Beau Jangles

I always listen to music when I write but I only allow myself to listen to instrumental music. No singing. Singing is a distraction. Tonight, I am listening to the 70’s station on Pandora Radio.

It’s funny how when we revisit old memories how those moments in time are frozen, waiting for us to revisit them. As I write this, I need to listen to the music that brings me back to my childhood. 

It’s June 26, 1978. I am 7 1/2 years old living in my childhood home in Buffalo, New York. My younger brother was four and my older brother was 11. It was after dinner , still light out and we were playing in our playroom.

“BEAU STOP”, my father yells. Tires screech and then a car peels away. There is yelling. There are men in the street. Our neighbors. My brothers and I run out of the house to see what’s wrong. There is blood all over the street. My father firmly commands us to turn around and go back into the house. My grandma runs out of the house to bring us back in. They don’t want us to see what happened. We know though. Our dog has been hit by a car. He is dead. Our dog is gone. That was a terrible night in our house.

The bitch that ran him over just kept driving. Although I would never wish anyone harm, for all these years I have wished karma would find her. Accidents happen and Beau did bolt across the street but it was obvious she killed our dog and she drove away without apology when my father was standing in the driveway. Really? Who does that?

Then men on our street hosed off the blood and helped my father put Beau’s body in a box. The box was placed up against the house in the driveway for the SPCA to retrieve the next day. My bedroom faced the driveway. For the longest time I could not sleep facing my bedroom window which faced the driveway. My back always had to be facing the window. Who knows what a psychiatrist would say about that today. Denial maybe.

Beau Jangles, Beau for short was a black mini poodle. My parents must have adopted him shortly after they purchased that house. I was around two. My little brother wasn’t born yet and my older brother was adopted later on. Beau peed on the light post in front of our house. That was his spot. When he wanted to go somewhere on our street he ran. He bolted as a matter of fact. There was a fat basset hound named Maude that lived down the street. She used to lay in the street and never got hit by a car. As a matter of fact sometimes people would stop to pet her. Beau slept on a rug in my grandma’s room. She’d let him out the back door and when she wanted him to come back in the house she’d call for him out the door and he’d come running. In the winter, my grandma let Beau out to do his business and he came right back in. He didn’t play around with Buffalo’s harsh winters. Moments before his death, he came into the room we were playing in. He’d approached each of us. We greeted him and pet him and then he went outside for the last time.

We moved to Atlanta two years after Beau died and never got another dog. We had a few cats instead. I was too young to understand the magnitude of a dog’s love as I do now but somewhere deep inside I could never bring myself to get attached to other people’s dogs, simply because they weren’t my dog. That didn’t happen until I was 41. My friend adopted a poodle mix that I fell head over heels over. I loved his face and the la la la playful way about him. That’s when I knew it was time for me to love another dog.

My husband had never had dogs growing up. Only cats. I gently eased him into a conversation about getting a dog. It was a good time for our family to adopt a dog and our kids had been asking. A few months later I was on Petfinder looking at Black Mini Poodles. A black poodle not to replace Beau Jangles, but because that little girl who lost her dog in 1978 can’t imagine herself with any other kind of dog.

Beau Jangles must have been watching over me from Heaven because there was a black male mini poodle waiting for us on Petfinder when I began my search. He was 2 1/2 and he’d been listed a few months.  I looked at other poodles too but kept going back to him.They say you don’t choose the dog, the dog chooses you. It was his eyes that drew me to him. Eyes that said, “I need you, you need me. Bring me home”. We went to meet him, spent two hours with him and brought him home. We changed his name from Pooky to Cooper Jay. There was an adjustment period of course. He’d been in a shelter for six months and wow did he ever have skeletons in his closet. We got through it though. We earned his trust and he taught us how to take care of him and love him on a level we didn’t know we were capable of.

I think of Beau from time to time. Especially on June 26. I wish he didn’t die so tragically. The little girl from 1978 believes somehow from Heaven he let me fall in love with my friend’s dog here on earth and  helped realize it was time okay for me to love another dog again and go looking for Cooper.

 

Just Because

On Thursday June 8, my husband and I did something that was so much fun. We provided trail magic for 2017 Appalachian Trail Thru Hikers.

We arrived at Pen-Mar County Park at approximately 1050 in the morning. Our drive was seventy miles and we’d left the house an hour later than I’d wanted to but we’d been going non stop that week and were up late the night before so I guess we needed the sleep. In anticipation of of wanting to relish each moment of this experience, I was worried we’d miss the hikers as they walked through the park.

