One Year Down, A Lifetime To Go

Yesterday, KristaRose and I celebrated our 1st anniversary. It’s a big milestone, it marks that even after a year, KristaRose hasn’t gotten tired of me and has decided to keep me! All jokes, aside, it is a big milestone to me but it’s just one of many milestones we will have in our lives. I wanted to take some time today (and I was starting to reflect a bit on it yesterday as well) to really think about what marriage means and how we’ve really grown in the past year.

The past year has been a journey for the both of us. I think there are really two main themes to the year and I think it coincides with our wedding theme as well.

Love is Patient.

Krista has gone through a lot of medical challenges and it’s been a learning experience for the both of us. I’ve personally learned the importance of keeping track of everything. I’m talking about medical bills, prescriptions, even the summary of your doctor visits. I don’t think that in the past year there was not a week where there wasn’t a doctor visit of some sort whether it be for a specialist, for physical or occupational therapy or for an acute visit. We’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals and there are a lot of times where I had to stop what I was doing either work wise or personally in order to take her to the doctor. It has given me a new sense of what it means to be patient. Sometimes you just have to wait your turn in the hospital. Sometimes you have to wait months for a new medicine to either work or not work. Sometimes it’s just a big waiting game in order to figure out what you have to do next in life.

I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to slow down and you just have to have faith that everything will turn out correctly. I think it’s one of the things that we all struggle with. We all worry about the future. We all worry about what’s happening in our lives right now. We all still worry about things that happened in the past. The truth is, you can’t really control a lot of it. It does not help to worry about what has already happened. You can’t change that. It does not help to worry about the future. You can think you can change it but in the grand scheme of things, no amount of planning will lead to a perfect day. God will direct the future as he sees fit and you can be certain that he will make sure you can handle it.

All of the medical complications have really strengthened me. It has made me realize that we need to be even more grateful for the love and support our family and friends have given us. We need to be patient and steadfast in knowing that God will lay out the path for us and we should not worry. Through all of this, we have each other. Love is patient.

Love is Kind.

One of the reasons I married KristaRose is because she is such a kind person. She might not believe it all the time but there are a lot of little acts that make up who she is as a person. I remember there was a time we were in Chicago and we passed by a homeless person. She had just purchased a blueberry oatmeal from Jamba Juice and was more than willing to give it up to the homeless person. It was a selfless act that I still remember to this day. This is just one example but I see it all the time. She might not be able to do as much because of all the medical limitations but her heart has not wavered. She will still help out people as best as she can.

I think the biggest thing though is how she helps me to be kind. I must admit that I don’t get a lot of sleep. Between work, trying to develop myself personally, doing chores around the house, taking care of Krista, taking care of Twix, there’s just not a lot of time that I can have to sleep. It’s harder than you think to have a consistent schedule especially if things happen late nights or there is an unexpected doctor’s visit. Because of the lack of sleep though, I may have developed a bit of criticism when driving. I notice a lot of things more often but Krista is always telling me to be kind on the road and reminding me that we shouldn’t be spreading negative thoughts on the road. It’s a difficult thing to do but her love is always kind and always helps me to bring me back to where I need to be.

Love is Everlasting

Finally, as I conclude my thoughts, I just want to make a comment about marriage in general. I think that in this world, there is not enough love. Even in marriages, how many times have we heard that a person is getting a divorced or that they’re going into their second or third marriage? How many times have we been kind of been beaten in the head that divorce is ok? It seems like the media and really the world is migrating more towards thinking that marriage and relationships are only fleeting. I personally think that we need to take a look at why people get married. For me it stems from the spiritual component and the connection you have to God.

When I got married, I decided that I was going to become one with KristaRose. That’s what happens in a marriage. Through thick or thin, through sickness and in health, you stick by that person for the rest of your life. You don’t give up with the going gets tough. You don’t just leave because you get frustrated with your wife or husband’s point of view. I knew going in that things weren’t going to be easy. We were going to have a lot of difficulty. But together with God, you become one unit and you grow together. For me, this is so very important. Without that connection, the marriage is meaningless.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everyone else’s marriage isn’t valid. I’m simply saying that you need a connection with your spouse. It can’t be superficial. When you say your vows, you have to mean it. You have to know that you will stick by that person to the very end. You have to know that person will help you along and make you a better person. You have to go into it always thinking, this is the one, there is no one else. Otherwise, what’s the point of a marriage? Why even go into it if there’s even a chance that you’d consider a divorce?

