Friday, March 27, 2009

Changing Point In My Life

So I have been debating all week whether or not to let you into something very personal in my life. After much consideration, I decided, because this makes up so much of who I am today, to share. I think I have typed and retyped this story about ten times. It is hard, the scars still seem fresh but at the same time, it seems like a lifetime ago. And I don't tell this story for sympathy or as a "poor me". I tell it because it is me. I tell it because it is real. I tell it for as a warning of the dangers of those who drive under the influence. Every time I see this picture my hands get clammy, my armpits begin to tingle. It takes me back to that day, six years ago tomorrow, March 28, 2003.


I was a junior in high school. My life, I thought, was pretty alright. I had wonderful friends, a fun job and a pretty cool boyfriend (now a pretty cool husband). It was Friday afternoon; school was out for the week. I dropped my friend Paige off at her house; I can still remember our silly conversation. As I pulled out of her driveway, I clicked my lap belt into place. For me, the next week of my life remains an empty slate. I still cannot imagine what that week was like for my family and friends. Phone calls, prayer chains, hugs and tears; their lives were tossed in a whirlwind. After a week had passed I remember lying in bed, unable to speak, to painful to move. Flowers surrounded me, monitors beeped. “Think” “What do you remember” I told myself. Nothing… For me, all I have are stories. Stories from my family and friends; the story told in the police report.

I was headed home, on a two lane road, less than a mile from our driveway. My car was headed south, his was headed north. A stop sign sat about a quarter mile up the road from him. One car separated him from the stop sign. He decided to pass, pulling out directly into my path. I had no time to react; my foot still remained on the gas pedal when they pulled me out. He hit me full force, head on. Each of our cars went spinning into opposite ditches. He was fine; high on cocaine and an overdose of anti-depressants, I was not. An approaching truck stopped and noticed that I wasn’t breathing. He administered CPR until the first responders arrived. He is my angel; he saved my life. Two hours later, I was pulled from my car. My seat was bloodstained and syringes lay in the backseat from morphine, helping to keep me calm. I was rushed to Gerber Memorial Hospital where listed stable and then transferred by ambulance to Butterworth. News was beginning to spread. My mother, who was at the beauty salon, heard they had Warner shut down between 72nd and 80th because of an accident; she said she just knew it was me.

I was rushed into emergency surgery to repair my internal injuries begin work on my external injuries. Doctors repaired what was critical and decided to finish surgery when I became more stable. I was put in a medically induced coma. Two days later, another surgery followed, this time repairing my remaining injuries. I suffered:
-left and right broken femurs
-left and right broken tibias
-right shattered knee
-right shattered ankle
-lacerations to my spleen, which they removed
-lacerations to my liver, which were repaired
-a collapsed lung
-lacerations to both my hand and face

Metal rods were inserted into both my left and right femur and left tibia. Screws and plates held my right knee and ankle together. Staples and stitches covered and held together every injury on my body. A breathing tube was inserted. I also had a tube inserted into my side.

After one week in the ICU, they removed my breathing tube. For me, this is when my memory started back up. I was then transferred onto the orthopedics floor; where I spent an additional week. When the doctors had done all they could for me there, I was transferred to MaryFree Bed to learn how to adjust to my “new” life. While preparing to leave Butterworth, I remember having the staples and stitches removed from my hand and face. I asked to see a mirror; I had not looked at myself up until this point. I cried. In the mirror I saw an ugly girl who was swollen, red and scarred. My one week spent at MaryFree Bed proved challenging. Therapy sessions exhausted me. My muscles were weak, my brain was slow and I was still in large amounts of pain. I was placed in a wheelchair, where I would spend the next six weeks. And while, adjusting to life in a wheelchair at MaryFree Bed was difficult, it proved even harder when I went home. The hospitals had become my comfort zone. They were fully equipped to deal with me; my pain, my injuries. I was surrounded by people who were in similar situations to me.

The next few years of my life were filled with doctor appointments; follow up surgeries, shots, etc. I went from wheelchair, to walker, to crutches, to walking boot. My senior year of high school was started while I was still on crutches. I faced mountains of challenges and hurdles but was determined to succeed. My doctors were worried about my injuries long-term affects. I have proved to be their “miracle”. My family and friends offered words of encouragement, they became my support system. Brian stood by my side every day, while most guys would probably walk away. I could never say thank you enough to my “angel”, the first responder team, the many doctors and nurses who cared for me and my family and friends.

Through everything I have become strong and determined. And although this experience forced me to grow up pretty quick, it has shaped who I am today. I see a different light on life. My hugs are a little bit longer, my breathes are a little bit deeper. I am in no means, perfect. I still have bad days. And it is still easy to sometimes take life for granted. But I use those days to build on all that I have to be thankful for. So, tomorrow, I will celebrate a day that has a special meaning to my friends and family, a day I will never forget.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Has Sprung???