Pen-Mar County Park has a charming appeal. There are multiple pavilions, grills, picnic tables, concessions (that were not open) a play ground, a scenic overlook, restrooms and plenty of tall trees that provided shade and a nice breeze. To be there for the day was peaceful in itself.

¬†After we parked the car, we decided to walk around the park to find a place to set up tables and get a grill started. My husband drove my Jeep in the grass so we didn’t have to carry our supplies so far and immediately got screamed at by a ratty old man who identified himself as the park ranger and threatened us by stating we are lucky the other park ranger wasn’t here because we’d have been thrown out. I decided immediately to ignore him and tune him out because his energy was negative. Once he realized what we were doing, he wanted to stand around and talk for what seemed like an eternity. I wanted him to leave so my husband I could focus on spending time with the thru hikers. Not to sound rude but I wasn’t about to offer him food either. It was for the hikers. He came around periodically and once the hikers realized he wasn’t with us, they ignored him.
We spotted a thru hiker immediately. I asked him if he was a thru hiker and told him we had food. He helped us unload the car and kept us company while we got the food going. Soon other hikers began to appear and before we knew it we had eight hikers joining us. We served hotdogs, chips, watermelon, oranges, brownie bites, honey buns, soda and coca cola and watched them chow. The hikers came in waves during our six hours at Pen-Mar County Park. We fed a total of 25 hikers that day.

The hikers that arrived as we were setting up were the hungriest and stayed the longest. It was lunchtime. The ones that arrived later were there to snack and stayed less time. They told us how many miles they had to hike to get to camp for the night. They told us their trail names and how they acquired them. They told us where they were from and what their plans were after they summit Mt Katahdin. The ones that came later in the day, knew the ones that had come earlier in the day. The ones that came earlier in the day told us who we could expect later on and sure enough they appeared. They knew each others eating habits, how many miles their “tramily” does in a day, what time they leave camp in the morning, what they eat, who hikes ultra light, who’s a loner, who’s a loud mouth know it all, etc. What I read about the culture of the AT was validated through my conversations with the hikers.

Through the course of the day I made a mental note of the different reasons they were thru hiking. Some were thru hiking for the adventure. There were three hikers from Germany and one from Israel and they all planned on returning to their countries after they summit Mt Katahdin. There were some that were using their thru hike to figure out their next steps in life. Some were retired. My nurse radar also zoned in on a few that seemed to be working through things in their lives by the way they carried themselves, didn’t offer much information and through the looks in their eyes, enjoyed the solitude of hiking alone. Whatever the reason for their thru hikes, I wish I could have talked to them all day. We had a little notebook and some of them signed it.

The picture that I have enclosed is the only one I took. The paper on the tree is a sign I made and put near the white blaze so they’d see it as they came out of the woods and into the park. I had planned on taking more but I decided I didn’t want to photograph the hikers and publish it on social media. I can picture them now in my mind, where they were sitting, when they arrived, what they looked like and what their stories were. The fact that they let me into their community if only for an afternoon is enough for me.

It is a known fact that I am fascinated with The Appalachian Trail. My fascination began last summer when I read “Hiking Through” by Paul V. Stutzman because it appeared as an advertisement on my Barnes and Noble Nook and continued with more books, blogs, websites, you tube videos and Instagrams. When I learned what trail magic was, I knew I wanted to provide some. Just because.

 

Trail magic is defined as, “an unexpected act of kindness” and according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, it is a quintessential part of the AT experience. The people that provide the trail magic are defined as “trail angels”.

This experience was definitely one that will keep my husband and I smiling for years to come and something we plan on doing more of, hopefully two or three times per year if time allows. In September we’d like return to provide trail magic for the SOBOs making their way to Springer Mountain Georgia.

One of the female hikers was open about what she and her boyfriend’s plans were for after their hike was complete and she was interesting to talk to. She even invited me to follow her on Instagram. She asked me what role we played in the hiking community and if we hadn’t thru hiked, why we were doing this. My answer was simple; pay it forward when you can, I love feeding people and most of all, because I wanted to.

Pause.

I have a bump out room off my kitchen. We call it the sun room. It’s about 10 feet by 12 feet. It has a sliding glass door on the front wall and a deck attached. On the left wall is windows. My desk and writing space sits up against this wall. I can open up the blinds and gaze out the window when I write during the day.  My husband’s Ikea Poang chair sits in the corner between the sliding glass door and the left wall. The right wall has a futon and a television. We have a throw rug on the floor and the walls are painted with a warm oatmeal color. The roof is slanted with sky light windows. In the sixteen years and six months I’ve lived in this house I’ve watched plenty of bad weather through those sky light windows.