I know why I went into this marriage. I am looking forward to many more years where I can share my love. I’m looking forward to continuing to be more patient and more kind. I am looking forward to more smiles, more laughter, more tears, more struggles, more triumphs. It’s about that connection. I know it has gotten stronger over the past year and will only continue to get stronger for the rest of our lives.

How do you beat an invisible disease?

blogentry_michaelI first off want to start this blog post with a disclaimer that I’m not looking for any sympathy from anyone. I merely ask that you keep an open mind and perhaps start to understand a group of people that have difficulties that aren’t visible. 

Back in 2012 when Krista was first diagnosed with Lupus, I had no idea what that meant. Lupus is a disease that is still not very well understood. There is no exact reason why the disease occurs. There is no complete evidence that it occurs because of genetics. It is widely believed this could be the reason but we don’t know for sure. We also don’t know what Lupus will eventually affect. There are a number of different body parts that could be affected. Some get what are called butterfly rashes on the their face. Some experience swelling of their hands or feet. Some have their body organs affected. No, back in 2012 when we initially heard the news, we had no idea what we were in for.

It may sound a bit odd but Krista had been blessed up to this point of being sick in the past. She had the experiences necessary that would help her to better combat the diseases of the present. I won’t go into a lot of detail but a lot of the things she had to deal with could be at least mildly controlled. I won’t say completely controlled but she got into a stable enough routine where she could really live her life and be the person she wanted to be. What we started learning with the Lupus was that this disease starts to really affect you and disrupt any routine you may have. The problem with Lupus is that you never know when a flare will occur. You can do your best to control the symptoms but there will be days where you just feel terrible. You don’t want to get up out of bed. You don’t want to eat very much. You suffer in pain and the only relief sometimes is a dose of steroids that can be a blessing and a curse at the same time.

This is the problem of an invisible disease. You don’t know when it strikes. Therefore, you can’t plan very well for it. Yes, you can stay on top of everything. You can make sure you take all of your medications at the right time. You can document how you feel on a daily basis.

Later in 2012 and going into 2013 we would learn that Krista had other illnesses that were related to autoimmune disorders.


Chrohn’s Disease and Colitis.

All of these in addition to the already reoccuring effects of Lupus and other pre-existing conditions. Let me tell you from a husband and a caregiver point of view it’s tough. But I’m going to try to vocalize just how tough it is to see what I see every single day.

  • It is tough to manage all of her medications and make sure she has everything she needs. I can barely take a few pills on my own, let alone big pills like some of the ones that she has.
  • It is tough to see her mobility restricted and having to roll her in a wheelchair on certain days. I’m truly blessed that I can still walk everywhere on most days. Boo hoo to my sometimes aching knee. She is subjected to my terrible wheelchair driving skills (by the way I’m sorry Krista that I’m still not the best driver, I’m still learning) and not being able to see items she wants to without my help.
  • It is tough to see her at night, crying, and wincing in pain and not being able to do anything about it. The best I can do some nights is to try to massage her pain areas and just be there with her but I know some nights that’s just not enough.
  • It is tough losing nights of sleep either making sure she is well taken care of or making up for the day’s work because I had to take her to appointments. It’s not something I regret in the slightest and in fact, it is a great blessing to have that flexibility.
  • It is tough to see her sleeping in the middle of the day, sometimes in the afternoon and asking myself, did we push it too hard the previous day? Is she trying to regain energy? Should I keep trying to push her a bit more so that she can at least enjoy being out and not inside the house?
  • It is tough to see how some of the people that Krista really care about don’t really make an effort to see how she’s doing periodically. I know it’s not a great thing to expect this from people but it really is tough and saddens me when days go by that there aren’t any communications about how she is doing except from family who we are extremely thankful for.
  • It is tough to see people actively looking and judging us each time we park in a handicapped spot. There’s an automatic stigma that if you’re young you don’t deserve a spot and you should give it to others who need it. The tag we have, it’s to eliminate those times where it took 20 minutes to cross a street because she couldn’t move her legs and the only way we could is by taking the smallest of steps and praying a car wouldn’t come by. Or it’s the time when there was 6″ of snow and I took out the wheelchair just to push her to the curb and out of harms way. That’s why we need the spot.

