Sunday Bliss

Yesterday I was feeling a little down. The sky was cloudy and gray. Blah. We got a late start to our day and I didn’t get as much done around the house as I wanted to. I was reading an emotionally draining book and I had housework to do. I slacked on some things I was trying to accomplish last week and annoyed with myself for it. My daughter was on her final day of an opportunity that posed itself as being beneficial to her but ended up having some negative aspects. Blah.

Today I woke up with the intention of setting positive vibes for myself for the week. The sky is a gorgeous clear blue and that was already a positive. As I was getting showered and dressed to go to eleven o’clock Mass, I decided to try enhance my spiritual experience in church with some essential oils and healing crystals.

In September, after a series of signs from the universe and at the encouragement of a new friend in the “Oily Community”, I joined the Young Living Essential Oil community. Essential oils have been used by many cultures around the world for centuries for healing the sick and spiritual use. As a nurse, I’m fascinated by the benefits that the essential oils provide for us. As time goes by I’m learning more and more about all the things these oils can be used for and pleased at their benefits to my health. More posts about essential oils in the future.

A few weeks ago, I saw something on social media that sparked my interest in healing crystals and stones and I purchased three healing stones. I have a Citrine stone to cultivate energy that is fertile for growth and abundance. I have a Hematite stone to help feel grounded and balanced. I have a Clear Quartz stone to bring clarity to the mind. Although I researched these particular stones before and after I purchased them to learn about their uses, I know I have much to learn and look forward to more.

So I put my healing stones in my pocket and I anointed my third eye with Frankincense oil, rubbed Envision oil behind my ears and neck, placed Joy oil on my feet (I don’t care for the smell of the Joy oil but I do love it’s effects) and out the door I went to the eleven o’clock Contemporary Mass at my church.

I sat in the front pew on the right side of the church because that’s the side where the Youth Band is placed when they play in mass once a month. My daughter is a member of our parish youth band and today they were playing. The church was not yet full, the youth band was setting up and I decided that moment was a perfect time to meditate with my crystals. While I repeated the affirmations I’d designated for the stones, I pictured myself, surrounded in Christ’s white light of love and protection and focused my eyes on Jesus on the cross on the alter. I held each stone in my right hand and rolled it around so all of my fingers could feel it as I went through the ritual.

As the youth band began to play and the Mass was underway felt so grateful and so much at peace. I was completely present and in a state of spiritual bliss as I listened intently to each reading, the gospel, the homily and sang along with the uplifting contemporary music that youth band was playing. In the background I could hear the gentle and refined notes my daughter was playing on her trumpet. She’s always careful not to play too loud, I think she plays perfectly.

Mass ended and we were told to go in peace to serve the Lord. I left the church with a heart filled with joy and I realized that between today’s use of oils and crystals during an uplifting mass, I once again feel centered, balanced and courageous to serve the Lord and endure what challenges life throws my way.

 

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February Books

February went by like a flash because I read so many great books and one not so great one. My 2018 reading challenge is moving along at a nice pace and I am pleased. One of my favorite past times is escaping into a book. Here we go.

Books 1 and 3: The Road to Grace (The Walk #3) and A Step of Faith (The Walk #4) by Richard Paul Evans. Richard Paul Evans. This series is about a man who loses everything an sets off to walk across the country. At the end of each book Richard Paul Evans drops a literary bomb in the last few pages and leaves you hurrying up to download the next one so you can find out what happens. This series has not disappointed me. I haven’t read book 5 yet because I’m not ready to let this story go yet.

Book 2: The Address by Fiona Davis. This book was recommended to me by one of my reader buddy fellow nurse coworkers. This book is a historical fiction about The Dakota in New York City. It goes back and forth between the late 1800’s and 1985 where a young woman uncovers information about her family while renovating an apartment in the building. Wow just wow. This is a book I thought about periodically throughout my day when I wasn’t reading it. I couldn’t put this down. The ending was a pleasant surprise.

Book 4: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. This is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read probably 12 of her books over the past 14 years. I had the privilege of meeting her back in October when she gave a talk at a local university, (my BSN Alma Mater) about her book The Nightingale. The Great Alone takes place in the Alaska wilderness in the mid 1970’s, when a Vietnam Vet moves his family there to start a new life. This book was intense, powerful writing. I’d highly recommend.

