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.

Walking in Silence

I follow this couple on Instagram that is currently thru hiking the Appalachian Trail. Recently in one of their blog posts, they discussed how they had a decision to make about an aspect of their lives off the trail and how they were having difficulty making the decision. They chose to walk in silence and ultimately the decision came to them. Their practice of silence resonated with me and I couldn’t wait to hit my favorite hiking trail so I could walk in silence.

I am currently studying The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. The first law, The Law of Pure Potentiality is based on the fact that we are in our essential state, pure consciousness. Pure consciousness is pure potentiality, the field of all possibilities and infinite creativity. In order to practice The Law of Pure Potentiality, one must practice silent meditation, commune with nature and perfect non judgement.

Even though I’ve been out walking here and there as the weather gets warmer, today my husband I went hiking for the first time since January 30, 2017. I told my husband that I was going to practice the Law of Pure Potentiality and walk in silence today. We agreed to hike our own hikes at our own pace and meet up later. As I began to walk in silence, I wondered what I would discover during my silent hike. Instinctively, I found myself pausing to look through the tall trees up at the beautiful clear blue, cloudless sky wishing I could stay in the woods all day. There were birds happily chirping. I spotted a butterfly and stopped to observe two deer running across the trail. I witnessed the presence of spring in the woods. There are green buds on trees and in the grass and I came across a patch of pretty little blue flowers. I heard the sounds of my own footsteps; my boots making a crunching sound when I walk on gravel and small rocks or a hollow sound when I walked over dirt. I listened carefully to birds chirping and stopped to sit on a log on top of an elevation so I could look at and listen to the flowing river below me. It was heaven right here on earth.

The winter was hard on my asthma this year. From February through mid March, I completed two rounds of antibiotics and steroids. I’d find myself short of breath walking up steps, walking too fast, walking a block in the cold and wind, or even carrying my patient’s heavy belongings to a locker. It was scary and discouraging and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate hiking again.

Also through my silence I was able to focus on reclaiming my hiking body. I hiked with my new trekking poles for the first time today and the rhythm of walking with two poles came easily. I focused on controlling my breathing. Because I was alone, I stopped when I needed to catch my breath when I hiked on higher elevations and I reassured myself that getting my heart ticking a little faster and becoming winded because of a higher elevation was a good thing. To my surprise, I hiked five miles today and did just fine. I can’t wait to hit the trail again. I was silent for three hours and I cherished every minute of it. 

There is so much to gain through silence. It’s different for everyone. I don’t have to tell you because once you do it, you’ll know. Close your mouth and open your eyes and ears. Turn off your phone. Turn off the television and radio. Close the book. Be with nature. Watch the sunset. Walk in the woods. Be silent. Just be. Try it. You won’t regret it.

Just Jump In

When you were a young adult, do you remember those first few major decisions you had to make? You know, the ones that helped determine your path in life? Where to go to college? What to major in? What kind of job you’d take after college to begin your career? The kind of decision that once you made it you were excited about it, yet it sent chills down your spine at the same time because you couldn’t believe you’ve come this far and made a decision like this. Then reality really hits and you get to live out what was once a dream. Day after day after day.

I had those feelings too. For me, the reality that I was in nursing school didn’t really slap me in the face until I stepped off the elevator on my first clinical day in the hospital. I took a deep cleansing breath, inhaling through my nose and exhaling through my mouth. During the process, I smelled three things; body odor, hospital soap and those disgusting powdered hospital eggs. I gagged, because I’m a gagger when it comes to disgusting smells and then I asked myself what in the world did I get myself into. Not every college student is about to go learn how to clean someone’s ass properly and get graded on it. Eventually though, I got used to those types of things and I knew I was in the right place.

Last summer my son was trying to decide if he wanted to march in his university’s Independence Day Parade with the marching band he was about to join as a freshman when he entered college in the fall. He went back and forth, yes, no, yes, no.  Finally, one of his mentors told him, “Jack, just jump in”. He thought about it and he listened to his mentor. He jumped in. He marched the parade and met some people that would end up becoming some of his close friends. He was happy he did it.

