. Come on Fort Collins, catch up!

If anyone asked me I would say I am not a picky eater. As it turns out, when other people pick out my food, my pickiness tends to come out. A lot of the stuff Jen sent me is not stuff I would ever pick out for myself.

Example number 1. I would definitely never pick this out. I tried it and am not a huge fan. I did read on the package that it would be good in yogurt and I think that's probably how I'll try it next time. Or maybe on a salad. I just wasn't a fan of it by itself.

It's probably surprising but I've actually never tried Justin's. I also never mentioned to Jen in our e-mail exchange that I have a ridiculous obsession with peanut butter. I've been getting bored with my breakfasts (usually I have either a protein shake or oatmeal. I was running late one morning and didn't have time to make anything. I happened to have some bagel things in my freezer so I warmed one up and put the almond butter on it. DELICIOUS. Why have I never had this before?!

While we're on the subject of bored with breakfast, I put this in a bowl with milk and it was also delicious! It was a little on the crunchy side and I'm thinking it would be really good in yogurt as well. Yum yum!

In my world there is one thing that's better than peanut butter..... Chocolate and peanut butter! Again, I never mentioned this to Jen and she still sent this! On the I'm picky without being picky, I've never been a big fan of any kind of jelly other than grape. (Seriously, how weird is that?) So I wouldn't ordinarily pick this, but I tried it and holy wow it was delicious. Maybe it's best that we don't have Trader Joe's closer because I'd probably buy these ALL THE TIME.

Another thing that I wouldn't pick, but it was also delicious! I even shared it with a child and HE liked it too. So if you have kids, this would be a good fruit choice for them! Next time I get food from Trader Joe's I might have to stock up on these. They would be great to keep in my gym bag of even my work bag as a quick snack.

In our e-mailing we discussed how she loves dark chocolate and I just can't seem to get on the dark chocolate bandwagon. So she sent me this. Man.... if all dark chocolate was as delicious as this, I'd definitely be a fan!

This is popcorn kernels and indian seasoning. I actually haven't tried this yet, but it's sitting on my counter waiting for me to make it on my next movie night. I'm very excited to try it!

She also sent me the sweetest card! It definitely brightened my day and this package of food was so helpful while I have low energy. Now we just need to work on getting a Trader Joe's in Fort Collins!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

6 months of emotions

So today was Youth Sunday.

And somehow during the day I decided to do a little recount of how this all went down...

Back in April, I was getting ready one Thursday evening for a retreat I was going on the next day with my middle schoolers. I realized I put my iPod through the washer for the SECOND TIME (Nanos are too small) and in my meltdown, I texted my mom something dramatic like "My stress is so high. I can't handle anything!" She then responded with "me too. Your grandpa is in the hospital. Headed there now. Text you later."

In the coming hours I was told that he was not in good shape, would probably make it to Saturday. I was also told I needed to come down to see him to say goodbye. The nurses would take him off his sedatives while I did that. I sat on my bed and sobbed. Sobbed because I didn't even know HOW to say goodbye. But also because this was the realization that my grandpa would never officiate my wedding. Something I dreamed of for most of my life.

I still went on the retreat and luckily it wasn't too far from where my grandpa was so I got to go see him in the hospital twice that weekend. And he made this miraculous recovery and within the next week got to go home.

He did really well, but within 2 months things weren't looking great again. I went to visit him on Father's Day. He was in a lot of pain, on some major meds and did not spend a lot of time talking to us because of the change that had taken place. One of the hardest moments I've ever experienced- seeing someone you love in so much pain. Through the last few years he experienced a ton of pain, and there were numerous occasions where I overheard him praying to be taken and put out of his pain. One day (I think it was on Father's Day) he looked at me and made a comment about how the rest of his life he was just going to be in pain. I didn't know what to say.

As we were getting ready to leave, I was already choked up so I tried to hold my composure. I went to go say goodbye, and gave him a hug. He went to put his arm up to hug me, and he knocked a water bottle over and it spilled on him. He got very upset and yelled and I walked out because I was starting to cry. As we were walking out he kept saying "I'm sorry Jessica. It's not your fault." I said "It's okay" but mostly I was just trying not to cry. We got in the car and I cried silently in the backseat.