Book 5: White Houses by Amy Bloom. Disclosure first. I am not in any way shape or form prejudice against the LGBTQ community. This book is a fictionalized account of the “first friend” relationship that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had with female reporter Lorena Hickok. I had high hopes for this book. I enjoy history and details about real people in history. Maybe it was a post Great Alone and The Address depression and with drawl I was in but this book just didn’t do it for me. It was difficult to follow in some parts and it dragged on too long. Sorry.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back with a review of my March books in April. I’ve got some good ones lined up.

 

 

 

Nurses and the Bigger Picture

Yesterday, as I was finishing prepping my patient for surgery, he looked at me and asked, “Have you ever had those days when something set you off early in the morning and it threw you off for the day”. I smiled, snickered and replied, “All the time”.  He told me that a night shift staff member had come into his room in the wee hours of the morning to do a quick procedure, one that he does for himself at home. He said the staff member really hurt him and that when he told her so and tried to explain to her how he does it at home so it doesn’t hurt but she was insensitive about it and didn’t want to listen to him. He went on to tell me that when he was filling out his menu order for yesterday, he ordered blueberry pancakes for yesterday’s breakfast. He knew he wouldn’t be able to eat breakfast because he was going in for surgery but said he’d look forward to warming up the blueberry pancakes when he returned to his room after surgery. He said while he was in the bathroom, a member of the kitchen staff came and took his tray, uneaten without waiting for him to come out of the bathroom to ask if he wanted to save the tray for later. He expressed to me how disappointed he was that he wasn’t going to get those blueberry pancakes. He also described to me on another occasion, during a treatment, he had to repeatedly remind a member of his health care team multiple times to be careful with a tube that was in his body.

This patient was an admitted inpatient that had come to my unit to be prepped for surgery. I’d taken care of him several times recently as he had developed a problem that required multiple surgical procedures. He always opened up to me about different aspects of his life. I liked him and I knew he’d been through a lot recently. Today, I could see it in his eyes. He was down in the dump and my heart ached for him.

Many things went through my mind as I listened to this man. First, my heart was filled with gratitude that he chose me to vent his frustrations to. To me it meant we had made a connection somewhere in the care I provided for him. From that point, I was determined to help him as best I could in this situation.

I thought about my own experience as an inpatient in the hospital and similar things that bothered me about that hospital stay. My son was born six weeks prematurely via emergency c-section because I was critically ill. Things happened quickly to deliver my son and it saved our lives. I remembered that my husband told me he could hear me screaming “Ouch you mother fuckers” from where he was standing in the hallway outside the operating room when they rammed the epidural needle in my back without numbing my skin or giving me any warning. I remembered throwing a terrible terrible phlebotomist out of my room in the middle of the night because his skills sucked and he was too rough with me. The morning after my son was born, residents coming into my room and ripping my bandage off my c-section incision, and then rolling me over, ripped the epidural bandage off and removed the epidural.

On that same day, my sickest day, I had a nurse that was a bitch from hell. There were many instances that day where she clearly lacked compassion when I needed it the most. I was sick and afraid. I was on a stretcher for 36 hours in a holding area outside of the operating room in case they had to wheel me back in to do an emergency hysterectomy. I couldn’t figure out what was more uncomfortable, my c-section incision or my neck and back from that stretcher. I tried so hard to keep my mind focused because the medication they were giving me made me feel so foggy. I can still see the look of disgust on the night nurse’s face when she relieved bitch from hell nurse and saw that I was still on the stretcher coming up on 36 hours postpartum. She put me on an egg crate mattress and in a bed and I slept six hours. It was the best sleep I’d had in days and that egg crate mattress act of kindness that will never be forgotten.

I was an RN for four years when my son was born so I understood everything that they were doing but that doesn’t matter when you are 28 with a premature newborn and both of your lives had been in danger. I had such a textbook case of Pre-Eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome, that every resident and student nurse wanted to get their hands on me. I felt like a slab of meat in a butcher shop. I knew exactly where my patient was coming from. That egg crate mattress for me was like the blueberry pancakes he was looking forward to.

I told my patient briefly about my experience with my son’s birth but more about a lecture we had in nursing school that I never forgot. My instructor was trying to teach us about giving patients a little bit of control of their care while in the hospital and making sure we remember to do the little things that are so appreciated. She expressed the importance as a psychological aspect of care and always advised us to look at “the bigger picture” when providing patient care. She shared with us that once she had a spider bite, developed cellulitis and had to be admitted to the hospital. She said the moment she put the hospital gown on, she flipped out because she knew she was relinquishing control of her body to the health care providers at the hospital and that was difficult for her.

