This Stadium 

The first time I was in this stadium was November 3, 2012. My son was a freshman in high school and a member of his school’s marching band. That day we waited with growing excitement as the results were called, band by band until thundering applause roared through the stadium and my son’s marching band was named state champions. It was a moment of sheer joy and I’ll never forget that day, in that stadium.

My son went on to march four years of high school marching band. He is now a freshman in college and a member of his university’s marching band. This stadium is now his home turf.

My daughter is a freshman in high school and a member of the marching band that my son was in for four years. Today my daughter marched for the first time in this stadium for the state championship, in this stadium. I, as the band’s nurse was one of the parents who escorted the band into the stadium and onto the field. Moments before I left the band to enter the stands, my daughter held out her hand and I gave it a squeeze, blew her a kiss and found my seat. Who appeared in the stands? My son because this is his stadium.

After the competing bands were finished, my son’s marching band played their exhibition performance and absolutely rocked the house. My son had a huge smile on his face because his high school band parents cheered him on. After eight weekends of two kids in marching band, I finally got to watch both of my children perform on the same day. In this stadium. For me this was huge.

Finally it was time for awards. My daughter’s band competed against twelve other bands. Band by band we waited, our hearts beating faster, our bodies tingling, and the tension growing more and more as each band was called. My daughter and her friends held hands. Again the stadium roared with thundering applause as my daughter’s band was announced as second place winners. More moments of shear joy for me.

My kids don’t read this blog, it’s ok. To see them perform on the same day, in the same stadium, my son’s stadium was huge for me. I dedicate this post to them, for their hard work and dedication to music and their schools. They can memorize music, play and march without missing a beat. I have the greatest admiration for them.

Why Adult?

Why adult when you can go hiking? I am hiking as we speak. I am sitting in the woods on a log as I draft this in my journal. A lady and her two dogs just passed by me on the trail. She gave me a puzzled look as if she wondered why I was sitting on a log writing in a notebook. Hasn’t she ever seen a writer trying to get her thoughts on paper?

Aside from a few minor annoyances at work Monday and Tuesday, I’m having a decent week so far. Monday afternoon my surgeon was running two hours behind. As I walked down the hall past my patient’s room on my way to the desk I heard my patient’s simple assed family member summon me. “HEY MISS, she’s hungry when is the surgery”. I froze. I felt as if I was in a torture chamber room listening to someone repeatedly scrape their fingernails down a chalkboard. I despise being called miss really I do. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and turned around to walk into the room. “Nurse, you mean”, I replied. Now I know that woman knows I’m a nurse because I introduced myself as her daughter’s nurse when I went to the waiting room to retrieve her. I apologized to the patient for the delay and explained the situation, which I had no control over. I turned around and left the room having felt like all of the empathy had been sucked out.

Yesterday I was pulled to a preop unit to preop the patients of a surgeon who’s types of patients I simply don’t enjoy taking care of. Unfortunately while I was at lunch, one of my coworkers was screamed at by my patient’s mother, demanding pain medication for her son as he demonstrated drug seeking behavior. So the surgeon came to consent the patient, I got a pain medication order for something “extra stronger” than he takes at home and all was right in their world, but not in mine. Sometimes even something as small as being called “miss” and being yelled at by a drug seeker take their toll on a nurse’s humanity.

So here I am in the woods on my day off. I have adulting to do today but it’s going to have to wait until being in the woods has cleared my head and re-energized me. I’ll be busy this evening and tomorrow evening with something at my daughter’s school. If it doesn’t get done today, it wasn’t meant to be. With one kid in college marching band and the other kid in high school marching band I make it a top priority to hit the trail during my weekdays off because there’s no guarantee I’m going to have time on the weekends in the fall.

My husband and I look forward to hiking longer and different trails in the future but right now it will have to wait. My daughter is a freshman in high school and in her first year of marching band. It has been a thrill to see the experience and all of the firsts through her eyes. Her beautiful clear blue eyes that look as blue as a Caribbean Sea when she puts on that navy blue uniform. She’s so happy and we are at her marching band events, we are there with her, in the now and not on the trail.

The Appalachian Trail continues to call for us and remains part of our subconscious minds though. Whether it be day hike, a section hike or a thru hike, we want it all. We do research, read trail journals and I’ve read several books about people who have thru hiked. Now is not the time for us to thru hike but we will have time to section hike soon. Our kids need us. It’s ok.

On a positive note, I’ve learned a few things about myself as a hiker. I’ve learned that I need to eat and hydrate after each three miles I hike. I’m learning to use a compass. I’ve learned that I can carry more weight on my back than I originally thought I could. I’ve learned to follow a trail alone and how to find the trail again if I wander off trail to look at something. I’ve learned to hike my hike and enjoy my hike. I try so hard to let time limits go when I am in the woods. When I leave the woods my mind is in a much happier place.




My Shelter Dog

On Sunday after mass, my priest invited the parish community to return to church at 5PM for the Blessing of the Animals to celebrate The Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals. I graciously accepted the invitation and my daughter and I brought our dog. As I stood there and watched the priest recite the prayers and then walk around to bless the animals with Holy Water, I reflected upon what a blessing our dog has been to our family.

A friend once told me, “You don’t pick the Animal, the Animal picks you”. I began looking for dogs on Petfinder in the spring of 2012. Of course I was looking for a puppy because everyone wants a puppy. During my search I spotted a black mini poodle, male and 2 1/2 years old. A black mini poodle.  Exactly what I wanted! But why was a 2 1/2 year old dog up for adoption? I kept looking. During my frequent online searches, I kept going back to the black poodle. I couldn’t get past the look of sadness and rejection in his eyes in the pictures that were listed online. I emailed the shelter about the dog and my husband and I decided to take the kids and go meet him. We agreed that if it didn’t feel right, we would not bring him home.

The dog was playful and full of kisses when the woman at the shelter brought him out to us. I fell in love with him the moment I saw him and I knew I had to have him. We took turns walking and playing with him. My husband wasn’t sure. He’d never had a dog before. It took me almost two hours to convince him that this dog would be good for our family. We filled out papers, paid for him and took him home. I sat in the back seat of the car with the kids and the dog as we drove home. I knew taking him was right because he put his head in my son’s lap and sighed with relief as if to say, “I’m going home”.

I remember the morning after my son was born. I was critically ill, whacked out on pain medication and magnesium sulfate, and the nursery nurse brought my son to me for a feeding. In my drug induced fog, I realized that I had no idea how to feed a newborn and wondered what I’d gotten myself into. We felt the same with this dog. The idea of having a baby or adopting a pet seems lovely and heartwarming at the time, but once you get into the nitty gritty, you realize it’s going to take patience, trial and error, education and a lot of love. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into with this shelter dog. My friends said it would take a few months for him to adjust. I believed them and remained hopeful.

One evening shortly after we adopted him, the dog was sitting at the screen door barking at our neighbor who was outside mowing his lawn. The barking became excessive and my husband who was sitting on the couch, rolled up the magazine he was reading and smacked it against the side of the couch to distract the dog to get him to stop barking. The dog cowered as if he thought he was about to be hit. The dog did not allow us to touch all parts of his body. We couldn’t go near his lower back closer to his tail and hind legs. Once we tried to wipe some remaining poop from his backside and he almost tore my husband’s arm to shreds. We also discovered that he had moments of insanity where he’d just lose it and start spinning and chasing his tail. We also discovered he went crazy at the groomer and at vet appointments to the point we worried he was going to rip their arms to shreds. It was obvious that this dog had inner demons from his past to work though. We were fortunate to have found a groomer early on who was familiar with shelter dogs and made some recommendations which our veterinarian agreed with. We tried distraction, behavior modification, Prozac, a shock collar and nothing could break him of this excessive spinning and chasing his tail. The groomer recommended Acepromazine, a dog anti anxiety medication for grooming days, vet visits and situations that will be stressful for him. We also brought a trainer into our home for an afternoon. The trainer taught us techniques to break him of his spinning and to, in dog language, show the dog that we are the alpha, not him. It really has taken patience, trial and error, education and a lot of love but I am pleased to say he’s doing great.

It has now been exactly four years and five months since we adopted him. We have given him more love than he has ever dreamed of and he has learned to trust us. We have learned what his triggers and social limitations are.  We take him on vacation with us because we don’t want to board him and make him think he’s being surrendered and we don’t put him in situations that will stress him out. He’s a good boy. He doesn’t have accidents in the house and he doesn’t tear anything up. He knows our routine of family life and he’s part of it. He has a unique relationship with my each member of our family; my husband, my son, my daughter and myself. He’s a sweet boy and he loves to cuddle. He comforts us when we are sad, he’s our buddy and a trusted friend and confidant. He gets presents for his birthday and on Christmas and we allow him to put his nose in the bag to drag each present out. Our friends joke and say this dog owns my husband and I. He does.

My friend was right about the animal picking the human. This dog picked me before I even met him. The look of sadness and rejection in  eyes in his petfinder picture is what called me to him and made me bring him home. I never want him to feel that way again. I have absolutely no regrets about adopting this shelter dog and I encourage others to give shelter dogs a chance. They have so much to give. We gave this dog a home and feeling of security, love, tons of toys, good food, lots of playtime, discipline, health and grooming. In return he has given me the ability to love a dog in a way that I never knew I was capable of. He’s the best dog ever.


Sunday Spiritual Bliss

This morning I sipped my coffee in my sun room. The sliding glass door was partially open and the curtains are dancing to a gentle breeze that passes through. Outside the sky is gloomy grey and the ground is still wet from all the rain we’ve had recently.

It would have been a perfect morning to go hiking. I pictured myself entering the woods just after dawn, inhaling through my nostrils the smell of the wet earth, the trees and plants and the river. I’d think to myself there’s no other place I’d rather be. The fact that I couldn’t get into the woods this morning made me feel like an animal being held in captivity. To me, going into the woods, in addition to exercise and walking in nature, is spiritual. I learn something each time I go in and come out uplifted and re-energized.