That was the last time I ever saw him.

It was 10 days before I was to leave for our mission trip to Kent. In those 10 days I told myself I should go visit him, but it's about 3 hours away and between work and getting ready for the trip, I just didn't have time.

A couple days before we left, my mom told me that things were not good and it was likely he would pass away while I was gone. And if that happened, she wanted me to stay on the trip. I prayed and prayed and prayed that wouldn't happen. I didn't want to have to make that decision.

The trip was off to an amazing start. I was having such a great time.
See... Natural smile

Day 2 of our trip, just hours before we made it to Kent, we were on a lunch break and my phone rang. And I just knew it was bad. I remember standing in that parking lot, trying to hear the details. The doctors said he had 1-2 days to live. It was a Thursday. As soon as I got off the phone, the other adults came over and I told them the news. We called the youth over and told them what was going on. We stood in a circle, held hands and prayed. And I cried. We were right by a Starbucks, so we went and got coffee (and cake pops... I'm a stress eater) and got back in the car.
Cake pops. yum. 
 It was supposed to be my turn to drive after lunch, but Michele ended up driving the whole day so I could be in contact with my family and deal with what was going on.

I put on some music and just tried to handle what was going on. And the next thing I knew, the kids asked me to look back. And this was what I saw....
The kids were trying so hard to get me to laugh. And if anyone could do it, they sure could! 

The next day was emotional. We went to Starbucks in the morning. This picture, I think you can see it.... I'm trying so hard to keep it togehter. 

We then went on our first prayer experience. We went to a park and we each got a rock. On the rock we wrote something we were committing to do while in Kent. We then formed them into an altar. After that, Michele brought out a bigger rock that had my grandpa's name on it. This stood for the rock he was in my life as well as all the altars he stood at in his life. We said a prayer as we stood before them. And I cried.

I tried my best to keep my composure as I led this group, but it was hard. Sure I still grieved in front of them, but I was trying hard.

Saturday we did a 5 mile trail run. It was beautiful. The first time in the trip I wasn't actually leading the group. I had the ability to listen to music, run in the forest and just think about everything that was going on. It was then that I thought I would call and try to talk to grandpa on the phone. After the race, my mom texted me saying that my brother had done it and I could if I want, but didn't have to if I didn't feel comfortable. (Note: She did this not knowing I'd had that thought)

I kept putting it off. I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to do it while I was around the group. I was just lost.

After the race, we went to Snoqualmie Falls. A beautiful place my friend Cory had told me about. We did a prayer experience there and spent time just taking in the beauty. I am sad that in the picture below, I don't seem genuinely happy.

We went into Seattle, let the kids go do their own thing and as the adults were trying to figure out where to eat dinner, I stayed a few steps behind them and called to talk to my grandpa. He wasn't responsive, but from what I hear he wiggled his eyebrows as I talked. I said I loved him and that he didn't need to worry about anything, we would take care of my grandma. I think I said something else, but I'm not sure. It was kind of an out of body experience. I wasn't really sure what I was doing.
We went on to have dinner. It took me a while to come back to being myself, but a trip to the first Starbucks (hey... caffeine helps) and then a ride on a giant ferris wheel with my group lifted my spirits.
Look a genuine smile

Sunday morning I got up early with some of my youth to do some mission work. During some free time in the afternoon, my cousin David came to the hotel to hang out. We sat on the couches in the lobby and visited for a while. We joked about how he had his flight booked to come to Grandpa's memorial service, but at this rate Grandpa might still be alive! He's a fighter that grandpa of ours. We spent some time reminiscing of the days when we were children and how Grandpa got mad when we would slam the car door or leave the air on in the RV. We caught up on life-- jobs and such. Towards the end of his visit, he got a text from his dad saying that if we were still going to be there for 20 minutes he was going to come say hi. So we stuck around and my uncle showed up. The 3 of us sat there on the couches chatting for a bit and then my uncle told us that my grandpa had passed away. I think we both just looked at him and said "okay". I remember staring at the floor and my uncle giving me a hug. We talked some logistics and after about 10 minutes, they had to leave and I had to head upstairs to get the group ready to go to church....

