If you’re on Instagram, you’ve probably seen lots of those “top nine” posts. A website (aptly called 2017bestnine.com) calculates your nine most popular posts of the year and puts them in a cute little grid for you. Here’s mine:
Apparently Instagram likes when I jump and wear bathing suits. Ha.
But while these are nice photos, they don’t really do much to sum up my year. So I thought I’d put together my own top nine. Here are some of the moments of 2017 that stand out the most to me.
1. Taking the Girls to See Their First Snow
A major theme of 2017 was travel, starting with our first trip of the year – a family trip to Colorado Springs with my best friends and their families. We had an amazing time, and despite a few snafus, the girls got to see & play in the snow for the very first time. We all loved sledding – even me!
Next up for 2018? We’re hoping to plan an affordable family ski trip, so if you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments!
2. Adjacent Segment Disease
As far as my back is concerned, 2017 did not get off to a great start. My recovery from my spinal fusion had been going pretty smoothly until late 2016, when I started having pain in my L3-L4 disc area. That pain went away, only to be replaced by even worse pain in my SI joints.
I learned that this was all caused by something called Adjacent Segment Disease, a fairly common long-term complication of spinal fusion. Essentially, the forced stability created by a fusion puts greater stress on the vertebrae above and below the fused levels. This can cause degeneration in those discs (I now have a slight bulge at L3-L4 that wasn’t there before).
I had a rough couple of months. Weeks and weeks of physical therapy only seemed to make things worse. Medication didn’t help. A myelogram in May (not fun, avoid this if you can) revealed that my bones had fused, my hardware was intact, and I didn’t have any major structural issues. This was a hard time for me. I feared that I would have to live with daily pain.
But if you’ve followed my progress, you know that’s not the case at all. I made the decision to simply allow my body to rest and heal. I stopped physical therapy. I stopped stretching. In fact, I stopped pretty much all exercise, even my daily walks. I limited my physical activity to my normal daily stuff And guess what? It worked! After a few weeks of rest, my pain was gone. I’ve slowly (very slowly) adding exercise back into my daily routine, and so far (knock on wood) the pain hasn’t returned.
3. Family Trip to New York
We checked another item off our family bucket list this year, by taking the kids to New York. We split our time between Long Island (with family) and Manhattan. We ate street food and real NY pizza & bagels. We rode the train & the subway. We visited the Statue of Liberty and Times Square. And the highlight for me (and for Sophia) was seeing Cats on Broadway. We can’t wait to go back.
4. Outdoor Adventures
In 2015, we had annual passes for Universal Studios, and in 2016 we were Disney Annual Passholders. But in 2017, we left the theme parks behind and opted for outdoor family adventures. We went tubing in Ichetucknee Springs State Park and Kelly Springs in Apopka. We went swimming at Wekiwa Springs State Park. Vic and Sophia snorkeled there too, as well as at Bathtub Reef Beach in Stuart, Florida. We explored local historical sites (Fort Caroline, Fort Clinch, St. Augustine), and Vic and I went digging for fossils in Hogtown Creek in Gainesville, Florida.
5. Trip to the Virgin Islands
Most days Vic is a normal civil engineer, but some days his job is pretty dang awesome. Take this past August, when he got an assignment in the US Virgin Islands…and I got to come along! The kids stayed with my parents, so it was just the two of us – our first major trip without kids since Vermont in 2015. Another team member brought his wife, so she and I got to explore St. Thomas during the day while our husbands worked. Highlight: swimming with sea turtles at Coral World!
St. Thomas and St. John were breathtakingly beautiful, and it was a perfect way to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary.
6. Hurricane Irma
This is where things got a little dicey. After his work in St. Thomas was complete, Vic and his team moved on to their next assignment in Puerto Rico.. Around the same time, Hurricane Irma started to look like it was headed toward us…by way of Puerto Rico. Vic couldn’t get a commercial flight home, and up until the very last minute it appeared that he’d be stuck in Puerto Rico for the duration of the storm, and that the girls and I would have to ride out a major hurricane without him.
But we got very, very lucky, and Vic was able to fly home before Irma made landfall in Florida. We were safe and didn’t sustain any damage from the storm, but our area was hit hard. Especially my beloved Vilano and South Ponte Vedra Beaches, which you may have seen on the news – many beachfront homes were destroyed, including one that literally collapsed and slid onto the beach.
And then there were the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas and St. John, where we’d been just days before, were absolutely devastated – first by Hurricane Irma, then by Hurricane Maria. We’d fallen in love with these islands, and seeing the aftermath was surreal. Our hearts broke for the people we met and the places we visited.
We’ve followed their recovery closely, and it warms my heart to see the strength of so many as they rebuild. I feel so unbelievably fortunate to have spent time there, and I can’t wait to return someday.
7. Family Cruise to the Bahamas
Vic and I spent the better part of the year trying to plan a family vacation for November. We were all over the map, literally: our potential vacation spots included (among many others) England, Paris, New York, Las Vegas, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico. But nothing felt quite right, and we decided to save our money for a trip that did. But then in October, I stumbled across a 4-night cruise to the Bahamas. The dates were right, and the price was almost too good to be true. So we booked it. And a few weeks later, in mid-November, we were aboard the Majesty of the Seas, on our way to Nassau, Bahamas.
I love cruises. I love everything about them. So do the girls. Vic is more of a fresh air, mountain kind of guy, but even he had a great time. We made some really wonderful memories. Plus the sea glass in Nassau? OMG. That alone has me planning our next trip.
8. Not Running, But Still Okay
I’ve jogged a little here and there, but I’m definitely not back to running yet. And while I’d certainly hoped to be running at 18+ months post-op, I accept that I’m just not ready yet – physically or mentally. After experiencing weeks and weeks of pain earlier this year, which I suspect was caused (or at least exacerbated) by overuse, I’m very wary of anything that causes back pain or discomfort. Some might say I’m too wary – who knows. I guess what matters is that I’m okay with the pace of my recovery, and I’m satisfied with where I am today. Recovering from a spinal fusion is a long, slow process – and at the end of the day, I’m the one who has to live with the choices I make. Running will be there if and when I’m ready for it.
And the good news is that I’ve been able to try lots of new activities this year – things that I might not have had the time or desire to try if I was still running 15+ miles a week. I’ve gone indoor rock climbing and stand up paddle boarding. I’ve taken Barre and water aerobics classes. I’ve kayaked and tubed and spent hours walking on the beach looking for obscure treasures. It’s actually been kind of awesome.
The other day, Sophia said to me, “Mommy, it’s hard to imagine you being a runner.” I was a little hurt, to be honest, and I asked what she meant. She said, “l, you used to be my mommy who was a runner and was gone running all the time. But now you’re my mommy who’s here with us all the time, doing fun stuff.” And you know what? I couldn’t agree more.
9. My Reason Why
My heart. My world. My reason why. These three make it all worth it: the highs and lows, the mishaps and meltdowns, the new adventures and the days spent at home in PJs. 2017 brought us some beautiful, irreplaceable memories that will last a lifetime. I am so grateful.
2018 has a lot in store for us, starting with a trip to Las Vegas in just a few weeks. I’m finally joining a gym again. One of our favorite couples is getting married in the fall in New York, and Sophia will become a Bat Mitzvah in November! Big stuff, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you.
Much love and many blessings in the new year.