I never forgot that lecture and after I returned from maternity leave I made sure that my care reflected remembering to give them some form of control over their care and to do the little things for my patients that made them human. Every patient deserves that. As for my patient yesterday, I gave him some suggestions as to how he can verbalize his needs for his care. After he was taken into surgery I called the nurse that was taking care of him on the floor. I filled her in on some of his frustrations, a little background information on him, enlightened her on his “bigger picture”  and encouraged her to give him a little more TLC. I hope she listened.

The moral to this story is, don’t forget to look at the bigger picture. We get so tied up with completing tasks because we are busy and many times in a time crunch, we overlook the simplest things that would put a smile on someone’s face, make their day just a little better and their situation just a little more tolerable.

January Books

January Books

I am an avid reader. I remember the very day I decided I was a reader a reader. I was in fourth grade. It was the end of the school year and we were taking standardized tests all week. My teacher said after we completed the test we were permitted to choose a book to read from the bookshelf in the back of the room. I chose Tales of Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume and instantly became hooked. I looked forward to returning the the book each day after I was finished testing. That’s when I knew that I was a reader and would always be. I love to read for the simple reason that reading a book transports one’s mind into a different world.

The only time in my life that I have not read regularly was nursing school. Nursing school tends strip its students/victims of all things normal and fun. Reading was too cerebral for me during that time period. I took up cross stitch instead. After I took my RN boards though, it was right back to reading.

I’ve had a Good Reads App on my phone for a few years now. At first I liked it, then I didn’t. I almost took it off my phone until I realized one of my reading buddy fellow nurse coworkers was doing a reading challenge. I decided to give it a try. Last year, 2017 I joined a reading challenge. I challenged myself to read 41 books. I was only able to finish 37 though. I’m human. I know what I did wrong. It’s ok, I’ll try harder. This year I challenged myself to read 55 books. Yes, 55. That’s 14 books more than the 41 books I didn’t get finished last year. I did it it partially to annoy my coworker because she and I enjoy a little competition and I totally upped her number and partially to challenge myself to put my phone and other time wasting distractions down to spend my time on one of my favorite past times.

So here we are on January 31. This month I found myself taking advantage of times I was idle. I picked up a book.  I am pleased to say that I’ve already read 5 books! Here’s what I have so far and some background as to why I chose the book.

1. Lost on the Appalachian Trail by Kyle Rohrig
Obviously when I was in my early 20’s I didn’t get the memo that one should thru hike the AT before they start their adult lives because if I knew then what I know now, I would have started walking long ago. Because a thru hike isn’t in my immediate future, I enjoy reading about others who do. I’ve read several of these personal accounts and have enjoyed each person’s journey, including this book. I was disappointed to see that someone on Good Reads actually gave this book a poor review when I thoroughly enjoy this young man’s writing. Not only do I look forward to his next book, I subscribe to his blog. He thoughtfully places his readers into his experience.

2. Night by Elie Wiesel
My daughter had to read this for English class recently. Because I’ve been known to read what my kids have to read for English, I decided to read it. This book gives a detailed account of the author’s Holocaust experience in concentration camps. Very sad. Some day I’ll get to the other two books in his series.

3. and 4. Books 1 The Walk and Book 2 Miles to Go of The Walk series by Richard Paul Evans. I’ve always enjoyed this author’s books and decided to try this series at the suggestion of another fellow reader nurse coworker. This series is about a man walking from Washington State to The Florida Keys after losing everything in his life. I’m happy this series has 5 books because the author keeps you guessing, wondering and wanting more at the end of each book.

5. The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton. This is my February book club book. Tomorrow my book club will discuss this book over dinner. This takes place in Alabama when the main character returns home to settle her deceased grandmother’s estate, she uncovers secrets about her grandmother’s past. Coincidentally I began reading this book just last week on the 8th anniversary of my own grandmother’s death. The dead grandmother theme was hard for me at first, my grandmother and I were very close.  I kept going though because my grandmother was one of the strongest women I’ve ever known and as the story unfolds, so was the grandmother in this book. So in a little way I was able to visit in my heart with my grandmother again, who I’d also like to add, was an avid reader. I found myself anxious that I was away from this book and yearning to return to it throughout my work day. Today I brought my nook to work to read over lunch. One of my coworkers was rambling on like Charlie Brown’s teacher  “wa wa, wa wa, wa wa” about what she was making for dinner and at one point, I looked at her with a blank stare and realized I didn’t hear a word she said. Now that’s a good book!