And I think the toughest thing on my part is just the feeling of helplessness. What can I really do? Be her rock? Sure, I will do that until the day I die. Take charge of everything around the house and make it easier for her? Done and not a problem. But at the end of the day, none of that beats back the illnesses.

So how do you beat an invisible disease?

You beat it with love. I am 100% sure that our unending love for each other will beat this disease. It’s in the little things like surprises at work for no reason at all. Love letters on Valentine’s Day instead of expensive gifts. Starting each day (whenever it may be) with a kiss. It’s in doing everything you possibly can in a day in order to make things better and brighten the day.

You beat it with family and friends. There is no greater power than the love of family and friends. Family has been nothing but supportive throughout this whole process. Mom and Dad have done so much. Manong RJ, Manang Rachel, Manong Rob, all of our family in Chicago, DC, the Philippines, Texas. Everyone has been 110% supportive with prayers, love, thoughts, advice, letters, emails, phone calls, texts, mass dedications. I couldn’t ask for more support but I continually get surprised every day.

You beat it with smiles. One of the things that made me fall in love with KristaRose was her smiles. She has these smiles that will just make everything just seem better. They literally light up the room. I know that sounds so corny but so what, it is true. I live for those smiles and it’s my job to make sure she has as many of them as possible. Each one seems like an extra punch to the illnesses to weaken their grip on her.

You beat it with great doctors. Having doctors you know and trust make a world of difference. If you come into contact with doctors that truly care about you and actively want to see how you are doing and will do anything and everything to explain situations to you and make you aware of your options and don’t force you into any decisions, keep them.

Most of all, you beat it with God. He has a divine plan for each and everyone of us. We don’t know for sure why Krista is sick and why she must go through this. Maybe it’s to show her how beautiful life is. Or maybe it’s to show everyone she loves how beautiful life is. Whatever the purpose, at the end of the day all we can do is leave it in his hands. That’s what we do everyday. We pray in the morning and in the evening. They aren’t complex prayers but they are intimate and help us in our way to connect with God. The moment when you lose sight of God is when the illness starts winning.

Again, I wanted to reiterate I wrote this blog post not in getting any sympathy from anyone but rather to show everyone how an invisible disease might look. It is tough to deal with and trust me every day is a challenge. But there are ways to beat it. Knowing KristaRose, she will beat it.

The Lermz

Are you making your life worth living?

blogentry_michaelHopes and dreams. Our life is full of them. At different stages of our lives we decide we want to do a particular activity or achieve a lofty goal. The problem is that many times in life we feel that we are inadequate and that we fall short of what we want to achieve. Take every new year’s for example. The tradition is to create resolutions for the year that will inspire us to be a better person for the rest of the year. How many times do we create a goal that is pretty hard to achieve (at least for our own selves) and end up quitting on it a few months into the year? These goals are often influenced by what happens in life. We set goals and then lose focus because of big life events. I think I’ve set many a goal to have it fall flat within the first month. Upon thinking about resolutions and hopes and dreams I’ve decided that I really shouldn’t just set goals at the beginning of a year, I should be setting achievable goals every day to ensure that I make my life one worth living.

It’s hard to make a decent living in life and make enough money to support your family while trying to pursue your goals. However, it’s the very thing that we need to strive to do. If we aren’t happy with our lives it starts to drain us in many ways whether it’s with family, friends, or even your own health. It was a realization that I had a couple of years ago but I have just recently made a big effort to correct. I have always been a hard worker. I know the importance of education and having a job that pays you well. That was my focus for awhile because that’s what you have to do sometimes. If you build a great foundation first, it will pay great dividends in the end. However, as the years passed something still was missing. KristaRose was the first to point it out that I really wasn’t that happy.. that I wasn’t really living my life and letting life control me. It was something that was hard to admit or to even realize. I mean when you hit a point where you’re not happy, it’s just not a pleasant thing. I knew from them I had lost myself a bit.

