In January, we started looking forward to graduations. Paige and Peyton would be finishing high school and I would be finishing my MSN program at the University of Southern Indiana. I was deep into clinical's for the Advanced Nursing Practice program and still working part time. James remained on third shift and Paige and Peyton had opposite schedules for dual enrollment classes at DACC. So most of the time Reese and I got dropped off during the day. I had three places I was going so no one was ever quite sure where to pick me up from!
In February, Paige and Peyton turned 18..yes 18! For my final act of signing permission for them, we went to Iron Tide and both girls got a cute piercing the day before their birthday. After that, my tiny babies had to sign everything for themselves! EEK! Reese was busy playing Upward basketball, James and Peyton coaching. She loved it and had a great time. In the meantime, Paige was going to Future Soldier's Training to get ready for Basic Training and working to complete the fire department qualifications to become an interior firefighter (as opposed to probationary) as soon as she was graduated and no longer a cadet. Also, although I have worked in the same building for 24 years, I am now employed by OSF Sacred Heart.
March brought Spring Break. James and all three girls drove to Texas to see Grandpa Steve and Grandma Connie, Paige and Peyton flew from Dallas to Tampa to spend a few days with Grammy and Poppa and then flew back to Dallas to drive home with James and Reese. I waved goodbye and studied and went to work and clinical. Ironically I never left the house over the weekend as I was completely snowed in!
April, honestly I don't remember..
In May we attended lots of graduation open houses, opened the pool, I think I had a week off of clinical. I was embarking on a quest to improve my health by improving my diet. I started using Optavia meal plans and health coaching. Some of the brain fog I was having lifted almost immediately. Graduation present for Paige, Peyton and myself..matching tattoos! Mom and Jamie got them as well. We had so much fun and Jett at Iron Tide was a good sport putting up with us all evening!
June was a blur of clinicals, work, softball games, church camp, swimming, etc.. but the graduation party for Paige and Peyton was at our house and so well attended and I was incredibly proud of them!
July hit and I was in panic mode. Clinicals would be over soon, the big 4th of July bash was at my house again and I was planning for that, and I was starting to get serious about studying for my board certification exam. But the biggest thing was the countdown to Paige leaving for basic training. She tried to prep me by literally never being home the entire summer! July 24th arrived and the five of us drove to Peoria, prayed over her, and watched her walk through security and onto the biggest adventure of her life. We then drove home and almost immediately replaced her with another 18 year old girl that I love very much..my 2000 yellow jeep named Sunny!
August..James and I went to Florida and I studied on the beach, by the pool, on the lanai...but I did find the time to go on a deep sea fishing trip with James and did very well for myself! The rest of the month pretty much involved stalking the mailbox to wait for letters from Paige, who was in South Carolina in Basic Training. Oh, and I had another birthday (yuck) and passed my certification exam..(yay!)
September brought more stalking of the mail box and one measly phone call from our soldier in training. Our "South Carolina or Bust." Messenger group was very busy making plans to attend her graduation the first week in October.
October arrived on a Monday and it ranks up there in the top 5 most difficult days for me ever. I took Brittany (my friend and Paige and Peyton's aunt) to the hospital for a surgery to help relieve the pressure on her abdomen causes from her cancer. She was not well enough for the surgery and had to be admitted. She wanted so badly to leave with us the next day to go to South Carolina to see Paige graduate. She had helped me plan, she had written faithfully to her niece and prayed for her I know. I spent that day with her, the early part just the two of us as she was being admitted. Over the past few years we had laughed and cried together. In all honesty, we have done that for over 30 years. But this was different and we both knew it. That night there was a full room singing happy birthday to Brookelyn, who would turn 17 the next day. The whole family was there, Paige only in spirit and her "mini Paige soldier." We left the next morning for South Carolina. Brittany was fully healed early Friday morning when she went home to be with Jesus. Graduation was incredible and I was so proud of Paige. It was bittersweet and I don't get to understand why these events had to coincide until I can ask God face to face.
James, Reese, Peyton, Paige and I traveled from South Carolina to Virginia where Paige would spend the next 10 weeks training. It was a tough day but I was so very glad to be together with those 4 people. Leaving her behind to travel home was almost more difficult than leaving her in Peoria (don't worry, I did not buy another car!) The day we drove home was James's 40th birthday, I did surprise him with a gun that he wanted..and I felt pretty proud of myself as I never pull off surprises!
November has involved working to get my licensure to start a new job. I signed a contract and am supposed to start in January (eek, again!) Reese turned 9, Christmas shopping started..and it was actually the quietest month I had experienced in a few years. (Might account for the 5 new pair of boots in my closet!)
We are now a few days into December. I am leaving tomorrow to accompany Paige home. Both girls have full loads at DACC in the spring. They are planning to go away to different universities in the fall. Paige will have weekend drill for Army Reserves. I am looking forward to the Christmas season and the new year. I know that this Spring and summer will most likely be the last stretch of having all of us live here together and I plan to enjoy it as much as possible (even with my first full time job in 19 years!) I am blessed more than I could ever imagine. I ask that if you are reading this, that you pray for Brittany's children, husband, parents, and all who loved her this Christmas and for grace for the coming year. I ache for my loss, but I think I ache for their loss so much more.
Verses this year that struck me: