My daughter started high school two weeks ago. She’d had difficulty falling asleep the night before school started. She said she couldn’t quiet her mind. Deep down inside, I knew what she was thinking: Will I be accepted by my peers? Will I succeed in high school? We all had those worries as teenagers.
My daughter is my extroverted, free spirited child that thinks outside of the box. She always has been. She has a wide variety of friends that I can’t keep track of. Every other week she has a new college major in mind. She can teach our dog to do tricks when none of us have the patience. She figures out algebra and geometry equations in her head without showing her work, which is way over my head. At a young age she’d find complicated ways of moving tiles around the Rummy Cube game just to make one play. When she was 4 1/2 she figured out how to use two game pieces on the same square to block other players from getting around the Parcheesi game board. She’s open to trying new things and she accepts situations in life as they come.
I’ve mentioned before that my kids are band kids. My daughter has played trumpet since fifth grade. She named her trumpet Treena. Midway through her seventh grade year, she began taking lessons with one of the high school band directors. In the spring of her eighth grade year we learned that she had been place in Wind Ensemble as a freshman. Wind Ensemble is the highest level and gifted and talented band class. She was flattered and extremely thankful for the opportunity. My son didn’t get into that class until he was a junior in high school. She’s always the first to admit when she thinks she messed up an audition or a piece of music. Last week, they had seat placement auditions in her class. There are five trumpets. She practiced. She had lessons. Naturally when she said the audition went well I anticipated her earning at least second trumpet music. She came home yesterday and said she’d been given third trumpet music and placed in the last seat. She also said the band director advised them that second and third trumpet music would alternate.
My jaw dropped and my mouth is perpetually hanging open. We don’t put pressure on our kids to achieve certain things but we do expect A’s and B’s. Also, I don’t claim that my daughter is a Miles Davis or Louis Armstrong but I know the girl can hold her own with her trumpet. Inside I’m wondering if the band director thinks my daughter stinks. It bugs me I guess because I did poorly in high school and I’m so proud of my kids because they’ve exceeded our expectations and will not go into college swimming against the current with their heads barely above water like I did.
Really though, third trumpet last seat? Instinctively I confided in one of my band parent friends who has a family music back ground and who’s sons who’d graduated in 2014 and 2015 and were also in that class. I also spoke to my son who graduated this year. Both said seat placement is a complicated matter and there’s reasons musicians are placed in certain seats and just because she’s in the last seat doesn’t mean she stinks. My friend also advised me that if it doesn’t bother her, it shouldn’t bother me. So I asked her if her seat placement bothered her. She said, “it’s just a chair”.
I admire her for that. She doesn’t sweat the small stuff. In her mind she was placed where she was placed and she accepts that. She doesn’t have to know the reason. She just wants to play her trumpet and learn challenging music. I know that her being in that class will not only enhance her trumpet playing skills, it will expand her ability to think outside of the box even more. So I’ll let it go. After all, it is just a chair.
August 12, 2016: I have a weekday off and I am out to lunch with my kids. I enjoy taking them out for lunch when they are on summer break. I look across the table at my son. He wears a goatee on his chin and the rest of his face has several day stubble of beard. He looks like a man now. His serious brown eyes tell me differently though for they are still the eyes my little boy. I know what’s going on in his head because it’s the same thing that went on in my head 25 years ago. It occurs to me that soon I won’t be able to enter his bedroom at 0530 each morning to kiss his forehead before I leave for work. On this day, August 12, 2016 I know that I have approximately ten days to finish dorm room shopping, help him order his college books and get my emotions in check. He’s leaving for college.
Rewind my life back by twenty five years to August 12, 1991. I was weeks away from my 21st birthday and my mother was preparing for my departure. I couldn’t write about this on August 12, 2016 though. Too many emotions involved. Today I can.
At 0700 we stepped off the elevator onto a medical-surgical floor. The aroma of night time body odor, cheap hospital soap and powdered eggs greeted us for the first time in our lives. I immediately gagged at the odor and wondered if I’d made the right choice. We checked in at the nurses station and got our patient assignment. Our task for the day: to administer a bed bath. I knocked on my patient’s door and there was no answer so I walked in. My patient was sitting up in bed with a sheet over her head as if she were a dead body covered up. I backed out of the room with eyes wide open to show one of my classmates and get the attention of my instructor. My instructor and I went in the room together. My patient was a little old lady with dementia. My instructor helped me bathe her. This lady incredibly was strong. She was combative and she kicked my ass during that bed bath. I remember noticing how easy interacting with the patient during the bath seemed for my instructor and hoped that one day I could enter a patient’s room with that much confidence. I never saw that patient again but I’ll never forget her either.
I remember so many firsts during that time of my life. I remember when they taught us how to do the hospital tuck but I was proud because I already knew the hospital tuck way of making beds because me grandmother taught it to me as a little girl. I remember the first patient I became attached to. I remember the first time I saw a baby being born and the first time I realized one of my patients was deteriorating over a period of several days and was going to die. I remember my first cardiac arrest and how scared I was. I remember the first time I saw the cardiac rhythm Atrial Fibrillation on a telemetry monitor. It’s not the most lethal rhythm but a dangerous one if uncontrolled. I remember the first time I suctioned someone through their tracheostomy and how when the patient coughed the “trach cough” that it startled me so badly I jumped. I remember calling my mom at work to tell her that I’d given my first blood transfusion and how she yelled out to her coworkers, “my daughter just gave a blood transfusion today”. I remember my first AIDS patient and how his family turned their backs on him because he was gay and dying of AIDS and that he died alone. I remember hearing helicopters and sirens at all times of the night because I lived in the dorm next to the hospital. I remember the oxford blue shirts, white pants, white socks and shoes we had to wear. By graduation those oxford blue shirts had pit stains on them from all the blood sweat and tears we’d put into this. I remember two nursing instructors that were tough as nails to me because I was a young smart ass and I deserved the torture they put me through.They turned the light bulb on in my head and taught me to look at the bigger picture, the patient as a whole. After that I was ready. I remember after each clinical day in the hospital, I’d hum the MASH theme song to myself because I’d helped people just like those nurses did.
I remember how it felt to hold my nursing pin in my hand for the first time on May 14, 1994, the day I graduated Nursing School. I remember coming home from errands on July 18, 1994. My brother was holding a thin envelope addressed to me from the Missouri Board of Nursing notifying me that I had passed my state boards. I was now a Registered Nurse. I remember sitting for my Board Certified Emergency Nurse exam and having a panic attack because I thought I was going to fail that exam. I passed the exam. I remember walking across the stage on May 28, 2011 to receive my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
I remember August 12, 1991 alright. It was my first day of Nursing School. The day all of the above began for me. Never forget what you’ve earned and what you went through to get it.
Life happens. If we open our minds and follow our hearts we will allow synchronicity to occur for us and lead us to people, places and experiences we might not have imagined ourselves in as our adult lives began.
In recent months, through a series of my own synchronicities, I have heard the trail calling me. The trail meaning any trail I choose to hike. I approached it with cautious baby steps at first but now I enter it with confident great strides. I belong there. It welcomes me, embraces me and shows me it’s true beauty each time I visit. It’s a necessity for me now. For inner peace, for inspiration and for exercise.
I hiked my favorite trail today. Blue to red to blue to orange to blue. The woods were wet from the heavy rains we had last night and I could smell the earth. There was no humidity or bugs, a plus. My eyes are always scanning the scenery as I hike along looking for anything I haven’t seen in a previous hike. Although I know my landmarks, it always looks different to me. I haven’t seen any deer in the last three hikes I’ve taken but today I saw five! For as hard as I look for them, poof all of a sudden they just appear as if something is pointing my head right in their direction. They stand still as we make eye contact. If the breeze blows their way, I can see their nose lifting slightly into the air and I know they have inhaled my scent. I stand there for as long as they’ll tolerate it without them getting spooked and running off. I whisper to them. I tell them how beautiful they are and that I promise I will never shoot them. I thank them for visiting with me and when they finally run off, I continue on.
My husband and I have future hikes on different trails planned. These hikes are baby steps leading to great strides and longer distance hiking. We have a pretty cool date scheduled for 7PM on September 9, 2016, We will visit our local sporting good store to attend a class entitled “Planning Your Appalachian Trail Hike”. Yes I said it. The Appalachian Trail. It’s calling me and I can’t ignore it. I won’t ignore it. Our plan is to hike the 41 mile Maryland Section of the Appalachian Trail over four days in the fall of 2020 after we’ve both turned 50. I’d love to as my brother says “check out and hike the entire trail” but I know now is not the time for that. Why hike the Maryland section in 2020 and not now? Because our second child, our daughter will be a freshman in college and she says she’s “so going away to school”. Our son will have graduated college that spring. We’ll be empty nesters who won’t be committed to a high school marching band season for the first time in eight years. We’ll be 50. It will be our time to redefine who we are in a new phase of life and give something back to ourselves. Why not strip technology and comforts away for a few days in the wilderness to do that?
Four years seems like a long time but it really isn’t. My daughter’s time in high school will fly by probably faster than my son’s did. There’s much to learn and much hiking to do to prepare our bodies for a long distance hike like that. One thing is for sure: Each hike I take is one step closer to the Appalachian Trail.