I had lost the ability to laugh and to joke around consistently. I had eaten out almost everyday. I did the same routine day after day: wake up, walk Twix, get ready for work, work, eat lunch at my desk while I kept working, come home late from work, call KristaRose and see how she was doing, play around a bit with Twix, play some videogames, sleep and then start all over. This routine was not that satisfying because it was the same thing day after day. There was no variety. I didn’t feel like I was really living.

It all started to change when KristaRose got a job at Notre Dame. Because my job was flexible I was able to move and follow her to South Bend. We were lucky to always get apartments that were not far from each other. Life started to slowly get better. Being in the same location as your significant other makes a world of difference than talking on the phone everyday. You’re able to go on dates. You’re able to walk around the mall. You’re able to have videogame marathons until 5 in the morning. Trust me, the process took time and even with the move it was slow.

About a year ago, my job I again started to work long hours as I got sucked into everything that was out there. I was turning in 60-70 hour weeks consistently and with the work load that KristaRose had with her new job, it was difficult at times too. Life was better but was starting to go down the same road.

Then in May, KristaRose was diagnosed with what was the first of many different autoimmune diseases. It was a wake up call for both of us. I would even call it a bit of a blessing in disguise because from then on, I realized I needed to do better. I needed to take more time to make sure she got better. I needed to make sure we lived life as much as we can. It was something we needed in order to keep the fight alive. It was something that we needed to do with the sad news and the struggles that were to come.

I can’t say that I am completely there but I’ve made an active decision to make life happier. I think you can ask KristaRose, my smile has returned a lot more. I’ve gone back to my routine of randomly dancing in grocery stores (yes I am weird). I’m often rhyming to every statement that is made. As KristaRose puts it, she knows when I’m in a good mood when I’m doing these things. I think we’ve been able to figure out our schedules where I’ve scaled back on purpose in order to be there for her appointments and just to hang out with her. I’ve even had the ability to play videogames consistently to relax in the evenings (I’m working on trying not to play until 2AM though!). As I type right now, we have Susan visiting us from California and I was able to take vacation so that we can all chill. We’ve played videogames, eaten great food and have just enjoyed life. That is what it really is to live life. Enjoy the people you have and the things around you.

I can say at this moment that life is worth living. It’s full of exciting twists and turns. There are unexpected big events like medical conditions and job changes. But there are many smaller events that help add to the joys of life. Enjoy the times you can go to a restaurant with someone. Enjoy going bowling or mini golfing. Enjoy waking up and seeing snow outside your window. I think we all have to remember that while the big things like a job are important, there are other important priorities. Make sure you know what they are and take care of them. That will play a big part in making your life more fulfilling.

~The Lermz

The Thank You Project: #186 (Thanksgiving meals)

ThankYouIcon_186I know this thank you is a bit late but I want to give thanks for Thanksgiving meals. It is one of the only meals all year long where it is completely appropriate to go back for thirds or fourths and not be judged… harshly. It is a time where family gets together and plays games all day and really gets the chance to bond. It is a time where the chefs in the family can come together to make culinary masterpieces.

This year we had a chance to have almost all of the immediate family with us. Tito Jun and Tita Rose were of course already here visiting us. Manong Rob and Manong RJ and Manang Rachel also had the chance to fly in. It was great to have everyone together again because there are rare times that we all get that opportunity. All of us contributing to the cooking and we were able to play videogames such as Mario Party 9 and Call of Duty all day long.

We had a few mishaps during the preparation of the meal. Most memorably was a crockpot completely falling apart (sorry Tita Rose, it must have gotten damaged in the move!) and a pie glass exploding in my apartment setting off the fire alarm and causing a bit of a panic. But even with these mishaps we had perhaps one of the best Thanksgivings that I could remember. It was because it was family that was present (including Mike and Gaby who are like are little bro and sis). That’s what makes Thanksgiving so great. Family, friends, faith, food. How’s that for alliteration?