Seasons of Change

I spotted my daughter from thirty yards away.  She was standing in a circle with her friends and she was smiling. She didn’t see me yet so I studied her face. Her face is round with high cheekbones and full oval lips. Her eyes are ice blue and they look even bluer when she has her navy marching band uniform on. She’s beautiful. I’m so grateful that she still comes to me for hugs and I cherish her little giggle when she nestles her face between my neck and collarbone.  Some days she’s so sweet and we click, yet other days her words sting and we throw daggers at each other. I know my mouth was no picnic to my parents when I was a teenager so I pick my battles.

Finally she looks up and sees me staring at her. She smiles at me. Her smile makes me smile. With her eyes, she motions for me to approach her. I walked over to her and as I’d done many times before, I grasped her white gloved hand. It was always our special moment to grasp hands before she took the field in a marching band competition. I looked into her clear blue eyes. We didn’t have to speak, her eyes told me everything, “Mom I’m scared about this performance and the upcoming change”. My eyes responded, “I know baby. Go out there and play with your heart and it will all fall into place. It’s healthy, you’ll see”.  In our hearts, we both knew this was the end. There would never be another day like this. This was the end and it hurt.

Moments later, four chaperone band moms (my friends)  and myself, the nurse, escorted this marching band into the University of Maryland Stadium for Regional Championships. We always had such a great sense of pride as parents escorting them into stadiums, supporting this marching band and being in their presence. These musicians, our children played their hearts out.

Season change, people change and believe it or not, so do high school marching bands. Days after this picture was taken at the final competition, it was announced that this marching band would no longer compete through USBANDS. The band directors have decided to march the band in a different direction, literally. Next year they will continue to perform half time shows but they will transform from being a competitive field show band and become a parade band. Most of the band was upset to hear this news. Some cried. Some stormed out of the band room. Some planned on quitting. As for my daughter, her heart has been with that marching band since she was in fifth grade, the year my son began high school and entered that band. She’s a little upset too but her ability to think outside of the box will come in handy when changes are made to this band and I know she’ll go with the flow.

When I asked my daughter if we could take a picture of our hand grasp she agreed immediately, no questions asked. For me, it was a two part reason. The final marching band field show competition and something deeper. As a parent, it’s about finding common threads and establishing bonds with our children during each phase of their lives. It’s about sharing special moments like a hand grasp that they can remember and take with them throughout their lives. It’s about teaching them everything we know about life before they spread their wings and leave the nest. It’s about putting your own needs aside to tend to theirs. It’s about giving them your time.  It’s about accepting their coming of age and embracing it.

120 Minutes for the Asthmatic Hiker

I asked for silence and the freedom to hike at my own pace as we entered the woods. Silence to quiet the noise. There was way too much noise in my head. Noise that means nothing in the grander scheme of things but was just enough to send me spiraling into a self criticizing session. Noise like, I’d set false expectations on the time schedule for the morning in my household and I was in fear of running out of time for a hike before we went to our Thanksgiving dinner. The REI hiking pants that I’d purchased in September were tight in the waist and the scarf I’d brought on the hike to cover my nose and mouth from the cold was too itchy.

It had been 129 days since my last hike. I’ve been hiding from the trail with my tail between my legs and making excuses why I haven’t made the time to go hiking. In reality when I want to do something, I find the time. Fear tends to paralyze you though. This year has not been a good one for my asthma. Sensitivity to below freezing or stifling hot temperatures, three rounds of Prednisone therapy between early February and late August and a harshly stated truth in September from my primary physician, “Your asthma is uncontrolled”. I also find myself easily winded when I am forced to walk or hike at other people’s paces. People who are taller than me and can handle longer strides and are able to take faster paces with ease. Faster than my 5’1″ legs. This has been my reality this year. Sometimes it makes me want to fucking scream. Scream in frustration as my self confidence smashes into the ground like my grandmother used to smash the ants in her backyard. There would be nothing left of the ant after she finished with it. Self confidence level zero in the feeling healthy and fit department. Great. Just great.