Tonight while watching an old season of Top Chef, I glanced up at the sky light windows and noticed that the sky was gold. I asked my husband to pause the television and we rushed outside the front door to look at the sky. On the left, the sky was dark and grey. On the right it was yellow. In the middle of the yellow sky was a patch of clear sky as if the other side of our neighborhood was experiencing a sunny evening. It soon began to rain hard and we went back into the house.

I returned to my futon and continued to watch television. I glanced up at the sky light windows and noticed sky was now completely grey and it was pouring down rain. I listened to the rain hitting the glass. One of my favorite sounds, especially when I am home. At that moment it occurred to me that there was no place on this earth that I’d rather be than cuddled up with my dog watching a storm through those windows. An intense feeling of gratitude embraced me.

I’ve learned to pause what I’m doing and observe in silence moments like this. For me, they help me experience gratitude at a deeper level. Sunrise, sunsets, nature, weather. These moments come to us for a reason. Stop. Be silent. Enjoy.

 

 

The Overthinking Perfectionist

Today I did a paint night with my mom. I had purchased these tickets as a Mother’s Day gift for last year but the event was cancelled and we finally got an opportunity to use the vouchers we were given. I looked forward to this for two reasons: time with my mom and a chance to nature my inner artist as a writer by doing other forms of creative activity.

My mom and I had a nice lunch with poor service at the restaurant the paint night was being held at. The poor service at the restaurant had me a little worried. Sometimes when I get bad vibes about something that annoys me before a writing session, my writing session ends up being crap because it throws my ju ju off. I was having fun with my mom though and that was the positive thread that held this together for me.

There were only six of us, all women and we sat in tables of two. Almost immediately, one of the women stated she would not be painting the painting that we would be doing, instead she’d be painting a picture for her girlfriend of twelve years sitting next to her. It wasn’t the relationship that annoyed me, it was the fact that she had to draw attention to herself. People who have to be the center of attention in a group annoy the shit out of me. Every relationship is meaningful in some way. I don’t indulge information about my personal relationships in public to a room of strangers. She frequently interrupted the flow of the painting lesson to ask which colors to mix up to get the color she wanted. At one point the hostess artist came around and asked her to tell her about the painting and it’s meaning to her. Everything in the painting represented an aspect of their relationship. The painting was symbolic to her, ok. I can accept that, but I still didn’t want to hear about it.

The selected painting is wine glasses . We began by making a basketball sized circle with white paint in the center of the canvas. Next we mixed blue and white together to make a blue circles around the white circle in the center and mixed a little blue in the middle. After that we began to draw the wine glasses. We started by drawing the oval shaped opening of the glass, followed by the body of the glass and the stem. I quickly became frustrated with how my strokes were looking how my wine glasses were shaped. The painting wasn’t coming together for me and I couldn’t envision what the end product would look like. I was on the verge of a temper tantrum and this painting was headed for disaster.

The hostess artist came around and made some suggestions and also said something that resonated with me. She said, “you are over thinking your strokes”. That was it. That was my problem. I’m a perfectionist who was over thinking her paint brush strokes and trying too hard because I’ve never considered myself artistic and I wanted to make a pretty painting. I had lost the essence of the activity. I looked over at my Mom. Her painting was awesome and she was having fun. That made me happy. Here I was about to act like an ass and throw a fit because my wine glasses didn’t look right. So I quickly regrouped. I used a few tips that the hostess artist had showed me and I fixed my wine glasses by outlining them with black paint using the smallest brush. The strokes I outlined the glasses with in black paint came more naturally and I added some of my own color to the top. The painting came together nicely and in the end I was pleased.

The other added bonus was that we had a short intermission where we went outside to take one shot at Corn Hole. Whoever got their bean bag in the corn hole won a free ticket to another Paint Night. When it was my turn I took my time, aimed for the hole and swung my arm in alignment with the hole the same as I do when I play Skee Ball. I won myself a free ticket to Paint Night. Even better than that though, this hostess is at this restaurant every Sunday. After football season ends my Mom and I agreed to come back again. I look forward to taking the time to nurture my relationship with my mother and my inner artist. If you haven’t tried a paint night, I’d highly recommend it. Even if you don’t consider yourself and artsy artist, you’ll surprise yourself.

It made me happy to look at this painting as I was writing this blog post. I am also proud to announce that I am on a writing streak. I have written sixty five days in a row. I journal and practice gratitude. I am nurturing my inner artist and getting to know myself again through my writng. Today was perfect.

Off to bed now. Tomorrow I have to be nurse.

