Fair warning, this post is more about me than Jesse. Scroll to the end if you want to hear more about Jesse!
It’s been a few weeks, and what a few weeks it has been! I left Denver on September 30 to head back to Orcas for a “quick” trip to get some things done around the property, move out of the cabin, and go to work, along with about 1000 other things on my to-do list, which spanned 3 pages. Over the last few weeks, I’ve organized a few sheds, driven an excavator, delivered wood chips, measured a bunch of trees, repaired (sort of) a lawnmower, sold Jesse’s truck, bought a minivan, completed minor plumbing projects, packed and moved a LOT of big plastic bins, interviewed potential tenants, flown around in a bucket truck, delivered maple syrup, got new tires and a roof box for my car, did a bunch of field work to set myself up for several weeks of office work, and more. To be honest, some of those things are pretty far out of my comfort zone and made me feel like kind of a badass. I was hoping to be back in Denver by October 15th, but as I’m prone to do, I vastly underestimated how long everything would take. With the help of friends on the island, I was able to get all of the really important things done and stop worrying about the rest, and I’m now on the way back east, currently taking a day to relax with family outside of Boise.
Though it’s been hard to be away from Jesse, it was also wonderful to be home for a while… and wonderful to feel like Orcas is HOME. When I moved to the island last June, I was not without some skepticism about how it was going to work out for me. After years of working in non-profit outdoor and environmental education, I left a public school teaching job, the first job I had in my adult life that allowed me to adequately support myself, to chase love on the other side of the continent. I knew it was the right decision and kept telling myself, “whatever it takes…” but the first few months were HARD.
Jesse and I had some amazing adventures (hiking the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier, flying across Canada, traveling to Germany with Stefan and Jenny, and then flying back across the US), but traveling so much also made it more difficult to settle in on Orcas, make friends, and commit to a job. As someone who thrives on stability, I struggled with anxiety in spite of all the great times we had. Jesse was completely supportive and encouraging through all of it, helping me find the confidence to put myself out there when it came to making friends and looking for work, and as he promised (and as I knew it would), everything got easier and better with time. I’m also so, so thankful that we had those adventures together.
I started working for Rain Shadow Consulting (residential and commercial tree care, forestry consulting, and ecological restoration) in February, just before COVID, and have been so fortunate to have a job that I enjoy with a company that has been thriving in spite of all the chaos. My boss and coworkers have been SO supportive over the last few months and I couldn’t be more thankful for their patience and flexibility. I’m glad that work will keep me connected to Orcas and I look forward to trips home to the islands and living in my new mini-van condo. Jesse and I will be renting out our cabin, and though it might sound crazy, I’m genuinely excited to live out my van life dreams! When one of my first cars died back in college, my parents wouldn’t let me replace it with my mom’s van because they were convinced I was going to live in it. They would have been absolutely right!
I finally left the island yesterday morning with my car full of stuff (the minivan stays on Orcas so it’s there when I fly back and forth for work trips), ready for the next part of this adventure in Colorado. I’m planning to be back in Denver tomorrow night or by mid-day Wednesday, and I’m sure that Jesse’s rehab progress will be even more apparent than I’m expecting.
Since I left, Jesse has started doing standing therapy using a standing frame, which sounds simple but is really an amazing and important part of his rehab. Getting upright helps with circulation, breathing, muscle and bone function, digestion, and overall physical and mental well-being. He’s also continuing to use the functional electrical stimulation bike, which helps maintain strength and flexibility in his legs. He’s now sleeping in a regular bed instead of a hospital bed, and he’s able to transfer from his bed to his wheelchair and from his wheelchair to other sitting surfaces (shower, bathroom, car, etc.) independently. Speaking of cars, he’s also been driving a car that is adapted with hand controls, and has started car shopping for after he leaves the hospital!
Perhaps the most important update is that we have a discharge date! Assuming all continues to go according to plan, Jesse will be discharged on November 5th. At that point, we will likely have a short stay in Craig’s patient and family housing for a “trial run” of independent living, and then we’ll move into our new apartment in Englewood. Thanks to Jesse and his mom’s efforts finding us a place to live, we’ve signed a lease at what looks like a really nice apartment complex just a few blocks from Craig. Living in Colorado for the year will allow Jesse to fully commit to his rehab and continue to make use of resources at Craig and the Chanda Center, as well as several other potential facilities and resources that Denver has to offer. In my wildest dreams, I never would have expected that Jesse and I would find ourselves living in a city apartment, but we’ll make the best of it and enjoy it. Jesse likes to make fun of all my kitchen gadgets, but I’m pretty psyched to put them to good use in the new place, which has a substantially bigger kitchen that our cabin. The apartment complex also has a pool and hot tub, roof deck, fitness center, yoga studio, and more. I’m not sure we’ll be able to use any of those things (thanks COVID!) but at least we might have the option. It’s also pet friendly, so perhaps there will be a furry family member in our future.
I’m SO excited to see Jesse in the next few days, and also so glad his mom has been able to be with him while I was away. She has been immeasurably helpful with EVERYTHING and the best mom and future mother-in-law we could ask for.
We remain always humbled and thankful for all the support we’ve received from our friends and family, and even friends of friends and total strangers. Life has been a rollercoaster since August 25th, and we truly wouldn’t be where we are today without the help and support of all of you, so THANK YOU!