That was the slowest trip I took. I walked to the elevator and took it upstairs to my room. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to think. I didn't know what to do. I had no idea how I was going to bring it up and tell my group. Yet again, I was lost.

I got to my room and just sat on my bed. Not long after that, Amy came in and I think she sensed something was up and she asked me if I was okay. I just looked up and said "he passed away." Right as we were talking about it, Michele walked in and asked me if I wanted to stay at the hotel or go to church with them.

A part of me really just wanted to stay at the hotel. But we were doing a meet and greet with the other youth group. I'd set it all up and a part of me said that I didn't have a choice. I HAD to go. The kids all came in my room and we told them and you could just feel the mood of the room sink down. I don't remember a lot of that time because I think at that moment, everything was starting to sink in.

We got in the car and headed to the church. I had no idea how I was going to be social but I knew I had to. When we got to the church, my phone rang and it was my cousin Steve who had called to check on me and see how I was doing. It was so great to hear his voice. When I asked how he was doing he said he was fine, that Grandpa was in a better place now and for that he was happy. I understood, but I still was so sad.

We got to the church and I met some of my aunt's friends who had helped me organize the trip and I had to break the news to them. Through dinner I wasn't really present. I was just trying to keep my composure. Mostly because I didn't want to lose it in front of the other youth group. We had ice cream for dessert which was my grandpa's favorite, so I ate it in memory of him.

We went to worship and again... I couldn't tell you what the sermon was about or what we sang. But I do know I cried my eyes out the entire time. At the end, I went up to my aunt's pastor and told him about my grandpa. He asked if we could pray together and I said yes. We held hands and he said a prayer-- again, not really sure what he said. But I cried through the whole thing. I was exhausted.

At devotions that night, when we went around to say our high moment, low moment, God moment and surprise moment, almost everyone in the room said that my announcement was their low moment. And that really surprised me. After devotions the adults had to stay up and write a song. Unfortunately I wasn't much help and fell asleep for half of it because I was just wiped out.

Monday morning we went to the beach to do a prayer experience. We each had to write an inspirational quote on an index card. They got shuffled and we got one. We went on a walk, praying about it. Then we got a new card and went a walk praying about that one. I actually got the same quote both times.

During the prayer walk I kept hearing airplanes flying overhead. My grandpa used to fly airplanes in the Air Force so I really took this as a sign from him. And getting 2 cards that said the same quote... I knew that it was also a sign.

Later that day, we got some time to go explore Seattle. Michele and I just went on our own and it was nice to just wander the two of us. I had some time to talk a little about my grandpa. It was therapeutic. But I was still exhausted. We ended up meeting with some of the youth by the Space Needle. It was also the first time on the whole trip the sun came out. I laid in the grass with the girls and just relaxed. For the first time on the trip since I got that phone call, I felt like I was actually present with them.

Tuesday morning it was time to load up the expeditions and head back home. As we were leaving, I texted my uncle.
"We are in the expeditions leaving Kent. Thanks for being there on Sunday. See you in a couple weeks. Love you <3"

He responded: "I love you too Jess! Be safe and know this beautiful sunshine is your grandpa looking down on you. Come back soon, UM."

Cue the tears.

And that was that. I was heading home to what I feared would happen while I was gone. When I got home, a lot of new pictures of my grandpa had gotten there. With every picture I saw, knots formed in my stomach and I could feel a lump in my throat. I sat and talked to my dad for a little bit and then I went upstairs and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed until I could sob no more. Through the night, I wasn't feeling well and when I woke up I had a fever, my stomach hurt and I ended up throwing up.

My theory is, I finally was able to just let all those emotions go after a week of trying to hold them in and be strong in front of my group. I didn't have my appetite for a long time, and that is how I got to this lovely little depression I seem to be in right now.

It was my first trip as youth director. I so badly wanted this trip to be amazing and I know the youth had a great time, but I can't help but feel partly like I "ruined" the trip. There's a theory out there that he died while I was on the trip for a reason. Maybe he didn't want me to see him die. He wanted to spare me. But now, as things are unfolding maybe it was so my youth could see what grieving looks like.