A Day in the life of a Nurse

On Friday, if anyone were to ask me if I’d recommend nursing as a profession or if I’d be happy if my children told me they wanted to become nurses, I would have said no. My shift started out smoothly. I had a good assignment and I was able to get my two 0730 patients into the OR safely and without delay. As I was reading over my third patient’s chart, one of my coworkers asked me to look for IV access on one of her patients.

Prior to entering the room, I learned that variables that classified this patient as what we call a “hard stick”. I entered the room and introduced myself with a smile and told the patient I’d give her IV a try. I felt confident. I’m good with hard sticks. I take my time and I’ve been complimented by multiple patients that my technique is gentle. This patient was tricky but I felt a few small veins in her hand and I decided to use a smaller gauge needle. IV needles have a bevel at the end and the technique requires us to puncture the skin with the bevel up. Upon entry of the needle, we wait until we get a blood return before we advance the needle into it’s final position. After that, we click a button and the needle retracts into the handle and the jelco is left in the patient’s vein. I prepped the patients skin and held her hand with my left hand, pulling the skin down to secure the vein under the skin. As I punctured the skin, bevel up with not even a big enough portion of the needle in her skin to even maneuver the needle, she let out a blood curdling scream at the top of her lungs and in my face. My body jerked and stiffened immediately and I froze for a second. My initial reaction was shock and I tried to quickly regroup and continue with the task of this difficult IV stick. I was too distracted and shocked though and decided I couldn’t proceed. I covered the needle with gauze and removed it. I applied a piece of tape and pressure to the site, looked her in the eyes and said, “I am sorry if I hurt you. You really startled me”. She really didn’t give me a chance. Shortly afterwards, the shock turned into anger. I washed my hands and quickly exited the room. I managed to escape without the patient realizing that I was angry. Three of my coworkers were standing outside of the room with their mouths hanging open. Someone else told me the screaming could be heard on the other side of our unit, forty yards away. I was thankful that this patient was not assigned to me because I although would have taken good care of her, I would not have been able to feel empathy for her. It took me several hours to shake off the screaming, the shock and anger.

Later on, I received my sixth patient of the day from an inpatient unit. She had five family members with her. As a rule of thumb, most nurses do not allow that many family members in the room when there is care to be provided with time constraints. I personally find it disruptive to my care to have that many people at once in the room so I politely asked them to choose one person to be in the room with the patient during my care and promised the rest of them can return afterwards. They agreed and chose the patient’s son. Everything was fine until the son became argumentative during parts of my interview. He didn’t like the way I described the Advance Directive question that we are required to ask. He interrupted me when I was doing the pain scale assessment and insisted that his mother didn’t understand. I matter of factly explained that I wasn’t finished with the pain assessment yet and hadn’t determined if the patient understood it or not because he interrupted me. I proceeded to question the patient on her pain tolerance and as it turned out, the patient did understand and answered the question appropriately. I completed the pre-op interview and called the rest of the family into the room until it was time for the patient to go into surgery.

The two scenarios that I just described occur more often that nurses wish to to reveal to people outside of the health care industry simply because most people just don’t understand. It happens to all of us, in some form every day. In addition to the many things we see in our work that we don’t tell you, we endure working long hours, evenings, nights, weekends, holidays, short staffed, underpaid and very often with empty stomachs, full bladders and achy feet or backs. What I experienced on Friday, takes its toll on nurses over time and makes us question why we chose this profession. It is a huge contributor to burn out and job dissatisfaction. Why would I want one or both of my children to experience this throughout what will be a career that will span over forty years? Why am I putting up with this? Where is it written that just because we are care givers that we should have to tolerate physical and verbal abuse just because people are sick? But somehow, for some reason we continue. We try to shake it off as best we can. Sometimes we have a drink when we get home. We vacation. We pray, We exercise. We meditate. We engage in activities that we enjoy. We spend time with family and friends. We thank God everyday that we are healthy and do not have the diseases that we treat.

To my patients I say: I am your caregiver and your advocate. You are safe on my watch. I am a registered nurse. I hold a nursing license, a bachelor’s degree and a nationally recognized certification. You’ll never know the blood, sweat and tears I shed during college and throughout my career to become the skilled, knowledgeable and caring nurse that stands before you. The fact that you don’t know me as a person or as a nurse, doesn’t give you the right to tell me I don’t know what I’m doing. If you’d give me a chance before your judge me, you’ll see that I do know what I’m doing. Being sick and afraid doesn’t give you the right to verbally and physically abuse me. I know you are sick and afraid and I promise to give you my very best. Please treat me with the same kindness, you wish for in return. Please remember, like yourselves, I am a human being too.