Today my son took another plunge. He declared a major. Biology. He has more questions for his advisor so he’ll be returning to see her in the next few days and will soon choose courses for the fall of his sophomore year. It’s hard to believe I was in that place over twenty-six years ago and now I’m watching my first born experience it. Talk about something that sends chills down your spine as you hope and pray this child gains as much success and happiness in his career as you’ve had in yours. At this moment though, I know how he feels; excited and nervous as he tries to imagine what he’s going to do in the field of Biology. The possibilities are endless Jack, just jump in.

My Grandmother’s House

My grandparents bought their house when my dad was a kid. My grandfather lifted the house off the ground with a crane to dig the basement and gutted the house with his bare hands, to make it their own. My grandmother’s house hasn’t been her house for over 20 years. The house is still in the family and has been remodeled with as much hard work and love as my grandfather put in to it all those years ago. I’ve brought my husband and children to the house, after it was no longer my grandmother’s house. It looks good. Different. Many years later I still remember how it looked though, when I was a little girl.

The house had an L shaped porch with a nice size front window. I remember running up the steps to get to the door. The screen door had a nice metal design. Woven in the metal was the first letter of my maiden name. The door had several dead bolt locks. My father used to call it Fort Knox. The front hallway had a hollow sounding floor and I often wondered if I stomped hard enough if I’d fall through the floor. The front hallway let out into the dining room. There were two bedrooms off the dining room. The living room was in the front of the house. Straight through the dining room from the front hallway was the kitchen. Behind the kitchen was a bathroom, another bedroom, the basement steps and the back door. The top floor had a little apartment where my grandmother’s sister and brother lived. The house smelled as every other Italian household does, like sauce, like home. I adored my grandparents and I loved being there with them.

My grandmother was the fourth child born to Sicilian Immigrants. There were five boys and three girls. My grandmother as the oldest girl was the matriarch of her family. Her house was always open to family so naturally her siblings congregated at my grandmother’s house. Even though I called them Aunt or Uncle, they were like having more grandparents and that was really cool. Several of my grandmother’s siblings were serious card players. They’d gather on Friday nights and some Sundays after dinner at my grandmother’s house to play cards. My grandmother never played in the big complicated, competitive card games. She only played the smaller card games with her sisters, my cousins, my brother and I. My grandmother would whisper in our ears not to laugh when one of them had a bad hand or announce what cards everyone had in their hands. We had to quietly observe. Sometimes we’d snicker though. My grandmother’s brother’s wife liked to instigate and egg the card sharks on and they’d get annoyed at her and all of them would start bickering. I begged them for years to deal me into that game. Finally I was allowed to play at age 15.

As the years passed, the card game began to shrink as my grandfather died and my grandmother’s siblings began to die. My grandmother died in 2005 and was the sixth of her siblings to die. Her youngest brother died four years later. Yesterday, the final sibling, my grandmother’s sister passed away at age 97 peacefully of natural causes. I have no doubt that when my aunt got to heaven yesterday, her siblings were there to deal her into their favorite card game once again.

My grandparent’s generation of our family represents the first generation of American born Sicilians and they played a significant role in helping shape my generation, the third generation grow into who we are as American born Sicilians. They are now all gone and the simplicity of life as we knew it back then, no longer exists.  Even though I’m an adult and married with children, part of me is still that little girl who couldn’t wait to get to her grandparents house to watch those card games and be with that generation and part of their world.

If you picture it like a scene on a stage where the lights are shining on one particular setting, that setting would be of my grandmother and her siblings in her dining room playing cards. It is one of my favorite memories,  frozen in time, in my heart forever. Those card games not only represented a favorite past time, but a gathering of family, the love they had for each other and how they enjoyed spending time together. As for the passing of my aunt. Sure I miss her but I’m happy she’s reunited with her family and able to rejoin the card game.

The Girl in the Mirror

Change is good. Change is necessary. Change is a gradual process that requires nurturing and vigilance. Change within ourselves is an exciting journey of evolution. Along the journey of our own evolution there are signs pointing us to synchronicities that fall into place and enable us to change. Even as I write this I am receiving signs. I am in the process of change.