Well guess what? I got tired of that crap. I’m 47, not 90 and I enjoy being physically fit. Six years ago I was running 5K’s and treadmill running. I’d run 3-5 miles 2-3 times a week on the treadmill at the gym and I loved every minute that I was dripping wet with sweat and my heart and lungs felt like they were going to explode from my chest. I’ve since lost interest in running but I do know there are other ways you can get a satisfying high from cardio exercise. I prefer walking and hiking now.

Time to reclaim my lungs. Baby steps. First, I began using my inhalers differently. This was a little mental for me. I continued with my twice daily steroid inhaler and weaned myself off daily use of my rescue inhaler. I had to realize that I don’t need the rescue inhaler as much as I think I do. When I walk to exercise, I remind myself that my heart is pumping away and I’m sweating and breathing a little faster because I’m exercising, that I’m okay and this feels good. When it gets really cold out, I plan to wear a cold weather face shield. Second, I began taking daily vitamins. Vitamin D3, Super B-Complex and a Women’s One a Day Energy and Metabolism. Third, I joined Young Living. I purchased an essential oil roll on called Breathe Again that I roll on my chest after my shower each day. The fourth and final thing is my favorite. Deep breathing exercises. The easiest way to bring yourself into the present and prevent your mind from traveling to places you don’t want it to is to take deep cleansing breath. I found this has been beneficial to my lungs as well.

So on Thanksgiving morning, with my trekking poles in hand, my boots tied tight and a heart filled with hope, I left all the nonsense noise in my head at the trail head took my newly reclaimed lungs hiking for the first time in 129 days. My husband graciously left me to hike my own hike at my own pace and I set off by myself in silence and planned to meet him at our designated check point.

I was a little nervous at first. We decided to hike the opposite direction of our favorite trail and that involves a gradual steady rise in elevation that in the past I haven’t wanted to challenge myself with. I covered my face and kept a steady pace, pausing when I needed to for a quick breath or to just observe nature. When I noticed the swishing sound of my hiking pants rubbing together with each step, it occurred to me that I’d established my own rhythm and that I was tolerating my comeback hike without difficulty. With each landmark of the trail that I arrived at, I smiled in celebration and conquered each elevation rise at a pace I could tolerate. I didn’t see any wildlife but midway through I crossed paths with another hiker who had his two dogs off their leashes. The dogs approached me silently and we made eye contact and went our separate ways. They were beautiful dogs and my encounter with them only enhanced the beauty of the experience.

Yesterday I hiked 3.19 miles in 120 minutes of silence and today I hiked 3.75 miles in 150 minutes of silence, leaving the woods with renewed motivation, confidence and a sore butt. I’ll take it.

Pressing On

In case you are new to this blog, I am a Pre-Op nurse. I am assigned on average 7 patients during my nine hour shift. My job is to do a physical assessment, a medication reconciliation, a health assessment and comb through their medical history with a fine tooth comb to find anything about their health history that may indicate the patient is not safe to go under anesthesia. I also educate patient and families, comfort them, medicate as needed, place IV access and give IV fluids. It’s fast paced and mental. Some patients come for elective surgery. Some come because their lives depend on it. Lots of sick people for me this week. Today was particularly difficult. Everyone’s life depended on their surgery today. To top it off, in the middle of the day, one of my coworkers was notified of a death in her family. She had to leave immediately. Those of us that remained just pushed on as if we were soldiers on a battlefield, pulling our own casualties to safety and pressing on to fight the terrible war against death. The day dragged on and on with hard IV sticks, complicated medical histories, and unexpected additional tasks.

When I sat in my car to go home, I realized that I had not yet processed the death of my coworker’s parent. Despite our busy start, we’d spent the beginning of our morning laughing, teasing each other and bickering as we always do when we are assigned in the same area. Now the flow of her life has changed and I am sad for her.

Towards the end of the day I was getting some negative vibes from a patient. I felt like she and her husband didn’t like me. Maybe I just sounded too systematic to her or too routine. Maybe it’s my imagination. Maybe she was too worried about her condition to appear friendly. She was assigned to me as fast as my coworker ran out the door. I was hypoglycemic and in shock over my coworker’s loss. Yet I pressed on as best I could, because I am a nurse.