Mother’s Day Reflections

I have a physician friend who’s specialty is infertility. Once she posted on Facebook that she was working on Mother’s Day to help other women become mothers. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen posted on Mother’s Day and I commend her for it. This morning when I woke up at 0700, the first thing I thought about was how social media was going to be flooded with Mother’s Day posts, not only celebrating our own mothers, but also celebrating being mothers. My heart truly aches for women who haven’t been able to conceive a child and have constant reminders of that everyday of their lives. I wonder why God blesses some women with children and others not. Unfortunately, only God knows the answer to that.
I remembered the mothers who’s children have died before them. I thought about people who’s mothers have died and hoped they were watching from Heaven. I prayed for all of these types of people today before I went about actually celebrating my own Mother’s Day.

I attended 1100 Mass today at our church. My daughter is a member of the youth band there and once a month they play during the 1100 Mass to give the Contemporary Band a week off. We arrived at 1015 and instead of dropping my daughter off and going back home and coming back, I stayed in the pew.

I thought about my relationship with my own mother. When I was a teenager, she wasn’t my friend, she was my mother. She was a tough love kind of mother and that’s what I needed. We had a saying, “I don’t like you, but I love you”. We became friends later after I’d graduated college and I wasn’t such a smart ass anymore. She once told me that I have raised my children very similar to the way my brother and I were raised. That’s one of the best compliments she’s ever given me. I thought about my grandmothers. They taught me how to be the better person, how to be a good Catholic and taught me the Sicilian customs every Sicilian woman should know. They are both gone but still with me in my thoughts and actions. I thought about my Godmother and how she is a nurse and she inspired me to become a nurse when I was only four years old. When I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing with a 3.904 GPA, I purchased an extra set of my Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society Honor Cords and sent them to her.

Finally, I reflected upon my own motherhood. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed each phase of my children’s lives: Newborn. Infancy. Toddler. Pre School. School Age. Teenager because each of them came with their own set of challenges and rewards. Running teenagers around after a busy work day is just as exhausting as a newborn that doesn’t sleep or an irrational toddler that tests every ounce of patience you have.

It’s all gone by so fast and my husband and I are thankful for every moment our kids want to spend with us. I have a freshman in college who doesn’t know if he’ll go on to graduate school or medical school after his bachelor’s degree or come back home to look for a job and my freshman in high school who says she’s, “so out of here” when she goes off to college. To me, it hasn’t been a job, it’s been a privilege. Somewhere in heaven upon conception, their souls chose me as their mother.

As Mass ended, the Priest gave all the moms a special blessing and sent us on our way. My mother’s day was nice. Naps, good food and quality family time. I am a lucky girl.

The Other Side of the Equation

The operating room staff gave my husband and I paper gowns and allowed us to accompany our daughter into the operating room. I stood aside and watched them take over and prepare her for the procedure. Everyone had their role and they identified what their roles were. They were a well oiled machine. They made sure she was comfortable on the operating room table and explained things as they went along. They placed monitor leads on her chest to monitor her heart during the procedure. The anesthesiologist prepared her equipment and drew up the white medication in the syringe that was going to be used to sedate my daughter. She asked my daughter where she’d be traveling in her dreams today and my daughter replied, “Italy”. Everyone in the room agreed Italy would be an excellent place to go in an anesthesia dream. The anesthesiologist pushed the medication into my daughters iv and placed the mask on her face simultaneously. Within seconds she was asleep and I knew my daughter’s life was now in their hands. I kissed her forehead and backed away from the operating table so I could be escorted out of the room. I remember everything that happened today vividly but the thing I remember most is my daughter’s clear blue eyes, going to sleep with anesthesia.

Fortunately it’s not often, but for once I was on the other side of the health care equation. Instead of someone putting their loved ones life in my hands, I was putting my loved one’s life in someone else’s hands. I was critically ill when I had my son. I was in the hospital for a week during that time. On my sickest day, I absolutely couldn’t stand the nurse that took care of me. She was mean. Thirteen months after he was born I transferred to the Emergency Room. My own experience of being critically ill and being taken care of by a person who had no business in a field where compassion is requirement, not an option, taught me to reassure my critically ill patients that things are going to move quickly but I am here, I will not leave them, I will tell them everything we are going to do and that I will take good care of them.

I am a preop nurse. I knew what to expect today. I wasn’t afraid. I simply knew my baby was going to be well taken care of. The staff demonstrated that to me through their knowledge, skills and compassion immediately. As a preop nurse who’s now just sent their child into surgery under general anesthesia, I can now empathize how my patients and their families are feeling on the day of surgery. It’s beneficial for health care workers to have experiences like this. Being on the other side of the health care equation helps us understand and empathize so we can do our jobs better.