It drives me bat shit crazy that I can not sit down at my computer and write a story. I can blog about myself, I can write business letters and thank you notes. If you threw research at me and told me to write a 20 page paper for a college course I could do it and I would enjoy it. But I can’t write a story. I am a life time reader. I wrap my head around a book that I am reading and think to myself, “wow, this author really researched their topic well”. Somewhere in the fibers of my brain it is inscribed that I can’t write a story unless I research first. I am my own worst enemy and I am guilty without question of kicking my own ass too many times.

In December, a friend told me about a book, “Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod. Naturally I was curious if there was a version for writers , which there is. I read the book from front to back and devised my own miracle morning routine which I began on January 3, 3017. As part of that routine I integrated the teachings of another book, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. The Artist’s Way is a twelve week program designed to recover the blocked artist. Each week has a set of tasks. The ongoing task of the program is “Morning Pages”. Get up every morning and write.

Through morning pages I learned very important things about myself: First there are things about myself and my life that I want to change but I can’t because I complain too much about what I don’t have instead of being grateful of what I do have. My mind is never in the now. It’s always looking at something else and wishing it were mine. That’s not gratitude. Second, I’ve learned that I live in fear. I have more fears than I care to admit to myself or anyone else.

 Among my dreams is that I want to be a successful, published writer. I realized that in order for me to reach for this dream or any dreams in this life that I must let go and reach deep into my soul to change my beliefs and break through the barriers that have been present in my subconscious mind for too longe.

So what am I doing about this? Ironically I have been able to use the Nursing Process to help me. In the Nursing Process there are Five Steps.

1. Assess: I am not grateful and I live in fear

2. Diagnose: In ability to reach for her dreams related to ungratefulness and fear

3. Plan: What steps am I taking to change my beliefs about myself?

Step 1: Gratitude. Last year I purchased Rhonda Byrne’s book, “The Magic”. Of course I didn’t finish it. This book is an exercise of 28 Days of Gratitude. Each day has a lesson  and the student is to first thing in the morning write ten things they are grateful for and why and follow the instructions for lesson of the day for 28 days.

Step 2: Breaking negative barriers. There’s tons of information on the internet on topics such as this. I decided to focus on the one teacher who’s words resonate with me. Deepak Chopra. I have an Ananda Meditation app on my phone and I meditate a few days a week. Prior to each meditation, Deepak speaks about whatever the meditation is about. I take notes. I knew that buying a Deepak Chopra book was the way to go. I chose, “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” by Deepak Chopra because with my Ananda meditation app, I’ve already meditated using those laws and I knew it would be easy to adapt to the written teachings into making the changes I want to. In an Amazon review of the book, someone who’s a certified Deepak Chopra teacher had written in with how he uses the teachings of the book with his students.

4. Implementation:

The first thing I do each morning is to get up and practice gratitude. On work days I get up 35 minutes early, shower and get to my computer. On my off days when I wake up, I go downstairs, grab some coffee, look at the sunrise through the window and sit down at my desk to enjoy the silence. I’m midway through The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. 

5. Evaluation: How am I doing? What adjustments can I make?

It seems like every day at work is busy for me. A few days ago on Wednesday at work, due to circumstances that existed during that shift, I found myself becoming annoyed during a preop interview with a patient. Something weird yet awesome happened. My mind all of a sudden started playing the movie ET theme song, “Heartlight” by Neil Diamond and I imagined my heart lighting up like ET’s. “Turn on your heartlight. Let it shine where ever you go. Let it make a happy glow for all the world to see”. I turned on my heartlight that day, kept those lyrics in my head and continued went on with my day. It made me feel so good and grateful and even though I’ve known this for a long time, it finally clicked. Love is the greatest power in the universe. If I can feel love and gratitude even through hard times, I can break my barriers.

I am midway through The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and I know that I’ve made the right choice. I read when I have the time and my mind has the ability to focus on and absorb what the laws are teaching. This book suits me and I look forward to finishing the book soon so I can begin the practices.