Today though, I had other obligations that kept me out of the woods and I’m extremely grateful for the experience. My daughter is on year two of a two year preparation for The Sacrament of Confirmation. Next May, my mother will stand behind my daughter, as her sponsor while the Bishop anoints my daughter’s forehead with Chrism, the oil used in Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Confirmation for a Catholic means the Catholic will spend the rest of their lives as a Catholic.

Last year, my daughter was invited to join our church’s youth band. She graciously accepted the invitation to serve God through her music. The youth band performs on holidays and special occasions for the Parish and fills in during the 11AM Contemporary Mass when the Adult Contemporary Band is away. There are two flutes, two guitars, two vocalists, a pianist, a violinist, a percussionist and my daughter the trumpet girl. Imagine this group of 8th, 9th and 10th graders all from different schools playing music for our Lord in a full hour Catholic Mass! They play like professional musicians. Today’s mass was no different. In a Catholic Mass, after the Gospel is read, the Priest discusses the Gospel reading in his sermon. Today’s Gospel, Luke 17:5-10 discusses how God expects us to go above and beyond the minimum of what’s expected of us. The Youth Band was a fine example of meeting God’s expectations. Between the Priest’s sermon and the Youth Band’s music, I left church in a state of spiritual bliss. I couldn’t have been more thankful, more energized and spiritually uplifted.

The added bonus was after Mass, Father reminded us to bring our pets to the church parking lot at 5PM to celebrate The Feast of Saint Francis Assisi, the Patron Saints of Animals. My daughter and I happily brought our poodle. There were dogs, cats, and even a chicken and a goat! The Priest said a prayer and then walked around and sprinkled holy water on our animals. Yes, my dog was blessed with holy water. Yes he was. After a short visit with other members of the Parish, we returned home with our newly blessed dog, who’s been a blessing to our family and our home for over four years. The woods will be waiting for me on Thursday.

Getting Real with Myself

I saw something a few days ago on Instagram that made me not like myself as a writer. I follow a few writing accounts on Instagram. One of them recently posted a photo with a quote by an unknown source that read, “A real writer doesn’t just want to write; a real writer has to write”.

Ok, let’s psychoanalyze me for a moment here. I’ve been told by several that I’m a good writer. I’ve never published anything yet or won any contests but I haven’t given up. I have this blog. I enjoy writing BUT, I don’t write everyday SO, I’m not a real writer.

Here’s my sob story. I am a nurse. I work in a perioperative unit. My job is to prepare patients for the operating room. I watch the clock all day. It’s busy, there’s always an unexpected task to complete, the surgeons move quickly and I need to be on my toes with what’s going on with my patients. It is mentally and physically exhausting. I spend Monday-Friday in a sleep deprived trance.

I get up at 0430 four days a week during a Monday-Friday week. I have my alarm set for 0351 and I proceed to hit snooze every nine minutes until the very last minute I can get up which is 0436. I sit at the side of my bed and then the toilet feeling sorry for myself because I have to be awake, promising myself I’ll come home and take a nap. I drink coffee and eat a carbohydrate. I’m more awake by the time I’ve hit the shower but now I really have to haul ass out the door because I’ve wasted too much time feeling sorry for myself that I have to get up at the ass crack of dawn and moving like a snail. I begin work at 0600. Once the caffeine has kicked in, while I am working, I write in my head about whatever pops into my head. I say to myself, “If I were home, I’d be doing…..”. Yes ok whatever Jen, if you were home you’d be lying in bed drinking coffee and enjoying morning dog time with your dog”. I get home from work, shower, nap, dinner, get whatever kid to where they need to be and then let myself off the hook with, “I’m too tired to write”, which most of the time is the truth.

So that’s why I don’t write every day, because I don’t have self discipline and I can’t get into a rhythm of when to write and I can’t put my phone down. I tried getting up 30 minutes early but I found myself in even more of a sleep deprived zoombie state than I already exist in. So I need a new gig.

I don’t like myself as a writer because I don’t write everyday. It is a known fact that a writer improves their craft by writing everyday. I’ve seen it on countless websites and books about writing. This tidbit of information is like a nagging voice in my that won’t go away. It follows me wherever I go and says I told you so when I “think about” writing or find something else do waste my time with when I could be writing. It too tells me I am not a writer. It’s like the scene in Animal House when Pinto’s date passes out and he’s deciding whether to take advantage of her or not. It’s that person standing on my shoulder, criticizing me, helping me kick my own ass for my lack of.

I would like just one month to get into a routine of something good for myself on the first of the month and carry it through the entire month. Then it would be a habit. So I did some google searching and remember something that I’d tried a few years ago that’s still in the ibooks section of my phone. It came from’s 365 Prompts. Each set of prompts is divided into months and the writer has to answer a different question each day.

My plan is to put my phone down when I go upstairs for bed, answer the prompt and journal after I answer the prompt. If I can do it sooner in the day, great. I know I can do it. I’ll check in and let you know how I’m doing. I’d better get to writing now because I’m getting sleepy and I don’t want to hear that nagging voice.

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