As I started seeing what the girls were preparing for Youth Sunday, I honestly was shocked and very touched that they would even think to mention what I went through. They never met my grandpa, yet seeing how he had impacted me impacted them. And that brings me to this....

Dear AVUMC Youth,
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being such amazing people. I would not rather be with anyone else while going through one of the hardest things of my life. Thank you for letting me be real with you. For praying with me. For grieving with me. For letting me grieve. And for making me laugh. I honestly can't even begin to tell you how much it means to me.

Julia, Bailee, Taylor, Ashley and Tom-- you guys were with me from the beginning of all of this. Thank you for being such great youth who I knew I could trust while I had to go to the hospital and for being there for me during that time. And then again in Kent.

Melanee and Bailey-- For mentioning my grandpa in your testimony and sermon. I was deeply touched. You both did an AMAZING job today and I couldn't be prouder.

Tatum, Rhys, Clark and Hayden--- For the hugs, laughs, Frozen sing-alongs, flowers and understanding. Thank you.

Michele, Amy and Mark-- Thank you for supporting me in the decision I made to stay on the trip. For offering to lead things in my place. For letting me talk and helping me laugh. For providing guidance and helping me understand things a little bit better.

I could not have asked for a better group of people to surround me with love. I know that God had a hand when he made me your Youth Director, in us going to Kent and going through this journey together.

You all mean the world to me,
Jessica (Bestica)

I still feel like I'm in an adjustment period. Not really sure if it's set in yet. I don't know if it ever will. I look at pictures of him and can't believe he's gone. But with every day that passes, I know it's a day sooner to me getting better and healing. I know that he's with me every step of the way. He sends us clues here and there. I would have loved to have looked out in the congregation today and seen his face, but I know he was shining down on us, telling us he's okay and giving us strength.

For the slide show, I decided to put in his favorite hymn, "How Great Thou Art". It was my way of remembering him since he had such a big part in our experience.

Today at my aunt's church in Kent, the scripture that was read was the same scripture he picked out to be read at his memorial service.

And at my cousin's church in Utah, they also sang "How Great Thou Art" and my cousin also said this: "... Which surprised me as it's a very contemporary church and I've never seen a classic Hymn done at my church. Not at all a coincidence."

So there you have it. 3 different churches. 3 different states. And all of them had a piece of Grandpa. Just like we all have a piece of Grandpa.

It's been a long 6 months and I'm sure it's going to be a long road to recovery as well. But, as my cards said....

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"

To Better Days

Friday, September 19, 2014

Going Back

I haven't written in a while. Partially because I've been crazy busy. Partially because I haven't been motivated to do so.

Last week's counseling session came with more homework. wee!
So.... in my last post, I mentioned how I needed help and a huge thank you to those who offered. I also need to work on ASKING for help. I experienced a lot of frustration with people, who I thought should know what to do. It turns out people aren't mind readers so I need to work on voicing what I need.

I did number 2. Contacted a friend, we did dinner one night and worked out one night. Good to be around people again, but I'm still not myself and I get this horrible feeling of guilt for that and I feel the need to apologize to everyone for not being fun Jessica.

One reason I tend NOT to ask for help is because I feel like a burden. I don't want to stress anyone out. Apparently most of this thought is not true so I need to cut that out.

Last week there was a big mix up with paychecks and a co-worker had asked me if I would bring hers home with me and deliver it to her. I texted her on my way home and she was heading out to dinner with some friends. In the process of trying to figure out how we would make the exchange happen, she invited me to join them. Of course I said "I don't want to intrude on girls night" but she assured me I wouldn't be, so I went. And it was a lovely time. AND it also provided me with lunch 2 days this week. Win win.

Saturday was an extra hard day for me. I had signed up for a workshop at a church my grandpa served back in the 70s. I was a little nervous about it and had an emotional drive down Saturday morning. Upon getting there, I found a plaque that had his name on it.
As far as the workshop goes.... I honestly couldn't tell you half of what we talked about in it. My mind was definitely somewhere else. After the workshop, I went over to my office to get some work done for Youth Sunday. Two of my youth e-mailed me what they had prepared. One of them is preaching and one is giving a testimony. And both mentioned my grandpa. 