I am on day 27 of gratitude using the Magic Book. Through the practice of gratitude I’m learning to to observe what is right in front of me and be grateful for it. I’m finding that things in my daily life are falling into place easier for me and I’m not feeling as negative or afraid. I simply feel that the solutions I am seeking are on their way. I look forward to getting up each morning to express my gratitude on paper. It makes me feel centered for the day and puts me on course to practice gratitude for the rest of the day. The practices in the magic book do indeed work when I put it into the universe. 

Today’s practice was entitled “Magic Mirror”. It instructed me to say thank you to myself each time I look in the mirror today and come up with three things about myself that I am thankful for. It referenced Michael Jackson’s song “The Man in the Mirror” and today’s message was clear to me: Change the person in the mirror and your world will change. So I listened to the song a few times, printed the lyrics to the song and high lighted the verses that speak to me so I can refer back to them.

I know that I have not yet mastered the art of gratitude but so far, I am pleased with my progress. Getting up earlier than 0430 on work days sucked in the beginning but once I got used to it, I learned to like it, and need it. So I’ll try harder not to hit snooze as many times so I don’t have to rush on work days.

Tomorrow is day 28 of the Magic. I will go through each of the 28 days of lessons and jot some notes down so I can begin the magic practice again on Monday with day 1 to apply what I’ve already learned, refine my practice and integrate the seven spiritual laws.

So there it is. I’m starting with the girl in the mirror. I’m asking her to make that change. No message could have been any clearer. She’ll make her world a better place. She’ll make that change.

 

 

 

 

Random Ideas are the Best

Today was awesome. Like totally. I took a chance on something random and what I got in return was priceless.

The trail has been calling me for weeks. It calls me when I drive by woods. It calls me when I watch You Tube videos of other people’s long distance hikes. It calls me when I research gear for my own long distance hike. It calls me when I dream of doing my first long distance hike. It calls me in the sun. It calls me in the rain. It calls me when the sun rises. It calls me when it snows. It’s always there. It asks me to check out and come into the woods. I’ve heard the calls but I couldn’t answer them. I couldn’t go to the trail. Instead I’d look out the window at the trees in the valley behind our house and just sigh. I had plenty of excuses. All valid yet torturous. Too many activities in one weekend. Bad weather. Run down. Take your pick.

As of last night, the plan for today was to get up before sunrise and hike my favorite trail with my husband at the state park near our house. We’d come home and I, the Sicilian mother would make a pot of “sauce” per my son’s request. Scratch the plan. The Universe had better things in store for us. Late last evening, my daughter received a call from her best friend who’d moved away in December. Her friend was in town for only one night and had a random change of plans. She wanted to spend the night with us. That random change of plans set things in motion to change my plans.

Plan B: get up, make the family breakfast, hike, come home and cook sauce. My daughter’s friend was going to be picked up at 0745. I wanted to make the kid a nice breakfast because my daughter misses her so much. Before I got out of bed, I scanned my email and found an invitation for a “meet up” hike.

A few months ago, I’d signed up on this “meet up” website. I’d hope to get into a hiking group to explore other trails in my area. Unfortunately I’ve had schedule conflicts and haven’t been able to attend any of them. On a whim, I took a random chance, and decided to try a meet up hike, thus changing my plans again.

Plan C: I cooked my sauce while I was making my family Belgian Waffles and then my husband and I met this hiking group at 12 noon at a different state park than we usually hike. This meet up was called, “Meditation Coffee Hike”. Well now those buzz word certainly sparked my interest! What more could I ask for in a hike?

There were seven of us, including the organizer. The organizer was a wellness coach of some sort. We all made our introductions and we were on our way. He was in shape but I quickly learned that he was not the hard core hiker that I want to be when I grow up. The purpose of this hike was walking meditation. The hike itself was exactly what the doctor ordered for me. Physical and spiritual. Plenty of uphills, downhills, streams to cross and logs to jump over. The scenery was gorgeous and the conversation stimulating. At the halfway mark we stopped at a waterfall, sat and meditated for ten minutes. It was the perfect place to “be”. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience today.

The quieter you become, the more you can hear. “-Ram Dass