So thank you for everyone who contributed for Thanksgiving especially KristaRose who worked her butt off to create great food items for us. It tasted great and I gained at least 5 pounds from the good eats!

What the past few months has taught me

One of the most constant thing in life is change. That’s probably a saying that you’ve heard many times. It’s very true though because we never know what is going to happen the next day. You might have a good day. You might have a bad day. You might end up helping someone accomplish something big. Or you might be on the receiving end of a pink slip. You just never know what will happen and in a sense, that’s why life is exciting.

A few months ago, Krista got diagnosed with Lupus and it has changed the way that I view things. There were many days that weren’t really good days anymore. I saw Krista struggling a lot and her condition continually degrading. It’s hard to see these things and it starts to take a toll on you when all you want to do is help and provide that support. We never anticipated something like this would happen but in a sense it has been a good thing for us. Bear with me as I try to explain why I view this as a positive experience.

It has taught me patience
– I was not used to tracking medicines all the time but it’s very specific in what I need to give Krista and when.
– There are also a lot of times when Krista just has overall pains that I have to be very patient to figure out what is going on (sometimes she can’t communicate it very well) and then do my best to make her comfortable.
– Dealing with doctor appointments one after another sometimes during meetings I have for work and sometimes in the middle of the night has taught me how sometime you have to be patient with doctors because they’re there to help, but there are just a lot of people that need help

It has taught me how to be healthier
– Krista is avoiding all the foods she is allergic to and that eliminated 75% of the recipes I knew how to cook before. I’ve had to get creative and figure out how to cook a meal that was good and avoided the food she was allergic to.
– We eat out a lot less. That’s a byproduct of not being able to have foods she is allergic to but it has made us both healthier since we used to eat out quite often.

It has taught us how to balance money better
– Doctor appointments are not cheap. We have learned to budget and restrict ourselves in order to make sure we can cover all payments. Not to mention, we have a wedding come up in July too 🙂

It has strengthened my faith
– It sounds horrible but I didn’t have a focus on my spirtuality on a daily basis. That has changed drastically these days as together Krista and I are trying to focus a lot more on our faith, especially with pre-Cana classes coming up as well.
– Seeing Krista fight through everything and not complain has strengthened my faith in people. I am continually surprised by her strength and I admire those traits from Krista very much. It continually strengthens my faith that she will be able to control Lupus and will be able to continue making an impact in her life.

It has made me re-prioritize my own goals
– There are things we do everyday that we can eliminate in order to be more productive or to help others. These past few months have really made me rethink that and in order to keep things in working order, I’ve had to drop a lot of activities.

It has made me realize I need to take care of myself
– There are plenty of nights I have been up late making sure Krista is ok. The next day or next couple of days I usually did not feel very good. These experiences have shown me that I need to make sure I take care of myself in the process too.

It has made me realize that life is valuable
– We only have a limited time in this world. We might spend part of it fighting off illnesses. We need to make use of every opportunity that is given to us.

It has made me realize we have an awesome support network!
– I don’t know how many times I have texted or called Krista’s family. Getting the support from Tita Rose, Tito Jun, Manong Rob and RJ has been invaluable. I know it puts them at ease when I can deliver them some news too and how they can help and support Krista. But seeing all of the support and prayers from the rest of her extended family and then from my own network of family and friends is just awesome. We are truly lucky to be blessed with so many great people in our lives.

You shouldn’t feel sorry for yourself, you should keep living
– Krista is the perfect example of this. With something like this happening, she still lives life to the fullest and within her means. I can only imagine just how much pain she goes through but she keeps pushing her passions forward which is a great quality to have.

The struggles I see Krista going through is not the end of the world. We will get through this. We will rely on our families, friends and most importantly God to help us through. Krista is a strong individual, it is one of the reasons I proposed to her. I am continually learning how to be a better person for her and how to help her and I can only imagine how many more life lessons I can learn as we go through this challenge and the rest of the challenges we will face the rest of our life. We all just need to make sure we learn the lessons that are presented to us and thank God for the strength and courage to face the roadblocks in our lives. It’s the only way we get better and stronger!

~The Lermz