I am one who doesn't mind the winter season but when we get a few teasers of warmer weather, enough is enough. Bring on the sandals and warm summer nights, I am ready. With the upcoming warmer weather ahead of us, it has given me time to look at where my life has been over the past couple of years and where it will be heading. In those short two and a half years, Brian and I have purchased a home, planned a wedding, gotten married, remodeled our home, worked full-time and well...just lived. Summers flew by without even blinking an eye. Photography has always been a passion of mine and recently, I have begun to dabble in taking that to the next level. I have attended workshops, read countless books and photography articles, researched and practiced my skill. The lovely Kristen, of k. holly photography, even crafted an amazing logo for me. So what about that next step? I am thinking sometime in 2010. Remember when I said the past two and a half years have been crazy? Brian and I are going to take the time to relax and just enjoy being newly married. We have a few short trips planned to relax and add in some extra fun. This summer we want to hike and explore the natural beauty Michigan has to offer. We want to have weekend grill outs and sit by the fire late at night. We want to just enjoy each others company. My blog may look a bit different; little everyday happenings in our lives. A picture of what I may see out of our front door, a recent hike or a day with the dogs. But I promise, I won't disappoint :)

With all this talk to spring, I thought this picture of Kahne with his favorite warm weather pastime, playing catch, was very fitting. Hands down, this is my favorite picture of him. The exposure, eh isn't the best, but it was when I was first learning. His expression says it all and makes me both smile and giggle. This is just how Kahne is.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Photography Workshop Recap

This past Saturday I attended a workshop hosted by the fabulous girls who make up Mirror Mirror Studio, Amy and Jen. Let me tell you one thing, these girls rock! We covered everything from preparing for the shot to the final edited image. Anything hands on is totally my thing, so this workshop proved to be very benefical. We even took advantage of the nice weather and headed outside. A special thanks for Shawn and Amy for being models for the day.

I cannot thank you girls enough for this wonderful opportunity! :)

At the end of the day we picked our four favorite images of the day to have critiqued. Here were my picks.
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Monday, March 9, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Upper Peninsula ~Marquette, MI ~ February 19-22, 2009
There is something about traveling north that just makes you want to lose yourself in nature. Could it be the quiet stillness, the stunning views or of how life just seems more relaxed? When Brian and I cross the big bridge it is a feeling that cannot be explained by words. Winter in the UP, while equally beautiful, can sometimes prove to be a bit challenging. Some call it unending. Storms seem to blow in without warning, leaving inches and sometimes feet of snow. Brian and I were able to experience some of this first during our stay.

As much as I love the UP, I dread crossing the Mackinac Bridge. It scares me, makes my palms sweaty and my armpits tingle. The heights, the wind and the grates. Normally, I close my eyes, hum to myself and wait to hear the voice of the toll booth operator collecting our fare. This time however, I thought I would try something new. So out popped my camera and I started clicking away.
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Soon after crossing the bridge and starting onto US-2 we quickly found out just how fast changing the weather could be.
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Friday, Brian and I awoke to a gorgeous sunrise and agreed to take advantage of the beautiful day. Kaytee, our friend and host, had put together a list of possible ideas while in Marquette. We decided to check out Black River Falls on our snowshoes. Only a five minute outside of town, these falls prove amazing. A well worn trail through the woods leads to an opening in the trees where the falls and the river flows. We decided to keep heading up river to see what else we could find; and boy was it ever worth it. Waterfalls after waterfalls make up this section of the river. The refreshing sound of falling water proved "some good therapy" for the day.
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We even saw some animals along the way.
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Next stop, Sugarloaf. The hike up Sugarloaf itself is fairly short and easy, well worth experincing while in Marquette. Sugarloaf provides incredible spectacular views of Marquette and Lake Superior. Many patches of flat rock are provide an excellent sitting spot to just enjoy the view. We could have spent all day up there.
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Cheese ;)
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Friday night, was the start of the UP 200. This 240 mile sled dog race begins and ends in Marquette. We headed downtown to participate in the action. Family and friends alike, young and old gathered around Washington Street waiting for the races to start. The atmosphere was filled with laughter, cheers and stories of past races. Seeing the mushers prepare their dogs and sleds, made me wonder what was going through their minds. The dogs yipped with aniticipation. This was a celebration I was truly proud to have been part of.

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Sunday morning we left Marquette to sun. We turned onto M28 and ran into blizzard conditions soon thereafter. We slowed down to about 5 mph and crept along using the snowbanks as a guide. Thankfully, we arrived in Munising safely. We learned, soon after we made it through, they shut M28 down. It remained closed for much of that day.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Art of Being Graceful

or not so much...
One thing Brian and I both share is a love for the outdoors. We also have become frequent travelers of the Upper Peninsula. Many people head south, especially during the winter months, or west. But ah, yes, Brian and I always find ourselves heading north. This February, we headed to Marquette to stay with some friends for the dogsled races. While there we took advantage of the gorgeous weather on Friday and headed up Sugarloaf. Sugarloaf is this incredible mountain offering spectacular views of Marquette and Lake Superior.

We followed the well worn trail to the top; however, Brian decided to "blaze trail" on the way back down. Kaytee and I followed, a little reluctant to the terrian beneath our snowshoes, but were up for an adventure. One area in particular proved challenging. Our choices: jump or slide. Kaytee and I chose slide; Brian chose jump. Lets just say jumping didn't work out as planned for Brian. He neglected to take into consideration his snowshoes, which toe picked into the snow. Any laughing you may hear was out of complete love.

Two things the video fails to show:
1) The jump off the rock was about 9-10 foot drop. For this reason, Kaytee and I chose the alternative method of sliding down to the left of the rock.
2) My camera, yes MY CAMERA, was tucked in Brian's coat hanging around his neck. I realized this about 5 seconds into the laughter which turned into panic. Thankfully, no damage. And yes, lessons have been learned.

Enjoy! And if you find yourself laughing, it's okay, Brian will never know.

p.s. Blog post later this week with pictures and full trip report, I promise.

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