It's weird. I mean, there were 13 people with me as I was going through all of this. I know they saw me. I guess I just didn't realize how much if affected them as well. I still remember being shocked when we had devotions the night my grandpa passed and 90% of the people said their low of the day was getting that news. 1 of the people there had met him. The rest never did. But as I sat in my office and read these retellings of their experience through my experience... It just hit me. And there I sat. and cried. 

With Youth Sunday being in 2 days, I am not going to reveal anything else. If you want to hear it, you need to come! It's going to be amazing. I just know it. 

After that I went to my parents house and took a nap. Then I started going through pictures.... Massive meltdown. 

I also have been working on the slideshow. Which has also been super emotional for me. Every picture tells a story. And every picture from that trip, when I look at it, I can pinpoint the exact feeling. There's one that I can look at and say "that was the last time I was genuinely happy". There's one that was taken right after I got the call. There's one taken just hours after I found out he had passed and I can just tell I'm just trying to keep everything together. I decided to put my grandpa's favorite song, How Great Thou Art, in the slideshow. It goes well with the pictures and it was also my way of paying tribute to him... It is also impossible for me to watch that slideshow without crying. 

I put the song on a cd and decided to listen to it in my car. It makes me feel closer to him. But it also makes me cry. A LOT. I'd been listening to it in the mornings on the way to work. That may have been throwing my days off. I'm going to try listening to it at night instead. 

This week was just hard. I'd been staying up late working on stuff, overwhelmed with work, and crying A LOT. Before, it was just sadness. Now it's extreme crying. 

I did get to spend some time with my dad last weekend and that was nice. It had been a rough day, so we just watched tv and talked a little bit. I also talked with some other family members throughout the week. It was nice to know that they are there and that they are also grieving. Sometimes I forget that. It's nice to be able to talk to someone who gets it. 

I guess I'll just keep on keepin on....
To better days

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Running with Depression and How To Help

This last week was ROUGH. That actually might be an understatement. I experienced days of complete sadness. Monday I didn't even get out of bed until about noon and the rest of the day was mostly spent lying around the house. I started my memory book.... which originally I thought I'd be able to complete in one sitting. Definitely not. I did one page and it was emotionally taxing. It's going to be a long process.
Page 1
Luckily I didn't have to work on Monday, but it did make me sad that so many people were out enjoying the beautiful weather and I was stuck inside, just not feeling like doing anything.

Tuesday I had to work, but it was more of the same. I ended up reaching out to an old friend who I knew had battled depression for a long time. It was good to catch up with him and it was good to talk to someone who really understands. Experiencing it firsthand makes me sad that I wasn't there for him more.

Wednesday was probably the better of those days, though it still wasn't great. But I did have counseling so that gave me a bit of a lift since I was able to talk about some of the things that had been weighing on me. (More on that in a bit)

Thursday was a better day.... And then Friday happened... I don't know if it was because I was working a longer day (read that: No sleeping in, no slow leisurely morning like I'm used to) or what, but it was BAD. On one of my van runs I started to tear up and told myself that when I got back to work, I was going to go into the staff lounge and just cry until I felt better (I fight tears a lot and I need to stop that and just let them out). When I got in there, someone was in there working so I couldn't do that which I think frustrated me more.

I didn't sleep very well Friday night. I woke up around 1:30 and was checking facebook (because what else do we do when we can't sleep?) and that was how I found out that an old friend from college passed away. He was only 27. Cody and I were not super close. I came to know him because he came to parties that we threw at my house. I'd gone to a couple parties at his house and we had a number of mutual friends. We were friendly, but I don't think we'd ever hung out- just the two of us. The last time we spoke was about 2 years ago when my dad was going through all his chemo and have a rough go. Cody reached out to me, saying he admired my strength and knew what I was going through and if I ever wanted to talk to anyone who'd been down that road before, I could go to him. Very sweet. I can't believe he's gone. 2014 my friends.... it's a horrible year.

All week I had been debating doing a 5K on Saturday. It's one that my friends put on in memory of their daughter. Great cause, good people, and I do it every year. (2013 and 2012) But I was torn. Mostly I was scared because I wasn't sure if I had it in me to get up early, and put myself through that. Last Saturday I struggled to run 1.75 miles. And the course is HILLY (for the first half). But on the flip side, I was worried of what it would mean if I didn't go. Would my friends be disappointed? Would it mean I was losing to depression? Would I feel like a failure? So naturally... I went to Instagram. :) I got a lot of encouragement and Friday evening, I told myself to do it. I was pretty convinced that I wouldn't be running the whole thing.

I got up at 6:30 on Saturday, out the door by 7 to drive down to Highlands Ranch. Got there and registered, then sat in my car for a little bit to mentally prepare myself for it. I started to cry before the race even started, but once it did, I put my music on and ran.... short steps, slow and steady. And kept running... and kept running.... For the entire race. Was it my best time? No. But I finished. And I ran the whole thing. I DID IT. The course served as a metaphor for life. The uphill half was hard, but I kept at it and once I got through it, I got to go downhill which wasn't nearly as hard.
I picked this shirt as a reminder to myself

Once I crossed the finish line I was greeted by a friend who gave me a big hug. Then I went to the food booth. During the race, there were two sets of 2 women who I ran near. Both of them did a run/walk mix, they would pass me, I would pass them, etc. I've never seen these women in my life. As I was getting food, ALL 4 OF THEM approached me and told me how impressed they were that I ran the whole time, I did a great job and how they wished they could run an entire 5K. I was floored. Not going through depression I would have been floored, but these people knew NOTHING about what I was going through and they said pretty much exactly what I needed to hear. God works in mysterious ways, my friends.

Since the race things have actually been pretty good. Endorphins maybe? :) Then this morning happened.....

I walked into work and on my desk was a manila envelope with my name on it. I opened it up and found the following....

I was floored. Tears started to well up in my eyes. Someone came into my office to talk to me and so I didn't get those emotions out. Right after that, I went in to church where I continued to fight the tears (I know I shouldn't). I am still in shock and so touched. I have the best church family. With it being grandparents day, I meant to get my grandma a card and send it but I never got around to it. Well, I got this on grandparents day so I decided I needed to call her and tell her about it. Which I did this evening when I got home from church. We had a good talk for about 13 minutes and I told her about it. She asked for a copy of it and it turns out she has donated money to the Arbor Day Foundation for years. She told me a couple stories of people donating money to organizations in memory of my grandpa because of what a good man he was and how he touched people's lives. That was good to talk about.

A few days ago I sent an e-mail to my family asking for pictures and memories for my memory book. My grandma was the first one to respond (I would imagine she's going to have the most pictures) and so we talked about that a little bit. My next couple weekends are pretty busy, but I told her that maybe in a few weeks I can come down and we can go through pictures together. I think that could be good for me. Possibly hard, but good. And it will be good to spend time with her as well.

So I got more homework this week....
Let's talk about number 6 for a bit....
Anyone who knows me knows reaching out for help, even when not going through depression, is probably my weakest thing. I have become this super independent, I don't need help from anyone, I can take care of myself sorta girl. Which is good.... sometimes.

So many people have asked me how they can help me in this season of my life and my answer is always the same: "I don't know...."
I mentioned this to my counselor and she offered up some suggestions.... They sound easy but I honestly NEVER would have thought about them.... So for those of you who want to know how you can help... Here it is.

  • Food: I need to eat more. But I don't have an appetite or the energy to make things. Solution: People bringing food to me, coming over for dinner, going out, etc. 
  • Isolation: I need to be careful that my self care doesn't turn into isolation. So hanging out with me, coming over and sitting with me while I work on my memory book, letting me cry as I go through it. I just need to find that balance. I need to be around people. 
  • Exercise: This goes along with isolation. People to encourage me to work out and do it with me. Maybe just going for a walk, maybe helping to get me to the gym.
I hope those help for the people who have asked. I'm still really bad about asking for help. Unfortunately, I don't see that changing any time soon. :(

I am really hoping this week is better than last week was. I have a pretty busy week ahead of me, which could be good to distract me, but hopefully it doesn't exhaust me.

To better days